Take a Look at Saudi Arabia’s Plan for a $500 Billion Utopian Megacity
Saudi Arabia, a notorious human rights violator, recently revealed plans for a $500 billion utopian megacity called Neom.
Why? To serve humankind and set an example for the rest of the planet. Yes, seriously.
Neom: the utopian megacity
Putting aside for a second the laughable idea that the Saudis are in any position to serve mankind in a positive way, let’s take a look at their overly ambitious plans for the city.
Neom will be the “size of a country” located in the Northwest part of the kingdom bordered by the Red Sea, Jordan, and bridging into Egypt. At 10,000 square miles, that’s 33 times the size of New York City.
Plans for the city look like a neoliberal wet dream: manufacturing, renewable energy, luxury hotels, entertainment skyscrapers, biotechnology, and lots of robot labor.
All energy will come from low-cost and high-efficiency sources such as solar and wind as well as “new kinds” of energy that haven’t been discovered yet. (Um, okay.)
Technology and manufacturing
As an AI hub, Neom will serve as an open-source test-ground for research and development. Other industries could include 3D printing, renewables, electric vehicles, and IoT devices.
Food and entertainment
The city will produce its own food and clean itself as well. Solar-powered urban farms will grow food as efficiently as possible. Developers also believe this megacity will be the world headquarters for media, film, entertainment, and social media.
Building a new country
Plans for this utopian megacity include its own economic zone. That’s right: Saudi Arabia is actually creating a new country inside the kingdom. Neom will have its own laws, taxes, and regulations which the promotional website says will be designed to boost growth and wealth for both investors and residents.
Basically, the Saudis want to start from scratch to dominate all world industries. Oh, and they want to design their own economy to accomplish this. Ya know, instead of reforming their own. Which brings us to…
Saudi Vision 2030
This utopian megacity is really part of a larger plan to reform the Saudi economy. Although the royal family enjoys the surpluses of oil wealth, this is running thin and can’t prop-up the economy much longer.
Plus, when it comes to GDP, the KSA can’t hold a candle to their Gulf neighbors of Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates.
Prince Mohammad bin Salman knows neoliberal economic reforms are vital. So instead of reforming Saudi Arabia, why not just build a new country?
While the plan is certainly exciting, it’s equally ambitious. It would require substantial investment and resources. So this utopian megacity probably isn’t something the Saudis will be able to accomplish.
Leading the next chapter of humanity
This is where the Saudis plan to “write the next chapter of humanity” and “show the rest of the planet how it’s done.”
Months ago, media outlets praised bin Salman for finally granting women the right to drive. As if allowing this to go on for so long was worthy of praise. Now, finally, women can drive to their own stoning when they’re tried for adultery or leaving the home without their husbands.
It’s not just women subjected to the Saudis’ Wahhabi oppression. Within the kingdom, the Shia Muslim minority face frequent violent attacks including bombs, police violence, and even a blockade for the crime of asking for basic rights. Yes, the Saudis bomb people inside their own borders.
Across the border, Saudi airstrikes and military operations have killed over 13,000 people inside Yemen where attacks typically target homes, farms, cars, and civilian infrastructure. The Saudi-imposed blockade restricts the flow of movement and aid which has killed thousands more, triggered a cholera epidemic, and put over seven million people at risk of famine.
It’s hard to see how Riyadh can set an example for humanity when they show no interest in stopping this behavior within their own borders or beyond.
But we shouldn’t have to worry about that because it’s hard to see this $500 billion investment panning out exactly how they plan.