Opinion—Saudi Arabia’s new economic zone offers a view of the future for business world-wide

Oct 25, 2017

By Don Wallis

New legal rights for businesses and individuals are a key component of the venture’s success.

Saudi Arabia has announced plans to build a 10,000 square mile, $500 billion industrial and business zone in an undeveloped area of the desert in the northwestern corner of the country. The plans call for this area, known as NEOM, to connect to Egypt by bridge and to Jordan.

Liam Denning, reporting for Bloomberg News, states that “from this blankest of slates will arise an advanced hub featuring the latest technology in everything from seawater to artificial intelligence to 100 percent renewable energy. By 2030, its GDP is expected to top $100 billion…” It is estimated the area will eventually have a population of 2 million.

The project is “the biggest effort yet to free the kingdom from dependence on oil exports.” Andrew Torchia, Reuters.

“Riyadh is cutting red tape and removing barriers to investment; on Sunday, it said it would let strategic foreign investors own more than 10 percent of listed Saudi companies.” Reuters

The Saudis realize they will not be able to attract investment to the proposed international business hub unless they create a modern legal and judicial system that alleviates the concerns foreign investors have with investing in a country that at the present time is an essentially feudal society where the legal norms required by modern business do not exist.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has addressed the international business community’s concerns—“the zone…will have its own tax and labor laws and an autonomous judicial system.”

Many observers question whether Saudi Arabia can materialize what is for now only an ambitious dream. But if they do it will prove to the world that mankind can break free from entrenched social and legal paradigms and, using modern technology, create new societies where “the full potential of a markedly young population in a restless part of the world” can be realized. Bloomberg

Saudi Arabia’s success will be an inspiration and victory for all of mankind.

Sources—

Saudi Arabia’s NEOM: Oasis or Sand Castle, Liam Denning, Bloomberg News, Oct. 24, 2017.

Saudis set $500 billion plan to develop zone linked with Jordan and Egypt, Andrew Torchia, Reuters, Oct. 23, 2107.

Don Wallis has more than 40 years experience in residential and commercial construction, and land development. He also has a law degree and currently teaches Environmental Law at Santa Fe Community College.