Massive ‘city within a city’ backed by Saudi Arabia’s PIF planned for Riyadh

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The project will be located in the northern growth corridor of Riyadh, 15 minutes away from the international airport. The designs include a 600,000 square meters park with some 200,000 trees. (Shutterstock)
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The project will be located in the northern growth corridor of Riyadh, 15 minutes away from the international airport. (Reuters)
Updated 07 August 2018

Massive ‘city within a city’ backed by Saudi Arabia’s PIF planned for Riyadh

  • Al Widyan will cover 7 million square meters
  • Located in key growth corridor in north of capital

LONDON: A new “city within a city” is being planned in Riyadh, backed by the Saudi Arabian sovereign investor, the Public Investment Fund (PIF).

The development — called Al Widyan — will comprise residential, commercial, retail and leisure facilities on a 7 million square meter site to the north of the capital, and will take seven years to complete. Initial work has already begun.

Al Akaria Saudi Real Estate Company (SRECO), a Tadawul-listed developer 65 per cent owned by PIF, announced the development, with a price tag of SR10 billion ($2.66 billion) for the first phase.

The project will be the first in the Kingdom outside an economic development zone to be granted the status of “self regulatory office,” an initiative aimed at simplifying and speeding planning approvals and reducing building bureaucracy.

Abdulrahman Almofadhi, chairman of SRECO, said: “Al Widyan will be a new paradigm for community living in the Kingdom and will embody the spirit of the new Saudi Arabia, the power of human talent to conceptualise and develop the future that we aspire to for our children, communities and nation.”

Al Widyan — which means “valleys” in Arabic - will be a self-sustaining community, Almofadhi told Arab News, with a strong emphasis on health care, wellness, education and lifestyle.

“It will be a city on its own, with an eye on the lifestyle of its inhabitants. We have designed into it huge swathes of land as open areas, including 200,000 trees and a 600,000 square meter ‘central park,” he said.

“It will be the first of its kind, designed by American and British partners, according to international standards, and also designed to be a catalyst for future development. It is also manifesting a lot of the principles of the Vision 2030 strategy, and we are playing our part in diligently working towards that. It is important the quality of life of citizens is improved,” he added.

The initial phase of the project will be part funded by a SR1.5 billion loan from PIF, and Almofadhi said the final cost will be decided by the market. But he held out the prospect that Al Widyan, currently a subsidiary of SRECO, might eventually be floated on the Saudi Stock exchange.

“We are now working towards establishing a fund through which investors can join with us. Al Widyan is going to be a big company down the road and we are open to welcoming public and private investors,” he said.

There are no plans for PIF to sell down some of its stake in SRECO, he insisted. “We do not expect that to happen. One of the main goals of PIF is to use real estate as an agent of change in Saudi Arabia. There is a need for better housing in the Kingdom and PIF is paying great attention to that,” he said.

He thanked the Riyadh municipal government for granting Al Widyan special status.

“I am excited by the prospect of becoming the first private self-regulated development. It is the only private project in the Kingdom to have this, and I believe it will allow us to de-risk the development and reduce its complexity. It will enable us to put it on the fast track,” he said.

A statement from SRECO said the site is in the northern growth corridor of Riyadh, 15 minutes away from the international airport and 20 minutes away from downtown. Its prime location puts it within reach of a population of over 8 million people.

Further details of the project, including impressions of exactly how it will look, will be revealed in October. 

US trade offensive takes out WTO as global arbiter

Updated 10 December 2019

US trade offensive takes out WTO as global arbiter

  • Two years after starting to block appointments, the US will finally paralyze the WTO’s Appellate Body
  • Two of three members of Appellate Body exit and leave it unable to issue rulings

BRUSSELS: US disruption of the global economic order reaches a major milestone on Tuesday as the World Trade Organization (WTO) loses its ability to intervene in trade wars, threatening the future of the Geneva-based body.
Two years after starting to block appointments, the United States will finally paralyze the WTO’s Appellate Body, which acts as the supreme court for international trade, as two of three members exit and leave it unable to issue rulings.
Major trade disputes, including the US conflict with China and metal tariffs imposed by US President Donald Trump, will not be resolved by the global trade arbiter.
Stephen Vaughn, who served as general counsel to the US Trade Representative during Trump’s first two years, said many disputes would be settled in future by negotiations.
Critics say this means a return to a post-war period of inconsistent settlements, problems the WTO’s creation in 1995 was designed to fix.
The EU ambassador to the WTO told counterparts in Geneva on Monday the Appellate Body’s paralysis risked creating a system of economic relations based on power rather than rules.
The crippling of dispute settlement comes as the WTO also struggles in its other major role of opening markets.
The WTO club of 164 has not produced any international accord since abandoning “Doha Round” negotiations in 2015.
Trade-restrictive measures among the G20 group of largest economies are at historic highs, compounded by Trump’s “America First” agenda and the trade war with China.
Phil Hogan, the European Union’s new trade commissioner, said on Friday the WTO was no longer fit for purpose and in dire need of reforms going beyond just fixing the appeals mechanism.
For developed countries, in particular, the WTO’s rules must change to take account of state-controlled enterprises.
In 2017, Japan brought together the United States and the European Union in a joint bid to set new global rules on state subsidies and forced technology transfers.
The US is also pushing to limit the ability of WTO members to grant themselves developing status, which for example gives them longer to implement WTO agreements.
Such “developing countries” include Singapore and Israel, but China is the clear focus.
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Reuters last week the United States wanted to end concessions given to then struggling economies that were no longer appropriate.
“We’ve been spoiling countries for a very, very long time, so naturally they’re pushing back as we try to change things,” he said.
The trouble with WTO reform is that changes require consensus to pass. That includes Chinese backing.
Beijing has published its own reform proposals with a string of grievances against US actions. Reform should resolve crucial issues threatening the WTO’s existence, while preserving the interests of developing countries.
Many observers believe the WTO faces a pivotal moment in mid-2020 when its trade ministers gather in a drive to push through a multinational deal — on cutting fishing subsidies.
“It’s not the WTO that will save the fish. It’s the fish that are going to save the WTO,” said one ambassador.