The Saudi prince has a $500 billion plan for a floating desert Silicon Valley, powered by robots and as big as Belgium

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has a big plan for the country’s economic future.

In April, Mohammed bin Salman will hold a meeting in New York to try to woo Wall Street to fund Neom, a gigantic $500 billion floating Silicon Valley in the desert.

The high-tech hub would be as big as Belgium and include a ski resort and three man-made cities.

The plan to turn the northwest Red Sea coast into a high-tech hub was originally announced in 2017 by the crown prince. Nadhmi Al-Nasr, managing director of Neom, and Layth Al-Shaiban, chief financial officer, will attend the meeting next month.

If successful, the tech hub would ease restrictions, boost investment and be filled with robots. It could also help restore the kingdom’s reputation abroad after government critic Jamal Khasoggi was assassinated by Saudi agents in Istanbul. However, it could also pose major questions for the UAE.

The event is set to repeat itself in several US cities as the Saudis try to attract US investors for their big project.

As Russian money pours in, the UAE faces a dilemma

Dubai is currently the financial capital of the Middle East. The city, however, has been under surveillance since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine last month.

As Europe and the US continue to pressure Putin with sanctions, wealthy Russians who previously preferred to invest in the UK, Cayman Islands and Switzerland are pumping money into Dubai.

As tensions between Russia and Ukraine escalate, Bloomberg reports that the UAE is experiencing an overflow of Russian money via crypto wallets and money transfers.

The United Arab Emirates now faces two challenges. They can either join the United States and Europe and seize Russian assets that could reduce the flow of money entering the country, or choose to turn a blind eye and become the new haven for Russian oligarchs, upsetting countries like United States.

Oil plays in Neom’s plan

As crude oil prices rise, Aramco, the giant oil company, is now very close to taking the title of most valuable company from Apple.

Aramco shares are up 15% in less than three weeks, valuing it at more than $2.3 trillion. In contrast, Apple shares fell 9%.

Sanctions in Russia have led to a global oil crisis that gives President Biden no choice but to embrace the Saudis. If the president fails to convince the crown prince to pump more oil, the future price of crude would skyrocket to unprecedented levels, such as $150 or $200 a barrel.

Importantly, Saudi Aramco is helping Saudi Arabia strengthen its ties with China by agreeing to build a refining and chemicals project. The country is also looking to buy large quantities of diesel.

After world powers suspended efforts to bring back the 2015 nuclear deal, Israel and the United Arab Emirates began to pressure the United States to develop a security strategy for the Middle East.

Binance Holdings is also rumored to be in talks with Dubai for an operating license. This would increase its presence in the region, making Dubai a top destination for crypto businesses.

The victory of the United Arab Emirates is the defeat of Turkey

Finally, in a context of high inflation, the surge in crude oil prices deeply affects the already weak Turkish lira. As oil prices triple, consumer inflation in the country is also expected to worsen.

Experts aand the locals are skeptical

Although the plan seems like a great idea to Saudis on the surface, some locals aren’t so happy about it. In 2020, a process of relocating local residents turned violent and resulted in arrests.

Many experts are still wondering about the possibility of creating a financial and economic free zone.

“Nobody seems to have committed any sums. Things are moving a little slower than expected,” Steffen Hertog, associate professor at the London School of Economics, told Bloomberg.

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