Citizens of Saudi Arabia who are deemed eligible for compensation in the coastal area of the north-west of the kingdom are reportedly to be granted plots of land for free in the future megacity of NEOM.
According to the state-run Saudi Press Agency today, Prince Fahd Bin Sultan – the governor of Tabuk where the futuristic city is being built – laid out the first part of an economic package which aims to improve the living standards of those in the area.
NEOM, which is part of the kingdom's Vision 2030, is planned to be an eco-friendly and technologically-advanced city which would be open to business and investment from around the world. It has already received $500 billion in economic support from Saudi Arabia's own Public Investment Fund, and will reportedly extend in its size into neighbouring Egypt and Jordan.
The project has been at the head of much controversy in recent months, however, as Saudi authorities have given notices to residents living in the area to leave and be relocated elsewhere with financial compensation. When some residents – particularly those who regard the area as their tribal ancestral land – refused. Security forces resorted to forcefully removing and arresting them.
Tensions were especially raised when one resident, a tribal leader named Abdul Rahim Al-Hwaiti, had his home broken into and was killed by Saudi security forces in April for refusing to leave. Before he was killed, he recorded a video exposing the forced expulsion and predicting his death. Following his death, his family was arrested.
With the Saudi government now seeking to grant the original residents free plots of land in the new city as compensation, they will apparently be joining the one million people from around the world that the Gulf kingdom hopes to attract.