The blue economy and the ‘Riviera of the Middle East’
The green economy is one the most prominent concepts that derives under the circular economy among several others; however, it is an expensive option to go with and requires huge investments.
As such, it remains a trump card and in most cases accessible only to the elites, for few can afford it and bear the associated expenses.
A Belgian economist called Gunter Pauli, a graduate of INSEAD Business School, nicknamed the “Steve Jobs of Sustainability,” sought to find a solution to this problem by answering the question he always asked himself: What optimal competitive business model we can design that will allow us to implement sustainable practices, that help us to provide at the same time basic needs while using available materials?
The birth of the blue economy concept has helped to formulate a valid answer to that question, documented in his book “Blue Economy: 10 Years, 100 Innovations, 100 Million Jobs.”
In it, Pauli sought to highlight the importance of sustainable water resource management based on the premise that sound ocean ecosystems are the most productive, and critically essential for the sustainability of ocean-based economies.
The blue economy can be defined as an emerging economic concept that aims to raise the level of human well-being through investment in water resources, industries and ocean-related fields, by applying developmental, innovative and environmentally friendly methods. Furthermore, the concept improves the economy through promoting innovative small and medium enterprises and the creation of new sectors, thus generating new job opportunities.
The oceans are the largest and most diverse part of the globe’s ecosystem, and therefore the most productive, if well utilized. Although the oceans cover nearly three quarters of the planet’s surface and are home to more than half of the living creatures, some believe that water resources are unlimited, which is not true.
Most of the current commercial and industrial practices in this field are unsustainable, indiscriminate and even detrimental. This is valid simply because there is no universal umbrella that identifies the economic, political and legal dimensions of ocean and environmental activities.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has published a report that estimates the global economic value of water resources and services at $1.5 trillion a year, which could double if we were to apply systematic mechanisms taking into account the sustainability of the oceans.
The blue economy in the EU alone has created nearly 6 million job opportunities, and EU countries are currently working on a regional strategy to increase that up to 10 million by 2020.
Saudi Arabia has recently placed a special emphasis on non-oil projects to better diversify the economy, spearheaded by the tourism sector.
The Kingdom recently announced the Amaala Project, located on the Red Sea coast, alongside the NEOM and Red Sea projects.
NEOM, Red Sea and Amaala join the portfolio of projects recently called the “Riviera of the Middle East” due to their geographic location. Such megaprojects are critically essential for achieving economic diversification and raising the Kingdom’s gross domestic product through the tourism sector, as well as new sectors that will have a prominent engaging presence such as artificial intelligence and renewable energy.
This riviera, located on the northwest coast of the Kingdom, has vast untapped potential.
• Abeer S. Al Saud is an Op-Ed writer for Arab News exploring development, peace, and cultural topics. The views expressed in this piece are personal. Twitter: @asmalsaud