Saudi Arabia pushes back launch of ‘entertainment city’

Saudi Arabia’s Qiddiya Project near Riyadh is part of a series of multi-billion dollar projects as the Kingdom seeks to diversify. (SPA)
Updated 24 April 2018
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Saudi Arabia pushes back launch of ‘entertainment city’

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Tuesday said it has delayed by three days the launch of an “entertainment city” near Riyadh, part of a series of multi-billion dollar projects as the oil-reliant Kingdom seeks to diversify.
King Salman had been scheduled on Wednesday to launch construction of the 334-square kilometer project in Qiddiya, southwest of Riyadh, touted as the Kingdom’s answer to Disneyland.
“King Salman will inaugurate next Saturday the Qiddiya project, which is the new entertainment, sports and cultural destination in the Kingdom,” the state-run Saudi Press Agency said, without explaining the delay.
Construction for the first phase of development, which would include high-end theme parks, motor sport facilities and a safari area, is expected to be completed in 2022, officials say.
The facility highlights a “relentless effort to develop giga-projects that will help achieve many direct and indirect economic returns,” project official Fahd bin Abdullah Tounsi was quoted as saying in a government statement on Monday.
Qiddiya chief executive Michael Reininger has said the project in the entertainment-starved Kingdom is expected to draw foreign investment, but gave no figures.
Saudi Arabia has dazzled investors with plans for three hi-tech “giga projects,” funded in part by its sovereign wealth fund, but skeptics question their viability.
Aside from Qiddiya, the Kingdom has unveiled blueprints to build NEOM, a mega project billed as a regional Silicon Valley, in addition to the Red Sea project, a reef-fringed resort destination — both worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
Such projects are the brainchild of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, architect of a sweeping reform program dubbed “Vision 2030.”
The reforms stem partly from a motive to boost domestic spending on entertainment as the Kingdom has been reeling from an oil slump since 2014.
Saudis currently splurge billions of dollars annually to see films and visit amusement parks in neighboring tourist hubs like Dubai and Bahrain.
In February, Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority said it would stage more than 5,000 festivals and concerts in 2018, double the number of last year, and pump $64 billion in the sector in the coming decade.


Saudi crown prince meets deputy head of Sudan’s transitional council

Updated 30 min 6 sec ago
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Saudi crown prince meets deputy head of Sudan’s transitional council

  • The two leaders discussed cooperation between their countries
  • Saudi Arabia and the UAE had earlier pledged to send $3 billion worth of aid to Sudan

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman met the deputy head of Sudan’s transitional military council who is visiting Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Press Agency said early Friday.

The meeting between the crown prince and General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who goes by the nickname Hemedti, was held in Jeddah, where they discussed cooperation between the two countries, the report said.

Dagalo was accompanied by the official spokesman of the Sudanese Military Council General Shamsaddin Kabbashi, it said.

With the crown prince during the meeting were Dr. Musaed bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, Minister of State and Member of the Cabinet; and Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Member of the Cabinet.

The crown prince, who is also deputy prime minister and defense minister, discussed with Dagalo bilateral cooperation between the two countries in addition to latest developments at the regional arena.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE had earlier pledged to send $3 billion worth of aid to help Sudan recover after mass protests that had led to the ouster of president Omar al-Bashir last month.

Last Sunday, the two Gulf allies deposited $500 million into Sudan’s Central Bank, the first installment of the joint package of aid.

The move will strengthen Sudan’s “financial position, alleviate pressure on the Sudanese pound and achieve more stability in the exchange rate," said a statement by the Saudi Finance Ministry

It said the remaining amount will be allocated to meet the urgent needs of the Sudanese people, including food, medications and oil derivatives.

SPA said the Sudanese leaders departed Jeddah after the meeting and were seen off Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, governor of Makkah province and senior adviser to the royal court.