Even with an economy that is reportedly showing the beginning signs of stabilization, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham could not say when the closed Royal Oasis Resort project will get back on track.
The 427-acre Royal Oasis Resort property was abruptly shut down in 2004 following Hurricane Frances and was sold to the Harcourt Development Group for $33 million in 2007.
The resort property, which is located on prime location in the center of the island, is inclusive of towers, country club and casino totaling 965 rooms and 98 timeshare units.
The Ireland-based company had plans to transform the Crowne Plaza Golf Resort and Casino at the Royal Oasis into a high-quality tourist destination after the deal was complete.
It had also expected that the reopening of the resort would bring major benefits to the local area through increased tourism and local employment.
In that vein, the Royal Oasis property was set to undergo major restoration work with the addition of the construction of new structures and facilities.
They were to include, according to the Harcourt Group, around the properties, new timeshare accommodations at the country club, towers and casino.
Upgrades to the existing timeshare buildings, the country club and the golf facilities at the Ruby Golf Course.
Harcourt had also developed a luxury waterfront one and three bedroom and penthouse condominium complex in the neighboring area called Suffolk Court — a five-building structure stretching five storeys high which is surrounded on three sides by water.
However, aside from the luxury waterfront project, after the global crisis in 2008 struck, the work on the resort property has yet to materialize.
Last week, when asked for an update by the Grand Bahama media, the nation’s chief executive revealed that he still has nothing new to report on the stagnant property.
“Harcourt is in the same position that Ginn was in in West Grand Bahama and that is the recession has affected them — their ability to raise money from banks and their ability to fund any development,” he said.
“There is no answer to be given as to when they will get money or when they will find a buyer. That is one of the consequences in this great recession that took place.”
The prime minister noted that there are those who have turned a blind eye to the recession and its domino effect.
“Some people in my country seem to think that such a thing doesn’t exist, but it exists over the world and Harcourt was a very big company in Ireland, very successful company, but it is now unable to fund that kind of development,” he said.
The closure of the Royal Oasis property alone caused the unemployment numbers in Grand Bahama to sky rocket after over 1,000 people were left jobless.
Since then, hundreds more have joined them from the former Our Lucaya property, now the anchor property, and other businesses who were forced to shut down.
But, Ingraham said, he is satisfied the employment situation has stabilized in Grand Bahama.
“We’ve put 1,000 people to work on the unemployment and retraining program,” he said. “We’re going to have to do a couple of more hundred once we find places for them to be trained. The economy is beginning to be stabilized, it’s not getting worse, it’s getting slightly better.
“We are like the world, like America next door, even China’s growth is slowing down now, the European unions – that’s the reality.”
The government’s National Job Readiness and Training Program (NJRTP) is an initiative to prepare Bahamians to enter the job market.
The first of its three components allows unemployed Bahamians, ages 30 and under, the opportunity to gain basic workforce experience through workshops and job placement.
The second component gives those over the age of 30 the chance to enhance their existing skills or gain new skills through study and work placement, while the third allows unemployed Bahamians to work in designated industries such as, but not limited to, tourism, financial services and the industrial trades.
The program runs for 52 weeks and during that time government is subsidizing the salary of all participants up to $210.00 per week.
Nonetheless, job security in the private sector remains a challenge as Grand Bahama residents continue to join the employment line.
Just last week, 29 employees at Old Bahama Bay Resort were laid off. Two weeks ago, Rexel Consolidated Electrical Supplies went bottom up, leaving its four employees without work.
By Lededra Marche
The Freeport News