Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, has unveiled plans for a 100-mile belt of zero-energy walkable communities, The Line, for a million people without disclosing details or funding sources.
The Line project, a smart city, depends on renewable energy and is devoid of streets and cars.
It is scheduled to extend over 170 kilometres within the area designated for the NEOM Project.
Therefore, it is an idea for a future city, in which everything is programmed electronically, and takes into account the utmost care and the rules for preserving and maintaining the environment.
According to bin Salman, this city in the northwest of the kingdom will be close to Jordan, Egypt and Iraq.
This region has a small population despite its strategic importance.
Therefore, the project will form a global bridge linking Saudi Arabia with the rest of the world.
Its population is estimated to reach one million in 2030, and it was decided to be a centre for advanced services in the sectors of tourism, hospitality, telecommunications, supply chains, and refined service and financial offices.
According to what bin Salman promised, the project will provide about 380,000 job opportunities, and its cost upon completion will reach about $500 billion.
But the details of the project were not available, nor the method of financing it.
The Saudi government will provide the necessary infrastructure and services for the project.
It will also play the developer’s role who sells or rents the lands to willing investors, who must comply with the required environmental, engineering and mobility conditions.
It is not easy to estimate the costs of the necessary infrastructure and services ensured by the government or the companies that will implement those services from electrical energy, communication lines that provide 5G and 6G generations to the required networks.
The expenses that the Saudi economy will bear for the project will not be less than 350-400 billion dollars.
The main return will be creating about 380,000 jobs, of which 70% – 80% will go to Saudi citizens.
And very roughly, the cost of finding one job in the city of The Line would amount to about one million dollars.
This is equivalent to 22 times the average Saudi per capita income in 2020, about $46,000.
Under this measure, the project’s feasibility is achieved for the Saudi economy, if it provides an income equal to 90 thousand dollars for each worker.
This is so that the project costs can be recovered within ten years in the form of salaries.
Likewise, the investors’ returns must be high from the investments they make.
But if the project is seen as just a real estate project for a future city, its benefits will be greatly diminished.