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Saudis seek US$20b in investments for landmark

Riyadh

SAUDI Arabia is targeting up to US$20 billion of investments through 2035 for a planned landmark tourism destination and will hold a global investor roadshow before the end of the year, the head of the project told Reuters.

Al-Ula, the site of an ancient civilisation in a remote northwestern corner of the country, is part of plans by the world's top crude exporter to diversify its economy away from oil and open up after decades of reclusion.

Amr Madani, chief executive of the Royal Commission for al-Ula, said in an interview this week he expects targeted investments to eventually generate 35,000 jobs and contribute a combined 120 billion riyals (S$43.2 billion) to gross domestic product over the next 17 years.

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"The bulk of that in the beginning will be construction-led but at steady state it will be tourism-led," he said. This would be alongside secondary industries like sustainable agriculture, heritage preservation and film production.

The government, along with a French cultural partnership, has already begun financing infrastructure at al-Ula, which features majestic rock-hewn tombs and 2,000-year-old stone carvings by the Nabateans, the pre-Islamic Arab people that also built Petra in neighbouring Jordan.

"We'd rather inject zero from public money, but the reality is we need to kickstart the investment. So we don't know what that number is but we're committed to keep investing until we get to the right conditions where funds jump in," Mr Madani said. REUTERS