Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced plans for a totally new £380 billion city, which could lead the way in the use of drones, driverless cars and robotics. Explaining the plan today at an economic forum in Riyadh, he said his vision was for the country to become more moderate and open.
Prince Mohammed defended his bold reform plans, including the kingdom’s decision to lift the ban on women driving, saying: ‘We were not like this in the past.’ The 32-year-old prince added: ‘We are returning to what we were before — a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world,’ he said at the economic forum in Riyadh.
The heir to the throne said the kingdom will work to defeat extremist ideas and ensure that young Saudis live in harmony with the rest of the world. ‘We will eradicate the remnants of extremism very soon. We represent the moderate teachings and principles of Islam.’ In making the comments, he broke away from ultra-conservative clerics in favour of an image catering to foreign investors and Saudi youth.
He announced the new city project at an investment conference in Riyadh aimed at the kingdom’s efforts to move its economy away from dependence on oil exports. The city project, dubbed Neom, will be built on untouched land along the country’s Red Sea coastline near Egypt and Jordan and will run entirely on alternative energy.
The Future Investment Initiative conference is being attended by giants in the business world, corporate managers from some of the world’s largest firms and senior Saudi officials. The panellists later praised the prince for his ‘passion, vision and enthusiasm’, but he interjected, saying he is only ‘one of 20 million people. I am nothing without them’.