The NEOM dream

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Okaz

TODAY Saudi Arabia offers an opportunity for the miserable East, which has been fraught with peril, destruction and civil wars caused by the advocates of terrorism, extremism and partisan politics, to escape from the land of death to the land of life.

The NEOM project, launched by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, the prince of economic development, is only a carriage in the high-speed Eastern Train launched in Riyadh in 2015 to help people get out of the Arab autumn tunnel through sustainable development, production and jobs.

With its modern projects, Riyadh provides the world with technology and progress instead of guns and explosives. Its projects are mostly partnerships with serious neighbors such as Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and the UAE, as well as with world economic powers like China, Japan, Korea, the United States and Russia.

The new projects are essential for the region to achieve progress and prosperity instead of stumbling over stalled projects and scrambling for international aid.

Why Saudi Arabia does all this? Why it does not sit hands in cheek, waiting for a breakthrough in oil price recovery, which is definitely going to happen in the coming years?

The present situation is part of an economic cycle and the boom will come back sooner or later.

Why the Kingdom did not adopt a package of austerity measures to control spending and tighten the belt until oil prices return to over $80 a barrel. Such a situation will enable the government to increase its spending like before and the public coffers will be once again filled with hard currency to implement vital projects.

Of course, oil price recovery will help the Kingdom to handle stalled projects and look for contractors who are capable of saving failed projects. We will continue spending on huge projects until the treasury is drained and oil prices fall again creating panic caused by bankruptcy fears. We will again tighten the belt to wait for the oil market recovery as if we are shop owners in the oil lane and we put our lives and fate at the mercy of buyers and global economic mood.

Actually what has been mentioned above is an acceptable scenario. Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s major economies with huge oil and gas reserves with large production capacity. So it can program itself as well as its economy and people on the lines that we have been following since the mid-1950s.

What has changed is that we are facing a new "Saudi state" that does not want to remain captive to oil market swings. Prince Muhammad Bin Salman has understood this situation quite early. What the prince says today is not the brain work of a moment in response to the fall in national revenue. I have personally heard the prince in 2015, and many others have met him on several occasions. It is a project of the fourth Saudi state for the next hundred years.

Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman knows perfectly well that transforming the social, economic and educational face of Saudi Arabia is the only option and opportunity left for its people to move forward from a pastoral state to become a rich country that will eat what it produces and does not prey on oil and gas.

Today, Muhammad Bin Salman is building a great wall that starts in Beijing and does not end in Tabuk, the capital of NEOM. We are not talking about the dream project he launched two days ago. We are talking about a package of giant projects that are expected to take Saudi Arabia to the ranks of the wealthiest countries of the world.

How did the whole story begin?

It is all about exploring the ingredients of a nation that have never been tapped before. It is a combination of ingenious ideas and making the most of its potentials at the lowest cost.

First: The strategic location, which is God’s gift to us. Since time immemorial Saudi Arabia has been on the international trade routes. The Incense Road and Silk Road passed through the Arabian Peninsula.

Second: Beaches and straits that are either supervised by Saudi Arabia or stands close to them, which gives any commercial movement the flexibility of remaking, storage and export.

Third: Human resources. The Saudi population is quite young with more than 80 percent of its people aged less than 40 years and 60 percent less than 30 years, which means the Kingdom has a young and capable workforce.

Fourth: A moderate Saudi Arabia offers opportunities, peace, prosperity and security in a burning region that has been embroiled in terrorism, extremism and civil conflicts.

Fifth: Saudi Arabia’s international status as a leader of the Islamic world that supports moderate Islam and wages a war on extremism and terrorism. This is what the world is looking for in the midst of the rubble and bottlenecks of differences.

There is no doubt that we are witnessing the birth of a renaissance led by Riyadh. Those who get into the Riyadh Train will be partners in this dream while those who oppose or reject it would pay the price for their choice.


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