Consulting leak reveals crazy details of KSA's Neom development

01 August 2019 3 min. read

The fevered vision behind Saudi mega-city development Neom has been revealed after a leak of documents from some of the world’s leading consulting firms.

Android cage-fighting, robot dinosaurs, human genetic modification, glowing desert sand and a giant artificial moon are just some of the extraordinary features on the table for Saudi Arabia’s $500 billion Neom project according to a remarkable report published by The Wall Street Journal – which cites 2,300 pages of leaked documents composed by leading strategy consultancies McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group and Oliver Wyman.

Announced in 2017, and set to stretch across 26,500 square kilometers of barren desert on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast, the Neom mega-city development serves as the centerpiece of the Kingdom’s ambitious economic diversification agenda – designed to stimulate enterprise with a focus on key emerging industries such as biotechnology, advanced manufacturing and renewable energies. While futuristic in its vision, the WSJ report details just how so.

According to the publication, the consultants working on the project have “created an expensive mix of science fiction and corporate buzzwords,” with details including a moderated temperature and flourishing agricultural sector through cloud seeding, robots performing domestic duties and competing in cage-fighting events, a ‘Jurassic Park-style’ island with roaming mechanical dinosaurs, and state-of-the-art medical facilities with human genetic modification projects.

Consulting leak reveals crazy details of KSA's Neom development

The latter is quoted as “a new way of life from birth to death reaching genetic mutations to increase human strength and IQ”, while other features would include glowing desert sand “like the face of a watch” and, as the conspiracy theorists line up on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, a genuine fake moon, which as an iconic landmark would light up every night and potentially beam live images from outer space.

The Boston Consulting Group reportedly suggested partnering with NASA to make the artificial moon “the biggest in the world.” Yet, while the WSJ states that the confidential planning documents it has reviewed (dated to September last year) confirm that the Neom board has adopted the consultants’ recommendations, it’s unclear if the ideas initially originated from the firms or on the vision of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In respect to another of the city’s futuristic initiatives, massive fleets of flying taxis (in fact, one of the more conceivable ideas with some chance of getting off the ground), the Crown Prince is quoted by an unnamed source as saying; “I don’t want any roads or pavements. We are going to have flying cars in 2030!” Meanwhile, Neom has said in a statement that the involvement of the consultants on the project had been “productive and valuable.”

“Neom is all about things that are necessarily future-oriented and visionary,” added Neom Chief Executive Nadhmi al Nasrin an email to the WSJ, with the development aimed at providing the   “most attractive living environment on the planet” through the adoption of technologies in areas such as mobility and health. “So we are talking about technology that is cutting edge and beyond – and in some cases still in development and maybe theoretical,” concluded al-Nasrin.