At the center of Saudi’s transformation is the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, governed by Prince Saud bin Naif, who has been a prominent enabler and supporter of the Kingdom’s transformation.
Situated on the Arabian Gulf and neighboring the Gulf States, Eastern Province has many projects underway, such as a string of mega projects in Dhahran, Ras Al-Khair and Jubail industrial cities.
Ras Al-Khair is a multi-commodity minerals industrial city that has a number of infrastructure, development and mining projects. The cost of these projects – which include the North-South Railway Line, a water desalination and power plant, Ras Al-Khair port and several phosphate and bauxite mines – total $34.2 billion, contributing some $9.4 billion to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product and creating 12,000 direct job opportunities.
Most of Saudi’s oil is produced in the Eastern Province, which is home to the world’s biggest oil field as well as the headquarters of Aramco. Aramco has developed several projects that focus on boosting energy production. The Manifa oil field will see its production capabilities increased to process an additional 900,000 barrels per day of crude oil. The Khurais and Shaybah oil fields will also be expanded, with the cost of the three oil projects coming to around $43 billion.
During his recent visit, King Salman inaugurated Aramco’s Wasit gas plant north of Jubail Industrial City, which will help the Kingdom to meet its energy needs, by increasing its gas processing capacity by 20 percent.
King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture
The Kingdom is also looking at alternative energy sources, with the goal to generate 9.5 gigawatts of power from renewable energy sources by 2023. Domestic and international companies will be invited to bid for renewable energy projects. The government will award the first tenders in September to build 700 megawatts of solar and wind energy in what will be the first Saudi public-private tendered project.
The transition to more sustainable energy practices has already begun: Aramco recently unveiled the Kingdom’s first wind turbine with General Electric, which will provide electricity for the company’s power plant in Turaif.
King Salman also inaugurated Aramco’s bold cultural project, King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, a striking modern building designed by renowned architect firm Snohetta. Spread across 100,000 square meters, the Center has a museum, library, cinema, auditorium, and exhibition halls and is destined to be a world-class center of knowledge and art, with a focus on youth. It will encourage creativity and innovation and will seek to develop a new generation of thinkers through workshops and educational events.
Since nearly 50 percent of the Saudi population is under 25 years old, the government decided to create the General Entertainment Authority last year to provide opportunities for youth and to create jobs in the entertainment and tourism sectors. The government seeks to raise the contribution of entertainment from 3 to 6 percent of GDP. As Saudi tourists spent nearly $35 billion outside the country on tourism in 2016, the government seeks to encourage domestic spending by offering quality entertainment.
Investors are rushing to participate in the relatively undeveloped sector, and the General Entertainment Authority has a host of events planned for 2017, such as free festivals and concerts.
The first large-scale concert in seven years took place in January, while a motor sports and music show outside Jeddah drew 6,000 attendees. In the past few months, more than 160,000 people have attended the General Entertainment Authority events. Ultimately, the GEA hopes to have more than 450 clubs providing cultural and entertainment activities by 2020.
From above, the cultural landscape in Saudi Arabia appears to be changing rapidly. Challenges on the ground are expected, but these changes are coming from within society, and people are hopeful that things will change. “We intend to build multiple engines to add to what we have” Energy Minister Al-Falih asserted in Davos, and the Saudi government is certainly making every effort to ensure that the post-oil economic landing is a smooth one.