Saudi Arabia launches mega-zone on Red Sea

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday (October 24th) announced the launch of an independent economic zone on the Red Sea, three times the size of Cyprus and with a half a trillion dollars in projected investments, AFP reported.

The zone, dubbed NEOM, covers an uninterrupted coastline of nearly 470 kilometres in north-western Saudi Arabia and will extend into territories in neighbouring Jordan and Egypt, a statement released by the kingdom's Public Investment Fund said.

Authorities in Jordan and Egypt did not immediately comment on the statement.

The announcement came hours after the opening of the Future Investment Initiative, a three-day economic conference that brings together some 2,500 dignitaries, including 2,000 foreign investors.

NEOM, which counted more than 10,000 followers on Twitter hours after the announcement, will be independent of Saudi regulation and will adopt a "separate regulatory framework," the statement said.

The Saudi government has pledged investments into NEOM worth $500 billion. The project will also be open to local and international investors.

NEOM overlooks the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba, a location Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in a statement would be "among the top secure areas in the world".

The venture comes as Saudi Arabia vies to diversify its oil-dependent economy after revenues dwindled following the 2014 crash of the global oil market.

Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, has been facing serious budget deficits since 2014.

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