$800bn plan to turn Riyadh into cultural hub for the Middle East

Fahd Al-Rasheed, president of the Royal Commission for the City of Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Updated 06 July 2020

$800bn plan to turn Riyadh into cultural hub for the Middle East

  • Saudi capital’s planning chief unveils ambitious strategy ahead of G20 urban development summit

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is launching a SR3 trillion ($800 billion) plan to double the size of Riyadh in the next decade and transform it into an economic, social and cultural hub for the region.

The ambitious strategy for the capital city was unveiled by Fahd Al-Rasheed, president of the Royal Commission for the City of Riyadh, ahead of key meetings of the U20, the arm of the G20 leaders’ summit that deals with urban development and strategy.

“Riyadh is already a very important economic engine for the Kingdom, and although it’s already very successful, the plan now, under Vision 2030, is to actually take that way further, to double the population to 15 million people,” he told Arab News.

“We’ve already launched 18 megaprojects in the city, worth over SR1 trillion, over $250 billion, to both improve livability and deliver much higher economic growth so we can create jobs and double the population in 10 years. It’s a significant plan and the whole city is working to make sure this happens.”

 

About $250 billion in investment is expected from the private sector, with the same amount generated by increased economic activity from population growth, finance and banking, cultural and desert tourism, and leisure events.

 

“We must also ensure the growth is managed properly, so there will be a focus on transport and logistics, including the Riyadh metro which will open at the beginning of next year. The aim is to increase productivity,” Al-Rasheed said.

The plan involves the creation of a “mega industrial zone” focusing on advanced technology such as renewables and automation, and biotechnology and aquaponics. Another key feature is sustainability, with energy conservation, the circular carbon economy with its emphasis on reducing emissions, and water management, all priorities.

“You will see 7 million trees planted in Riyadh in the next few years, and King Salman Park will be bigger than Hyde Park in London,” Al-Rasheed said.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 18 megaprojects have already been launched worth over $250 billion.
  • 7 million trees planted in Riyadh in the next few years.
  • King Salman Park will be bigger than Hyde Park in London.

The city also aims to be a Middle East artistic and cultural hub. An opera house is being considered, as well as public art shows with 1,000 works commissioned from around the world. “We have not seen anything like it since Renaissance Florence,” Al-Rasheed said.

The plans will be discussed this week during online meetings of the U20 linking Riyadh with Houston. The Texas oil capital is suffering a new spike in coronavirus cases and pandemics will be on the agenda. “We want to deal with this one, but also be ready for the next one,” Al-Rasheed said.


Saudi Arabia calls for extending arms embargo on Iran

Updated 9 min 6 sec ago

Saudi Arabia calls for extending arms embargo on Iran

  • Saudi Arabia called for international measures to halt Iran’s activities that cause instability in the Middle East
  • Iran finances armed militias in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon without regard to international charters

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s UN ambassador called for an extension of the arms embargo on Iran in a session on Thursday, Saudi press agency reported.

“Iran smuggles weapons to militias which destabilize regional peace,” Abdul Aziz Al-Wasel said during a conference held in Geneva.

Al-Wasel called for an extension of arms embargo on Iran, which is due to expire on October 18, and said allowing the Islamic Republic to buy weapons will increase their hostile activities in the region.

The ambassador stressed the Kingdom’s support for international measures to halt Iran’s activities that cause instability in the Middle East.

Lifting the international ban on Iran, he noted, will lead to more “destruction and devastation” and create conflicts in the region.

“The international community will, in the coming hours, have a crucial and important date that will determine a new future for the people of the region,” he said. “There are two paths: either to maintain or protect international peace and security, or to give the Iranian regime an opportunity to commit more crimes and violations against the people of the region.”

The ambassador stated that arms smuggling to militant groups was still an issue in the region, where missiles and other weapons are used to target civilians and civilian infrastructure. These attacks also harm the global economy by threatening waterways and targeting oil installations in the region, which is the backbone of the international economy, he added.

Al-Wasel referenced the outcome of a UN Security Council report that was presented on June 30, confirming direct involvement of the Iranian regime attacks that targeted oil installations in Abqaiq and Khurais, eastern Saudi Arabia, in 2019 as well as the targeting of Abha International Airport with cruise missiles and unmanned drones.

He said the report left no room for doubt about Iran’s hostile intentions towards Saudi Arabia, the Arab region and the world.

The current Iranian regime, Al-Wasel added, continues to finance armed militias in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon without regard to international charters and treaties.