MENA needs to invest $500bn on urban regeneration, says Strategy& report

MENA needs to invest $500bn on urban regeneration, says Strategy& report
MENA needs to invest $500bn on urban regeneration, says Strategy& report

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LONDON: Rapid expansion and major development projects in Riyadh give the Saudi capital a “big chance” to host Expo 2030 and “show the world” the benefits of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan, a forum in London was told on Wednesday.

The 16th annual BMG Economic Forum was attended by Arab News and held at the London Stock Exchange, featuring speakers from the government, private sector and academia.

Basil Al-Ghalayini, chairman and CEO of BMG Financial Group, and Tom Attenborough, head of international business development at the LSE, led opening remarks.

Attenborough lauded the long-term partnership and “deep links” between BMG Financial Group, the LSE and the Saudi Stock Exchange.

He highlighted the LSE’s establishment of permanent offices in Riyadh and Jeddah, praised the strength of relationships between Saudi partners and UK representatives, and committed to support Vision 2030 and its “exciting opportunities.”

Recalling his first visit to Riyadh 25 years ago as a junior investment banker, Attenborough noted the rapid changes in the capital’s “growth, energy, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit” that he saw during subsequent trips.

Talat Hafiz, economic columnist and finance expert, delivered the keynote speech of the forum, titled “Expo 2030: Why Riyadh?”

He outlined major structural changes that the Saudi capital is undergoing as part of Vision 2030, saying Riyadh’s development will play a key role in its bid to host Expo 2030. “It’s an excellent opportunity also to highlight and showcase what’s happening in Riyadh,” he said.

The capital’s population is expected to grow from 6.9 million to between 15 million and 20 million by 2030, potentially placing it among the top 10 largest cities by population in the world, Hafiz added.

As part of the growth surge, 68 initiatives worth a total of $91.7 billion have been targeted at Riyadh, involving the Saudi Public Investment Fund and a range of public-private partnerships.

Vision 2030, spearheaded by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, lies at the heart of Riyadh’s growth model, Hafiz said, listing a “vibrant society, thriving economy and ambitious nation” as the key pillars of the reform blueprint.

Riyadh’s strategic position — four and a half hours by plane from Europe — will enable the capital to serve as a business, financial and connectivity hub, he added.

Hafiz outlined two key projects that are part of the capital’s transformation into a diverse economic hub: the Riyadh Air project and development of the King Abdullah Financial District.

The former, a planned second Saudi airline, will base its operational headquarters in Riyadh and connect the capital to more than 100 destinations worldwide.

King Khalid International Airport will undergo a mass expansion to host the new airline, with the airport expected to reach 57 sq. km in size.

Hafiz highlighted Riyadh’s major public transport development program, which aims to create the largest metro system in the world, stretching 167 km across the capital.

He lauded the rapid growth in public-private partnerships, saying he believes the Kingdom “has a big chance” in its bid to host Expo 2030.

“We can show the people and the world what has happened during the 15 years since we started our Vision 2030,” Hafiz said. “I believe Riyadh, the Kingdom itself, is going through immediate transformation.”

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