Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said the Kingdom is in talks with some of the world’s biggest companies to develop technologies that will power life in the $500 billion Neom project, saying its sovereign laws will be within the framework of Saudi law.
Prince Mohammed told Bloomberg News in an interview in Riyadh on Wednesday that Amazon.com Inc., Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Airbus SE are already involved in discussions.
Saudi Arabia on Tuesday announced the launch of Neom, an independent economic zone on the Red Sea. The announcement came hours after the opening of the Future Investment Initiative.
"The sovereign laws will be within framework of the Saudi law, like defense, national security, counter terrorism and similar threats. Foreign policy. These things will be retained at the Saudi government levels. But commercial rules and others will be under Neom itself. They will be given the right to regulate all of these details in a way that serves the purposes of objectives of Neom," the Crown Prince said.
“We are talking with everyone,” he said, adding “We have the ‘who’s who’ from around the world engaging in this.”
Artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things will combine to offer a lifestyle not available anywhere else, Prince Mohammed said in the interview.
“Your medical file will be connected with your home supply, with your car, linked to your family, linked to your other files,” he said. “And the system develops itself in how to provide you with better things.”
Prince Mohammed envisions an app-driven city that is almost entirely automated and responsive to the needs to its residents. “The first robot in Neom will be Neom itself,” he said.
Agreements signed between Saudi Arabia and Egypt last year, including one to develop an industrial zone around the Sinai peninsula, were concluded with the new city in mind, he said.
“The purpose of signing this free zone north of Sinai is to link it with Neom,” the prince said. “Neom will have a lot of ports. Some of them in Saudi Arabia and some of them in Egypt.”
Asked if the city would compete with other regional commercial hubs such as Dubai, Prince Mohammed said the outcome will be more win-win than zero-sum. He said Neom will “create new demand” that will help its neighbors too. “I don’t think Hong Kong harmed Singapore, or Singapore harmed Hong Kong.”
On the airport in Tabuk, he said: “Actually it was completed this month, a new airport, but just for Neom employees. And I think we will start developing it to have people next year, 2019. But it’s not the main Neom airport, the big Neom airport we will have after 2020.”