Saudi Arabia has announced that it plans to build a $500 billion mega-city on the country’s Red Sea coast, which will be known as Neom and will operate as an independent economic zone with its very own laws, taxes and regulations, in an effort to boost growth and wealth for the region and investors as well as for its future residents.
Its name was derived from the initials of the nine main sectors in the zone and the word ‘mustaqbil’, which means ‘future’. The full name of the city thus is actually Neo-Mustaqbil, but, as it was too long, it was instead shortened to ‘Neom’ instead.
“We had a lot of names that we were supposed to adopt, they were all good names […]. We wanted something that represents humanity in general.” Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Reuters in an interview “[…] It sounds like a futuristic name at the same time so there is a meaning behind it.”
Neom will also be the first city to extend across three countries, as it will stretch out into Jordan and Egypt: “It is only 3.5 km from Egypt. By car, it’s less than two minutes from nearest point, from the farthest point it’s 20-25 km drive.” bin Salman said “It’s like driving from one part of Manhattan to SoHo.”
The city will power itself with only wind power and solar energy, as the project is slowly preparing the country for its post-oil era. Neom’s main focus will rest on industries like energy, water, biotechnology, food, advanced manufacturing and entertainment.
In addition to that, the city will work as a center for automated technology like drones and robotics, as well as driverless cars, though the project also plans to lift all bans on female drivers.
“The focus on these sectors will stimulate economic growth and diversification by nurturing international innovation and manufacturing, to drive local industry, job creation, and GDP growth in the Kingdom,” Prince Mohammed and chairman of the Public Investment Fund told The Arab News “Neom will attract private as well as public investments and partnerships. The zone will be backed by more than $500 billion over the coming years by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, local as well as international investors.”
The Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund also mentioned in a statement that the city will offer its residents “an idyllic lifestyle paired with excellent economic opportunities that surpass that of any other metropolis. It will attract Saudi Arabians and expatriates, as do all other global societies.”
The project is expected to wrap up its first phase in 2025.