Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Great Saudi Arabian fiction?

No, this is not from any fiction book. It is about Neom, the brand new city of the future being constructed at a cost of $500bn and covering 10,000 square miles of unknown and neglected rocky desert and empty coastline in north-west Saudi Arabia. It is the vanity project of the de facto ruler of the country, Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS). 

As the article writes, Neom involves several "leaps of faith", 
“This should be an automated city where we can watch everything,” Neom’s MBS-led founding board said, according to the documents—a city “where a computer can notify crimes without having to report them or where all citizens can be tracked.”... Neom aims to have “zero work/stress-related diseases,” with residents working at startups or companies like Amazon.com Inc., which Saudi officials are trying to lure with incentives like free energy and subsidized labor, according to the planning documents... Residents’ children would be schooled in the “leading education system on the planet,” with innovations like "hologram faculty"... Though Neom is surrounded by desert, it will have many farmers markets. Temperatures will be cooler than Dubai, the documents say, and moderated by “cloud seeding” to make it rain. Because they live in the city with the “highest GDP per capita,” the documents say, a resident could indulge in a fancy dinner; Neom aims to have the “highest rate of Michelin-starred restaurants per inhabitant.” To keep Neom safe, cameras, drones and facial-recognition technology will let Saudi intelligence services track everyone... Neom in a statement said the project is about “technology in all sectors such as mobility, livability, health and medical, all of which will ensure we are providing the most attractive living environment on the planet. Earlier this year, MBS issued a decree about an area called Silver Beach. “I want the sand to glow,” he said, according to two people familiar with the project. Engineers haven’t figured out a safe way to do it. Each night, he told underlings, a fleet of drones should create the illusion of a rising moon—crescent, half, full. “That’s what he wants this future to be,” a former executive said.
It is understandable to promote grandiose projects with some hyperbole. But this, even by any standards of grandeur, looks just plain ridiculous. The only beneficiaries from this would be western financiers, consultants, and construction contractors.

Is it the modern reprise of the historical tales of foolish king and conman/thief who try to trick him?

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