Saudi Arabia to invest $64bn in entertainment
Other measures, like allowing cinemas to be opened, have already been announced
Saudi Arabia says it will invest $64bn (£46bn) in developing its entertainment industry over the next decade.The head of the General Entertainment Authority said 5,000 events were planned this year alone, including those by Maroon 5 and Cirque du Soleil.Construction of the country’s first opera house has also begun in Riyadh.The investment is part of a social and economic reform programme, known as Vision 2030, unveiled two years ago Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.The 32 year old wants to diversify the economy and reduce the kingdom’s reliance on oil, including by increasing household spending on culture and entertainment.In December, the government lifted a ban on commercial cinemas.Is Saudi Arabia on the cusp of change?
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General Entertainment Authority chief Ahmed bin Aqeel al-Khatib was quoted by local media as saying he hoped 220,000 people would be employed in the entertainment sector by the end of 2018 – up from 17,000 last year.
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“In the past, investors would go outside the kingdom to produce their work, and then showcase it back in Saudi Arabia. Today, change will happen and everything related to entertainment will be done here,” he said.”God willing, you will see a real change by 2020.”A large entertainment city near Riyadh, roughly the size of Las Vegas, is already planned as the country aims to boost its tourism sector.It follows a range of other firsts for the conservative Gulf kingdom – including allowing women spectators to attend football matches last month and announcing that women would be permitted to drive from June.Last year, Prince Mohammed declared his ambition that Saudi Arabia would once again be “a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions, traditions and people”.Seventy per cent of the population were under 30 and they wanted a “life in which our religion translates to tolerance, to our traditions of kindness”, he said.Saudi Arabia’s royal family and religious establishment adhere to an austere form of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism, and Islamic codes of behaviour and dress are strictly enforced.