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What Does Neom’s Downsize Means for Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030?

  • Saudi Arabia has scaled back its ambitions for the Neom megacity project, reducing the population target from 1.5 million to 300,000 by 2030.
  • The 170km straight-line city, known as The Line, is now expected to have only 2.4km completed by 2030.
  • The downsizing of the megacity project raises questions about Saudi Arabia’s ambitious vision 2030.
Neom

The scaling back of the megacity project is attributed to budget constraints, with the Public Investment Fund's cash reserves dropping to $15bn in September 2023.Saudi Arabia has scaled back some of its ambitions for its desert megacity Neom, according to a report by Bloomberg. The $1.5 trillion megacity project, which organizers claim will be 33 times the size of New York City, is due to include a 170km straight-line city.

When launching The Line in 2021, the Saudi government had announced that 1.5 million people would be living in the city by 2030. Officials now expect there to be fewer that 300,000 residents by that time, according to a source cited by Bloomberg.The source said that officials expected only 2.4km of the 170km city to be completed by 2030. As a result of the scaling back, one contractor dismissed some of the workers it employs on site, according to a document seen by Bloomberg. 

Neom - part of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 strategy to diversify the economy and move away from oil reliance - is being built in the northwestern Tabuk province.

Middle East Eye reported last year that construction was under way on The Line, based on satellite imagery.

The Line is due to have no cars or roads, and a high-speed rail service running across the length of the city, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced three years ago. 

Two parallel, mirrored buildings that are nearly 500 meters tall and 120km wide are also planned as part of the project, according to designs uncovered in 2022.

In addition to the horizontal city, Neom is also touted to include an eight-sided city that floats on water, a ski resort with a folded vertical village, and a Red Sea luxury island resort called Sindalah. The Sindalah project is due to open later this year.

Sources told Bloomberg that work was continuing on other parts of the Neom project, and Saudi officials still backed the overall aims of The Line.

The sources added that Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, which is providing most of the funding for the project, has yet to confirm its 2024 budget for Neom. 

The scaling back of the megacity project comes as the Public Investment Fund cash reserves dropped to $15bn in September, its lowest levels since 2020. 

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Leave a comment
  • Mamdouh Salameh on April 09 2024 said:
    Saudi Crown Prince's Saudi Vision 2030 is a very ambitions and highly valuable undertaking aiming at diversifying the country's economy by reducing its dependence on oil in coming years.

    However, such a gigantic mission needs a lot of investments and funds for many years to come to finance the non-oil sector of the Saudi economy and make it the more dominant sector of the Saudi economy.

    Saudi Arabia's crude oil production and by extension exports are declining meaning that the oil revenue which is financing the diversification and which is used as a collateral for foreign investments and loans will become less available, hence the downsizing of the spectacular Neom project.

    Yet , Saudi Arabia's vision 2030 will continue but at a more modest level.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Expert

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