The nearly $500 billion initiative also envisions a mountain ski resort and a luxury island resort.
It was in 2017 that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia , Mohammed bin Salman — better known as MBS, by its initials — announced a project that quickly attracted attention At the international level.
It is Neom an urban megaproject worth an estimated $500 billion, which includes a futuristic city that promises to be ecological by being powered entirely by renewable energy .
In an interview with CNBC the head of the Gulf office New York Times Vivian Nereim, explained that It is presented as “something new and completely innovative, out of the ordinary, that the world has never seen before and brought into existence.” .
Such claims by MBS are consistent with the name received by Neom, which It was composed of the union between the words neo (“new”, in Greek) and mustaqbal (“future”, in Arabic) .
The initiative is under construction in the province of Tabuk , in the northwest of Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, The site is located next to the Gulf of Aqaba, which borders Egypt, Israel and Jordan. .
In the same way, It is planned to cover an area of approximately 26,500 square kilometers near the Red Sea coast. according to information retrieved by Deutsche Welle .
For MBS and the Saudi authorities, The success of this project, which is part of its “Vision 2030” program, will be key to diversifying its economy and making it less dependent on the manufacturing industry. Oil .
In the words of Nereim, Neom “It began its conceptual life with the idea of building a new city, and since then it has really grown,” to the point where “it’s no longer just a new city, but a whole new region.” which has all these different components.
What are the main components of Neom, the futuristic megaproject
With the latter, the Times journalist referred to artists such as Oxagon, an octagonal-shaped industrial city that they hope will partially float above the Red Sea .
They are also considering a ski resort in the mountains they would call Trojena and a luxury resort they would name Sindalah. which will be aimed at yacht owners and tourists.
In October last year it was reported that the first will host the Asian Winter Games from 2029 with Saudi Arabia as host.
With, Sindalah is expected to open in 2024 according to the Spanish newspaper The avant-garde .
But Neom’s centerpiece is The Line, a linear city with no roads, no cars or emissions, which they promise will run on 100% renewable energy. .
Saudi authorities They assure that it could accommodate 9 million inhabitants in 2045 .
“It is the largest, most splendid and most ambitious part of the project (…) It consists of two buildings, said to be about 200 meters wide and 500 meters high, which is basically the size of the Empire State Building. even with a little more height. It would extend for approximately 170 kilometers », Detailed Néréim.
To this is added that “Between these two long strips of buildings, you have this kind of green interior that you imagine would be where people would live and play and work.” .
“It’s really huge. It is difficult to imagine that 9 million people will live in this city, which is really just a structure. “, he stressed to CNBC.
How the project is financed
To clarify what your projects offer, In 2017, they closed multi-million dollar deals with world-renowned consulting firms. such as McKinsey, Boston Consulting and Oliver Wyman.
Furthermore, as revealed The Wall Street Journal in 2022, They offer huge tax-free salaries to global talents who agree to join their preparations. which reach nearly $1.1 million annually for senior executives.
The collaborator of Atlantic and knowledgeable about the project, Graeme Wood, told CNBC that Even if your initiative may seem incredible, “this is all very serious” .
“The people who created Neom truly believe that they can create a city unlike any that has existed before, more modern than any country. » .
However, he also stated that “To many people this looks like a white elephant project, and maybe it is” .
this sentence refers to the fact that it might be very difficult to maintain since its usefulness might be limited .
However, This does not stop MBS and the Saudi authorities .
Some of the money they are using to build Neom comes from their public investment fund, while they are now looking to raise funds by offering shares. to investors, through an IPO.
The latter, according to the vision of Nereim, “corresponds to this idea of the city as a business this kind of purely capitalist city, which is not typically the way cities are run.
“It makes things very unusual in that sense.” he emphasized, then added that They are open to collaborating with the Saudi private sector to “try to create a financing mix”.
“I think that will be one of the biggest challenges. But this is how they come together, even for the first phase. $320 trillion is a huge amount, right? They obviously cannot finance it themselves, because if the entire sovereign fund is 600 or 700 billion, they cannot devote half of it to Neom. . They definitely need outside investors.”
It should be noted that Only the first phase of the initiative has a value of around 320 billion of said currency.
Strong criticism (and complaints) against the initiative
Despite the wait generated by the development of Neom, The project is not without its critics .
One of them points out that This is an alleged way of doing things greenwashing a concept which in this case refers to an attempt by Saudi Arabia to attempt to clean up its environmental image as a major oil exporter. on the globe.
Furthermore, There are conflicts with the Howeitat tribe, forcibly expelled by the Saudi authorities. to carry out this initiative.
In 2020, A prominent member named Abdul Rahim al Huwaiti, who shared several videos of the forced evictions, was shot dead. by security officers, as rescued by the BBC .
“This was not an isolated incident . There were already pockets of resistance to the relocations, to the arrests and people ended up suffering the repercussions. Over time, resistance has remained largely silent. People are afraid or they just decide, “You know what? I just have to accept the compensation, move out and live my life. Nereim explained.
Immediately after the attack on Abdul Rahim al Huwaiti, Three community members who participated in the opposition movement were arrested and sentenced to death. .
It was these repressive measures that made the situation difficult for the tribe.A phenomenon denounced by multiple human rights organizations .
“There’s not a lot of transparency around these matters, and we haven’t really received a lot of statements from the government about what’s going on. what they could be accused of, why a death sentence would even be imposed,” added the Times journalist.
In this sense, he ruled that For MBS, Neom means “a physical, technological and symbolic legacy that he wishes to leave and which represents everything he does for Saudi Arabia”. .
“He reached an incredible level of importance for himself and for the state, and You invest an incredible amount of resources and time, because this is something you will leave behind (in history) “.
Check an official video from The Line Next