Saudi King launches $23 billion entertainment projects
LONDON - As it continues its efforts to diversify its economy away from the energy sector, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz launched four entertainment projects in Riyadh worth $23 billion, according to the Saudi Press agency.
The four projects - King Salman Park, Sports Boulevard, Green Riyadh and Riyadh Art - will complement the Saudi Vision 2030’s “Quality of Life” Program, which aims to generate 300,000 jobs by 2020 and will cost a total of 50 billion riyals. Government spending will be around 60%, with 40% from the private sector.
According to the Saudi Press Agency, the new projects are in their design phase; execution will start in the second half of 2019. They will create 70,000 jobs for Saudis. They will also offer investment opportunities worth $15 billion to local and foreign investors.
The projects include a park, a sports track and an art centre, the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya news channel reported.
“Through establishing the largest urban garden in the world, the park project aims to increase the per capita share of green space in Riyadh by 16 times, where more than 7.5 million trees will be planted throughout the city of Riyadh,” Al-Arabiya said.
“The art centre is set to include cultural and artistic institutions such as museums, theatres and galleries in hopes of transforming Riyadh into an “open exhibition” hosting the works of 1,000 local and international artists."
“The sports track will connect the city from east to west, extending for 135 kilometres, and will include cycling and horseback riding tracks, in addition to jogging tracks and sports and cultural centres,” Al-Arabiya added.
Other projects announced in the past include the ambitious Qiddiya project, an entertainment, sports and cultural destination spanning an area of 334 square kilometres, with infrastructure costs set to reach up to $8 billion and will be the region’s largest tourist and entertainment destination.
Saudi officials said construction of the first phase of the project should be completed by 2022 and will include theme parks, motorsport facilities and a safari area.
According to government statistics, approximately 7 million Saudis travel aboard for vacationing, the focus by the government on domestic entertainment initiatives hopes to get a piece of the lucrative market.
In April 2016, Saudi Arabia launched its Vision 2030 reform plan. The brainchild of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also head of the kingdom’s Council of Economic and Development Affairs. The plan is designed to wean the kingdom’s economy off its oil dependency while creating jobs and stimulating the private sector.
The plan includes selling a stake in the world’s most valuable company Saudi Aramco, as well as creating the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund.