Saudi Arabia must plan carefully for ‘super cities,’ says strategist

The NEOM mega-city is part of plans to transform the Saudi economy. Reuters text, Caption text. (Reuters)
Updated 22 November 2019

Saudi Arabia must plan carefully for ‘super cities,’ says strategist

  • Author and global strategist Parag Khanna held up Dubai as an example of a city that was making major progress in the drive to ”smart status”
  • In his recent book “Connectography,” he said that research by consultants McKinsey found that the minimum size for a “super city” was 4 million inhabitants

BEIJING: Saudi Arabia has the potential to develop “super cities” in the Kingdom, but must pay careful attention to the economic fundamentals behind such projects, according to global strategist and author Parag Khanna.

Speaking at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Beijing, Khanna told Arab News: “When you are building a city from scratch, you have to be certain of the plan. What is the economic master plan? How self-sustaining will the city be? What will people living there do for a living?”

The Kingdom is planning the mega-city NEOM on the northwest coast, as well as several other developments, under the Vision 2030 strategy to transform the economy.

Khanna, author of the recent book “Connectography,” said that research by consultants McKinsey found that the minimum size for a “super city” was 4 million inhabitants. In Saudi Arabia, only Riyadh had surpassed that figure in a single conurbation.

“The way to make up the difference is to create “smart” cities that will increase connectivity and living standards,” Khanna said. He held up Dubai as an example of a city that was making major progress in the drive to ”smart status,” adding “for the first time in a long time, other Arab cities are looking at another Arab city as a model of the kind of city they would like to live in, rather than a city outside the Arab world.”

Khanna said that he did not know enough about plans for NEOM and other Saudi projects to know whether they would be successful in reaching “super city” status. “I’d have to kick the tires,” he said, pointing to developments along the Red Sea coast like the King Abdullah Economic City and the regeneration of Riyadh as other potentially successful urban projects. 

Super cities are conurbations that drive economic growth and improvement in living standards. “Urbanization has been the single greatest factor in improving the human condition,” Khanna said.

The Arab world and South America have historically been urban dominated, but the drive to city building recently has gathered pace in China and India.


Capitalism doing ‘more harm than good’ says global survey

Updated 41 min 48 sec ago

Capitalism doing ‘more harm than good’ says global survey

  • The poll contacted over 34,000 people in 28 countries

LONDON: A majority of people around the world believe capitalism in its current form is doing more harm than good, a survey found ahead of this week’s Davos meeting of business and political leaders.

This year was the first time the “Edelman Trust Barometer,” which for two decades has polled tens of thousands of people on their trust in core institutions, sought to understand how capitalism itself was viewed.

The study’s authors said that earlier surveys showing a rising sense of inequality prompted them to ask whether citizens were now starting to have more fundamental doubts about the capitalist-based democracies of the West.

“The answer is yes,” David Bersoff, lead researcher on the study produced by US communications company Edelman. “People are questioning at that level whether what we have today, and the world we live in today, is optimized for their having a good future.”

The poll contacted over 34,000 people in 28 countries, from Western democracies like the US to those based on a different model such as China or Russia, with 56 percent agreeing “capitalism as it exists today does more harm than good in the world.”

The survey was launched in 2000 to explore the theories of political scientist Francis Fukuyama, who after the collapse of communism declared that liberal capitalist democracy had seen off rival ideologies and so represented “the end of history.”

That conclusion has since been challenged by critics who point to everything from the rising influence of China to the spread of autocratic leaders, trade protectionism and worsening inequality in the wake of the 2007/08 global financial crisis.

On a national level, lack of trust in capitalism was highest in Thailand and India on 75 percent and 74 percent respectively, with France close behind on 69 percent. Majorities prevailed in other Asian, European, Gulf, African and Latin American states.

Only in Australia, Canada, the US, South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan did majorities disagree with the assertion capitalism currently did more harm than good.

FASTFACT

75%

The Edelman Trust Barometer survey found lack of trust in capitalism was highest in Thailand and India on 75 percent and 74 percent respectively.

The survey confirmed a by-now familiar set of concerns ranging from worries about the pace of technological progress and job insecurity, to distrust of the media and a sense that national governments were not up to the challenges of the day.

Within the data there were divergences, with Asians more optimistic about their economic prospects than others across the world. There was also a growing split in attitudes according to status, with the affluent and college-educated much more likely to have faith in how things were being run.

Of possible interest to corporate leaders gathering in Davos this week was the finding that trust in business outweighed that in governments and that 92 percent of employees said CEOs should speak out on the social and ethical issues of the day.

“Business has leapt into the void left by populist and partisan government,” said Edelman CEO Richard Edelman. “It can no longer be business as usual, with an exclusive focus on shareholder returns.”