Saudi Arabia agrees to compensate residents of popular neighborhoods to be demolished

The project plans to rehabilitate about thirty neighborhoods inhabited by nearly half a million people. According to the authorities, it is a matter of replacing “slums” that are described as crime hotspots.

The official Saudi Press Agency said Saudi Arabia has begun compensating displaced residents from working-class neighborhoods in Jeddah as part of a disputed urban project to modernize the main southern city.

The demolition of several neighborhoods in recent months in Jeddah, as part of a massive urban project, has angered the evicted residents who launched a rare mobilization campaign in the Gulf kingdom. The Saudi Press Agency reported on June 5 that “the payment of the first installment of compensation for the destroyed properties has begun,” referring to an envelope worth one billion riyals (about 249 million euros) for the first phase, without specifying the number. of the beneficiaries.

Residents denounce demolition of working-class neighborhoods

Led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the project, estimated at $20 billion, plans to rehabilitate about thirty neighborhoods in which nearly half a million people live, in order to modernize this tourist city located on the Red Sea. According to the authorities, it is a question of replacing “slums”, which are described as hotbeds of crime, with new buildings, including in particular a stadium, an opera house and, in the long run, 17,000 housing units.

Beyond the term “slums,” residents denounced the destruction of working-class neighborhoods with a mixture of Saudi and foreign residents, who hail from other Arab countries or Asia. Among those who saw their homes destroyed, several told AFP earlier this year of their fears of not receiving adequate compensation, in the absence of a transparent process.

The Saudi Press Agency said the properties were evaluated by “independent committees” representing four government agencies. Demolition work has been completed in 20 neighborhoods and will be completed in 12 other neighborhoods by mid-November, it added. Saudi Arabia has in recent years sought to wean its economy out of its heavy dependence on oil, with mega projects aimed specifically at attracting expats and tourists, such as Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.