Most headlines with “Saudi Arabia” in them seem to feature a hefty sum of money. A US$500-billion smart city here, a US$200-billion solar project there–it’s beginning to look like Saudi Arabia wouldn’t even look at a project if it costs less than a billion dollars. One also gets the distinct feeling that Saudi Arabia is still an extremely rich nation that can afford all these projects, even without the listing of its state oil giant Aramco. The truth, however, may be that it can’t afford them even with the Aramco listing. Here’s a simple calculation. The Neom city project and the SoftBank deal alone come in at US$700 billion. Add to this a US$10-billion deal with Egypt for another smart city, the US$44-billion refinery deal with three Indian companies, and a couple of smaller projects: a US$7-billion refinery in Malaysia and a US$5-billion petrochemicals complex in Saudi Arabia. The […]