Business, Finance & Economics

Saudi Arabia's planned economic city

Workers toil here, and they're putting up several apartment buildings as part of the largest private development project of the Arab World, the King Abdullah Economic City. At a nearby visitors center, a video shows an ultra-modern city. There are luxurious tourist attractions and neighborhoods. The project is slated to cost $26 billion dollars. This Dubai developer overseeing the project says the King Abdullah Economic City will be a major draw from domestic and foreign investors. The six planned cities are expected to create about 1.6 million jobs. They're badly needed in this country with unemployment and a youth boom. However there are questions about laws surrounding the cities and even labor, with a shortage of highly skilled Saudi workers, so workers will have to be filled by foreigners. This man says it's hard to attract such foreign workers because of Saudi's more conservative laws. Saudi officials maintain the King Abdullah Economic City will offer an attractive lifestyle, but it's tough to say if that will also contain more lax laws. There is a desire for reform though, which can be seen in the promotional video for the King Abdullah Economic City. In the video, Saudi men and women sit together in classrooms, which is unheard of now. the developer says the city is about achieving modern goals, without giving specifics. This official thinks there will be more relaxation of such laws. He says Saudi authorities need they to create a more business open environment if they're to compete with Dubai. The King Abdullah Economic City will be built in phases and will take about 20 years to complete, which should give ample time for reform.

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