|Saudi Arabia, Egypt set up $10B fund for planned mega-city in Sinai. How about dropping some of that now into Palestine? They are dying! Or, is that the point?|
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visits Egypt to deepen alliance between two regional powerhouses • Mega-city is part of plan to wean Saudis off oil revenue • Egyptian court dismisses challenges to Red Sea island deal with Riyadh.
Known as Neom – from the Greek prefix “neo” (new) and the first letter of the Arabic word “mostaqbal” (future) – the mega-city is being billed as “the world’s most ambitious project” and is intended to become a transnational city and economic zone. Prince Mohammed’s stated objective for the project is to wean Saudi Arabia, the world’s top crude exporter, off oil revenues.
Meanwhile in Gaza
Home to nearly two million Palestinians, the Gaza Strip has been reeling under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007 and poisoning of agriculture and livestock, killing the fishermen shooting the children.
“Connected Gaza”, part of a megacity stretching from Amman to Tel Aviv through Jerusalem, with Haifa to the north and Gaza to the south, all bound together with infrastructure, trade, and specialization, with spatial focus around four centres called Gateway Gaza, Core Gaza, Wadi Gaza, and Beach Gaza. The idea is to consolidate to the north with strategic transport infrastructure (a port that relieves congestion in Israeli ports and allows interaction between Israeli and Arab goods and clients), serve from the east with trunk infrastructure, connect with history through improved local road networks, and recover natural systems- rehabilitating the depleted aquifer in particular.
Connected Gaza identifies 30 foundation projects, 7 integrated projects and 40 local projects – categorised as ‘Urgent’, ‘Early Win’, ‘Low-Cost’, ‘Risk-Incentive’, ‘Iconic’, and ‘Symbiotic’ (i.e. fulfilling both Palestinian and neighbours’ needs). The overall plan, which integrates economic strategies such as de-emphasising food and agriculture as a job creator, lowering water imports, refocusing on high-value exports and consumption, and supporting a knowledge economy through ICT training and high-value services in education and back-office finance.
The initiative anticipates that it will be in the mutual self-interest for political and security conditions in the region to improve. A trans-national city-region, with a knowledge-based economy of 3.5 million people, 1.1 million new jobs, focused on trade and exchange will be both the incentive and the result. ‘Thinking way in the future and then stepping backwards allows policymakers to speak rationally and confidently about the future.