Saudi Arabia unveiled a $500-billion (R7-trillion) plan this week to create a vast economic zone in the kingdom's northwest, the most ambitious and expensive project in Riyadh's efforts to diversify the oil-dependent economy. Details of the new city, called Neom, were released as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hosted some of the world's most powerful investors and bankers at a conference designed to showcase his vision to modernise the conservative kingdom and attract investment to the country. Among the hundreds of business leaders in attendance were the CEOs of JPMorgan, BlackRock, Raytheon and Siemens, underlining the financial pulling power of the kingdom as Riyadh insists it is on schedule to privatise Saudi Aramco, the state oil company, next year. However, the kingdom has been hit hard by low oil prices, with economic growth expected to fall to 0.1% this year, according to the IMF. Riyadh has previously struggled to implement far more modest projects with similar goals of c...

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