Statements made by a leading official in Saudi Arabia indicated that the new cities within the Kingdom will be a model for the cities of the future. It was noted that the SAGIA (or Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority) expects the economic centers to result in $150 billion in increased GDP and to create over one million new jobs in Saudi Arabia over the course of the next nine years. Six hundred different services, such as telecommunications, logistics and emergency services, are available with a 60 minute or less response time, according to the Saudi Economic Cities Authority’s secretary general, Mohanud Helal.
Helal spoke about these cities designed for the future at the GCF, stating that the Saudi government’s goal is to foster economic and social harmony by developing these city centers within underdeveloped areas of the nation.
He stated that the Kingdom’s government has billions invested in the construction of the new cities. These developments are also part of the move towards diversification, targeting GDP that is outside of the oil sector since hydrocarbons account for a vast 94 percent of Saudi’s total export.
Gensler’s executive director David Gensler also joined the panel along with Thomas Krens (formerly a director at Solomon R Guggenheim), Covington and Burling LLP chairman Timothy C. Hester and executive VP at Cisco Services Wim Elfrink. The panel was conducted by University of California professor Laura Tyson and a Q&A session was held afterward.
Elfrink stated that within the next decade these city centers will be tightly networked through the Internet to the more than 3 billion users online. He also noted that the goal and consensus among developers and planners is to reach 50 percent energy savings with reference to the growing global population. Elfrink stated that population within the Kingdom should experience a boom given the fact that more than half of citizens are younger than 25 years old.
Gensler stated that it is necessary to gather together researchers, policy makers and practitioners who share a common vision for a better future urban landscape. Gensler referred to his firms’ Egyptian project involving integrated seawater. Meanwhile, Krens was focusing on how the management of cultural assets on a global scale will cultivate innovation.
Looking at things from the legal side, lawyer Hester stated that the structure of laws within a model city of the future would be vital. Hester noted that the establishment of a chapter of his firm in Riyadh’s King Abdullah Financial District was aimed at closely working with the Kingdom. Some of the presenters had slides for illustration.
Speakers were also indentifying certain challenging areas that need to be looked at in terms of developing future strategies. It was suggested that in place of concentrating the population within cities, the industrialization of existing farming communities would be a better plan. Both sides of the urban coin were discussed with the audience, including admiration of the technological and intellectual advancements within the cities versus the issues of overcrowding and unattractive appearances.Paul Holdsworth, Staff Writer, Gulf Jobs Market News