Recently, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, announced the launch of NEOM, a project that aspires to be the “safest, most efficient, most future-oriented, and best place to live and work” in the Kingdom. NEOM’s land mass will extend across the Egyptian and Jordanian borders, rendering NEOM the first private zone to span three countries.
The project will be backed by more than $500 billion over the coming years by Saudi Arabia. Wind and solar power will allow NEOM to be powered solely by regenerative energy, while 70 percent of the world’s population will be able to reach it within eight hours. This was reported in the local dailies, following its launch at the recent Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh.
The news continued, “It is to be situated on one of the world’s most prominent economic arteries, through which nearly a tenth of the world’s trade flows. Its strategic location will also facilitate the zone’s rapid emergence as a global hub that connects Asia, Europe and Africa, enabling 70 percent of the world's population to reach it in under eight hours, which brings the potential to combine the best of major global regions in terms of knowledge, technology, research, teaching, learning, living and working.”
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As the name of the forum suggests, it is indeed a vision for the future. As pledged by the dynamic Crown Prince to reinvigorate the economy by investing in the future, he is doing just that. Investing in Saudi youth. His vision encompasses the harnessing of the global technological and financial trends with the drive and skills of the Saudi youth.
As has been Crown Prince Muhammad’s refrain from the start, Saudi economy has to be diversified. Though focus would be still on oil-generated revenues, without the total reliance on it. That’s why he in his vision has identified the areas of potential, which could add to the growing Saudi economy. And rightly he has aimed at skills development along with self-driven business entrepreneurship.
It is high time to look at the greater good that would be derived by these actions in order to benefit the country with greater innovationMahmoud Ahmad
Knowledge and investment
The ambitious project, NEOM, will secure thousands of jobs for Saudis. The vision of the Crown Prince of transforming the Saudi economy from an economy that is totally dependent on oil into an economy based on knowledge and investment is turning into a reality, which is part of Vision 2030. The vision will also transform the Saudi manpower into a knowledge- driven and scientifically productive group, which stays updated with information.
The traditional Saudi government employee, who has been a clock-watcher and heavily dependent on paperwork and has been a bystander in the growing technological revolution will not survive is such a city, which will be run by meritocracy and people with specialized skill sets.
For such a crop of skilled youth, Saudi Arabia also requires to revamp the education system. It needs to completely change its curriculum with more stress on sciences, and develop methods and ways that would motivate and encourage the Saudi youth to be more innovative. What most importantly is to change is the mindset of our youth to stay away from boring routine jobs behind dusty desks doing repetitive jobs with an eye on their salaries at the end of the month.
It is high time to look at the greater good that would be derived by these actions in order to benefit the country with more innovation and production. We need to teach our youth how to develop their abilities to be more productive keeping in mind that the city will take only the highly skilled and innovative people. Those who cannot develop their skills and knowledge will be left behind.
All services and processes in NEOM will be 100 percent fully automated, with the goal of becoming the most efficient destination in the world, and in turn be implemented on all activities such as legal, government, and investment procedures among others. Additionally, NEOM will be subject to the highest sustainability standards, and will provide all transactions, procedures, and claims through paperless and electronic means.
Saudi Arabia is witnessing a major transformation and Tabuk region is in the center of all the attention now. Residents in Tabuk are fortunate now that this huge project will take place in their area. In the past, three major cities had been the center attention when it came to job opportunity, starting with Riyadh on the top being the capital, followed by Dammam in the eastern province and then Jeddah.
Few years from now, the top brains in the world will focus their attention in NEOM in the Tabuk region. The region will be attractive to dreamers who want to make a difference. Crown Prince Muhammad is betting on the Saudi youth for making the project successful. We are confident that it will succeed. His speech, like the many before, was full of surprises and good news and it also sketched a road map for the Saudi economy for the years to come.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette.
Mahmoud Ahmad is Managing Editor of Saudi Gazette for Local and Gulf Affairs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and his Twitter handle is @anajeddawi_eng.