Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Saudi Arabia's Brasilia
"Some 80 miles north of the Yemeni border, on Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coast, lies a desolate stretch called Jazan Economic City. Though the 40-square-mile area today is little more than desert scrubland, over the next couple of decades it is to become a $30 billion industrial zone that's home to hundreds of thousands of people. ... Jazan is part of an ambitious Saudi scheme to wean the kingdom from its dependence on oil exports. The idea is to tap a blend of foreign and Saudi private money and government support to build a half-dozen new cities in regions that trail the rest of the kingdom economically. ... The new city could transform this pleasant backwater. ... 'It's going to make us [grow like] crazy,' says Fahad A. Galam, chairman of the Jazan Chamber of Commerce & Industry. Land prices in the town of Bayash, 15 miles from the site of the new city, have already tripled. But the project's success is far from certain", Businessweek, 14 July 2008.
Jazan reminded me of my youth's "wonder" city, Brasilia. I read in My Weekly Reader in about 1958 that Brazil would develop a city in the middle of the Amazon, 150 miles from civilization to, among other things, aid local indian economic development. Wonderful! Brasilia was hatched in 1956 during Juselino Kubitschek's (JK) regime. JK's 1955 campaign slogan, "50 years of progress in five". After JK was in power his critics said he brought "50 years of inflation in five". I didn't realize it in 1958, but Brasilia was Brazil's version of a Russian 5-year plan. Brasilia was largely an economic failure for decades. I wish Saudi Arabia better luck with Jazan. By the way, Galam, did you have the sense to buy thousands of acres of land in Bayash, say about two years ago? If so, no matter what happens to Jazan, you will profit.