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'Economic Cities,' Saudi Arabia's Mega Projects
Saudi Arabia's program to build new "Economic Cities" includes more than one plan for developments over 50 square miles, whether these will attract the tourists and business development they seek to spur, remains to be seen. "The kingdom is converting thousands of square kilometers of sand into new cities as it seeks to diversify away from crude, create jobs and boost investment," Sarah Algethami writes in Bloomberg Business.
These initiatives look to kickstart some projects that have been slow to take off and will include two new projects. One project announced in July aims to attract tourists to Saudi Arabia's beaches on over 50 islands in the Red Sea. The area of this project is bigger than Belgium. Some have pointed out cultural barriers to attracting tourists including the country's alcohol restrictions and clothing requirements.
Plans were also announced for a city called Al Faisaliyah, "The city will have residential units, entertainment facilities, an airport and sea port," Algethami reports. The kingdom announced these plans despite the slow growth of its many previous attempts at mega projects including the King Abdullah Financial District of 70 buildings that has yet to attract a single institution.