RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has begun four entertainment projects in the capital, Riyadh, worth a total of 86 billion riyals ($23 billion), the state news agency SPA reported on Tuesday.
The projects, which include a park, sports track and open art centre, are the latest in a series of high-profile investments that signal support for the king’s son and heir, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MbS.
The kingdom is trying to overcome the global condemnation that followed the murder of Saudi-born journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October. The crown prince was accused of being involved in the killing.
The kingdom, and the crown prince, have also come in for condemnation for putting on trial 10 women’s rights activists on charges related to their human rights work. State-backed media called them traitors and “agents of embassies”.
The four new projects are in their design phase; execution will start in the second half of 2019. They will create 70 thousand jobs for Saudis, the SPA statement said. They will also offer investment opportunities worth 50 billion riyals to local and foreign investors.
The king also ordered that one of the capital’s main roads should be named after his son. The crown prince, 33, had won praise abroad for ending a ban on women driving and curbing the powers of the religious police, before the damage done to his reputation by the murder of Khashoggi.