IMF endorses Saudi plan for $500bn Neom zone

Visitors watch a 3-D presentation during an exhibition on ‘Neom,’ a new business and industrial city, in Riyadh. (Reuters)
Updated 01 November 2017
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IMF endorses Saudi plan for $500bn Neom zone

DUBAI: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has endorsed an ambitious Saudi Arabian plan to build a $500 billion business and industrial zone extending into Jordan and Egypt, saying the project could benefit the whole region.
Jihad Azour, head of the IMF’s Middle East department, said Riyadh would need to balance the huge cost of the zone and other economic projects with its drive to cut a big state budget deficit caused by low oil prices.
But the plan to develop the zone, known as Neom, could stimulate trade and allow the Middle East to capitalize on its location as a bridge between Asia and Europe, Azour said in an interview.
“It is a signal that greater regional cooperation is back on the table,” he said.
“We see value and necessity in regional cooperation.”
The Neom scheme, unveiled by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at an international conference in Riyadh last week, would develop industries such as energy and water, biotechnology, food, advanced manufacturing and entertainment in a 26,500 square-kilometer (10,230 square mile) zone with its own laws and judicial system.
The project has been welcomed by Jordanian officials but so far there has been little public response from the Egyptian government, a diplomatic ally of Saudi Arabia. Riyadh has indicated that much of the huge cost of the zone will be borne by the Saudi government, but a large, though undisclosed, portion would come from domestic and international private investors.
Azour said major private sector participation would be important for Neom’s success, with the Saudi government providing land and regulation rather than trying to be closely involved in most investment decisions.
Governments in the region are starting to look outward again after having spent the past five or six years focused on coping with political instability and a plunge in oil prices, he added.
“Authorities in various countries are now reassessing more and more the need to do reforms and projects to grow faster and to address the issue of job creation.”
Neom could fit in with two other international economic schemes, Azour said: The Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing’s drive to win trade and investment deals along routes linking China to Europe, and the G-20 Compact with Africa that aims to promote private investment across the ­continent.
—  REUTERS


Apple’s Cook to China: keep opening for sake of global economy

Updated 23 March 2019
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Apple’s Cook to China: keep opening for sake of global economy

  • Cook’s comments come as Apple weathers sinking sales in China
  • Despite official pledges and repeated assurances that China would continue to open its markets

BEIJING: Apple chief executive Tim Cook nudged China on Saturday to open up and said the future would depend on global collaboration, as the United States and China remained locked in a bitter trade dispute.
“We encourage China to continue to open up, we see that as essential, not only for China to reach its full potential, but for the global economy to thrive,” Cook said at a China Development Forum in Beijing.
Despite official pledges and repeated assurances that China would continue to open its markets, some analysts worry that its reform project has slowed or even stalled under President Xi Jinping, who has sought greater control over the economy and a bigger role for state-owned firms at the expense of the private sector.
Cook’s comments come as Apple weathers sinking sales in China because of a contracting smartphone market, increasing pressure from Chinese rivals, and slowing upgrade cycles. The company reported a revenue drop of 26 percent in the greater China region during the quarter ending in December.
Before those results came out, in a January letter to investors, Cook blamed the company’s poor China performance on trade tension between the United States and China, suggesting that pressure on the economy was hurting sales in China.