3. Neom

Saudi Arabia’s brand-new $500bn (SAR1.9tn) mega-city, Neom, is also said to have made progress this year. 

Contracts for palaces to be built as part of the massive Neom development in Saudi Arabia have been awarded, it was reported this February. 

The palaces for the King, Crown Prince, and other senior royals will be located on the Red Sea coast 150km west of Tabuk city, according to Reuters. Saudi Binladin Group (SBG), one of the kingdom’s most high-profile contractors, was said to have won the government contracts. 

Banks have started offering financing facilities to builders of the palaces, but an official cost has yet to be revealed, the report stated. The report stated that some companies, including Japan's Softbank, were prepared to invest in Neom. 

Neom was introduced at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The project includes the construction of a bridge spanning the Red Sea, connecting the proposed city to Egypt and the rest of Africa. The area will also stretch into Jordan.

Softbank, which is said to be one of Neom's investors, is also involved with Saudi Arabia’s PIF in the development of what will be the world’s largest solar park upon completion. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed this March to develop Solar Power Project 2030 in Saudi Arabia. The deal came during the Crown Prince’s visit to the US, where he signed the MoU with Softbank's group chairman and chief executive officer, Masayoshi Son. 

According to a Bloomberg report, the development is worth $200bn (SAR7.5bn). The MoU is part of Saudi's endeavour to develop its solar energy sector, with a new company set to be established to focus on the industry. 

Two solar plants with a capacity of 3 gigawatts (GW) and 4.2GW will be launched by 2019 as part of the agreement. Solar panels for the plants will be developed and manufactured in the kingdom, Saudi's state news agency, SPA, reported.

Feasibility studies for the project were due to complete by May 2018, with the projects expected to create 100,000 jobs in the kingdom.