Does Saudi Arabia Have a Dubai Complex?

Building binge aims to diversify boom-or-bust oil economy
By J. Kelman,  Newser User
Posted Mar 12, 2007 1:23 PM CDT
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(Newser) – Saudi Arabia is on a building binge. King Abdullah City—a planned $26.7-billion development where multi-million-dollar yachts will dock in the ports that currently welcome 300,000 Mecca-bound pilgrims—is one of five major “economic cities” the government is building in an attempt to spur private-sector growth and create new industries to stabilize its boom-bust oil economy. "Oil is a volatile commodity and we cannot keep a country hostage to it," says Fawaz Alamy, the country's chief technical negotiator for World Trade Organization accession. Is Saudi Arabia—a.k.a. "the land of the two holy mosques"—on course to become the next Dubai?

If so, it has a long way to go. Unemployment is high, and the public sector overly dominant in the economy, but any changes may ignite criticism from the country's religious fundamentalists.