Fahd Al Rasheed, President, Royal Commission for Riyadh City (RCRC): Interview

Fahd Al Rasheed, President, Royal Commission for Riyadh City (RCRC)

Interview: Fahd Al Rasheed

In which ways are Riyadh’s mega-projects set to increase the city’s commercial activities?

FAHD AL RASHEED: The Saudi capital is undertaking a major transformation to become one of the most competitive and liveable cities in the world by the next decade. The mega-projects under development will support this, as well as secure Riyadh’s position as a popular destination for business, leisure and domestic tourism. One key objective is to develop real and lasting opportunities for local businesses, whether by expanding local supply solutions or providing investment opportunities to attract domestic and foreign investment to new start-ups and growing companies.

To what degree is the smart city concept positively disrupting capital cities around the world?

AL RASHEED: At the January 2020 World Economic Forum meeting, one of the main areas of discussion was the Fourth Industrial Revolution and how it taps a broad spectrum of new technologies. For Riyadh, it is important to harness the new wave of innovative technologies. With automation comes significant advantages in industrial production, but the jobs we create in the 21st century need to be adapted to the changing global economy. As such, as part of our city plan going forward we are developing human capital to ensure the future jobs of our citizens will be secure.

How are public-private partnerships (PPPs) and foreign investment spurring economic development?

AL RASHEED: PPPs will significantly contribute to Riyadh’s economic development by creating value for all stakeholders, including the city’s citizens. The RCRC is developing partnerships with the private sector to generate legacy revenue streams for the city and maintain return on investment for the public in the future. Examples of such PPPs include projects for greater well-being: the King Salman Park, Sports Boulevard, Green Riyadh and Riyadh Art. These are collectively financed by $23bn from the government and $15bn from the private sector. Other investment opportunities include the Dirriyah Gate, the rejuvenation of historical areas, Qiddiya Entertainment Park and the King Abdullah International Gardens.

The scale and complexity of PPPs requires careful management, and we will consider incentives and structures that mitigate risks, maintain value for private developers and investors, and create a sustainable outcome for Riyadh and its citizens.

What types of infrastructure upgrades are required to establish a fully integrated city?

AL RASHEED: A fully integrated city needs the latest data networks; communications links with other cities and regions; and the development of centres of excellence across a broad range of sectors such as education, finance, scientific research and emerging technologies. It is also necessary to go a step further and consider factors such as legal and regulatory frameworks, private business resilience and citizens’ participation. Only by evaluating and prioritising both hard and soft infrastructure can a city be truly integrated.

In what ways are city officials working to encourage citizens to use sustainable transport?

AL RASHEED: Riyadh is making a massive investment in public transport and mobility. Saudi Arabia’s first extensive urban public transit network will become operational by the end of 2020. At a cost of $27bn, the 176-km metro network – with six lines and 85 stations – will be the longest driverless network worldwide. It will be complemented by a comprehensive bus system of 80 routes serving 3000 stops along 1900 km.

Our most significant challenge will be to change the mindset of the population, which has become accustomed to getting around in automobiles. Following the launch of the transit network, we will engage with citizens to promote the advantages of public transport.

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The Report: Saudi Arabia 2020

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