Saudi Arabia Scales Back Ambitious NEOM Project Amid Delays and Concerns

Saudi Arabia's $500B NEOM megacity faces significant revisions and delays, scaling back population targets and timelines amid concerns over sustainability and human rights. The project's challenges highlight the complexities of large-scale development.

Hadeel Hashem
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Saudi Arabia Scales Back Ambitious NEOM Project Amid Delays and Concerns

Saudi Arabia Scales Back Ambitious NEOM Project Amid Delays and Concerns

Saudi Arabia's ambitious plans for a futuristic megacity called NEOM are facing significant revisions and delays, according to recent reports. The $500 billion project, backed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has scaled back its population targets and timelines for completion.

NEOM, envisioned as a sustainable and technologically advanced city spanning over 26,500 square kilometers, was originally slated to house 1.5 million residents by 2030. However, the population target has now been reduced to fewer than 300,000. The project's budget for 2024 has yet to be approved by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, leading to delays in construction and a scaling back of the planned 170-kilometer-long city called The Line.

Despite ongoing construction work, concerns persist over the project's sustainability and human rights implications. In 2022, the human rights organization ALQST reported that three individuals were sentenced to death after being forcibly displaced from the NEOM site, prompting concerns from the UN Human Rights Council. Saudi Arabia has denied allegations of abuses and asserted its commitment to human rights.

Why this matters: The scaling back of the NEOM project raises questions about the feasibility of Saudi Arabia's ambitious plans to diversify its economy and reduce its reliance on oil. The project's delays and revisions also highlight the challenges of balancing large-scale development with environmental sustainability and human rights concerns.

In addition to the revisions to The Line, other components of the NEOM project are progressing, albeit at a slower pace than initially anticipated. These include OXAGON, the largest floating manufacturing complex in the world; TROJENA, an iconic mountain destination; and various luxury island developments such as Sindalah and Shushah Island.

Saudi Arabia is also investing in other infrastructure projects, such as a 650-kilometer-long railway network connecting the country to Kuwait, which is expected to be completed by 2028. The country's King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) has unveiled a new strategy aligned with Vision 2030, focusing on transforming research into economically productive innovations in areas like health, sustainable environment, energy, and industrial leadership.

"NEOM is an ambitious and innovative project that aims to redefine the concept of sustainable living, business, and conservation," said a spokesperson for the project. "Despite the revisions and delays, we remain committed to creating a groundbreaking development that will contribute to Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 goals and serve as a model for future cities around the world."

Key Takeaways

  • NEOM, Saudi Arabia's $500B futuristic city, faces significant revisions and delays.
  • Population target reduced from 1.5M to under 300K, and budget for 2024 not approved.
  • Concerns persist over sustainability and human rights implications of the project.
  • Other NEOM components, like OXAGON and TROJENA, are progressing at a slower pace.
  • Saudi Arabia investing in other infrastructure projects, including a 650km railway network.