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. 


Analysts urge Canada to focus on boosting the economy

Updated 06 July 2020

Analysts urge Canada to focus on boosting the economy

  • Canada lost one of its coveted triple-A ratings in June when Fitch downgraded it for the first time

TORONTO: Canada should focus on boosting economic growth after getting pummeled by the COVID-19 crisis, analysts say, even as concerns about the sustainability of its debt are growing, with Fitch downgrading the nation’s rating just over a week ago.

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau will deliver a “fiscal snapshot” on Wednesday that will outline the current balance sheet and may give an idea of the money the government is setting aside for the future.

As the economy recovers, some fiscal support measures, which are expected to boost the budget deficit sharply, could be wound down and replaced by incentives meant to get people back to work and measures to boost economic growth, economists said.

“The only solution to these large deficits is growth, so we need a transition to a pro-growth agenda,” said Craig Wright, chief economist at Royal Bank of Canada. The IMF expects Canada’s economy to contract by 8.4 percent this year. Ottawa is already rolling out more than C$150 billion in direct economic aid, including payments to workers impacted by COVID-19.

Further stimulus measures could include a green growth strategy, as well as spending on infrastructure, including smart infrastructure, economists said. Smart infrastructure makes use of digital technology.

“We have to make sure that government spending is calibrated to the economy of the future rather than the economy of the past,” Wright said.

Canada lost one of its coveted triple-A ratings in June when Fitch downgraded it for the first time, citing the billions of dollars in emergency aid Ottawa has spent to help bridge the downturn caused by COVID-19 shutdowns.

Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and DBRS still give Canadian debt the highest rating. At DBRS, Michael Heydt, the lead sovereign analyst on Canada, says his concern is about potential structural damage to the economy if the slowdown lingers too long.

Fiscal policymakers “need to be confident that there is a recovery underway before they start talking about (debt) consolidation,” Heydt said.

Fitch expects Canada’s total government debt will rise to 115.1 percent of GDP in 2020 from 88.3 percent in 2019.

Royce Mendes, a senior economist at CIBC Capital Markets, said the economy still needs more support.

“Turning too quickly toward austerity would be a clear mistake,” he said.