By Abdullah Obian
JEDDAH — A government committee is planning to shut down Al-Jowharah Stadium and King Faisal Specialist Hospital north of Jeddah in order to make room for a free zone by King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA).
A source said the stadium and the hospital will be acquired by the Public Investment Fund.
“The Ministry of Finance is skeptical about the decision of buying the properties but the Public Investment Fund intends to buy the hospital, the stadium and the residential area near the stadium. The feasibility study of the project assures that the free zone will recoup the cost of buying both properties, estimated at SR3.7 billion, in a record time,” said the source.
The source also said the government committee in charge consists representatives of the royal court, the Ministry of Finance, the Public Investment Fund and the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs.
“The committee held its first meeting last week and concluded that if the Public Investment Fund would buy both properties, the committee would begin to construct two new cities, one a sports city and the other a medical city, of the highest standards in Jeddah,” said the source.
The source said King Abdullah Sports City was launched in April 2014 and it included Al-Jowharah Stadium.
“The construction of the city was supervised by Saudi Aramco and the whole project cost SR1.9 billion. The medical city project, which includes King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center north of Jeddah, is still under construction. The project is estimated to cost SR1.8 billion and the concrete skeleton of the city has already been built,” said the source.
The source also said the General Authority for Civil Aviation has already planned to build a free zone in the airports of Jeddah and Riyadh as part of its long-term plan to diversify the Kingdom’s economy and decrease the dependency on oil.
“The authority said the free zone would attract foreign companies because of simplified licensing, visa and tax regulations in various industries and services. The free zones will be big enough to include transformative manufacturing units,” said the source.
The source added the Economic and Developmental Affairs Council and the Public Investment Fund are working on the free zones plan under the national reform program to support the private sector in non-oil industries.