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2004-08-23 15:32:51

Kerzner Leads Way For MOON Project

Admitting that the MOON project is challenging, Mr. Wirth said that land reclamation is nothing new to The Bahamas.

Since the announcement of the MOON project, much has been said against it ever coming into being. Bahamian representative for the project Gerald Wirth of Wirth Associates told the Bahama Business Journal that the project is “big'.

“We know the MOON project is big,' Mr. Wirth said “but the technology already exist.'

Referring to the Palm project in Dubai, Mr. Wirth pointed out that Kerzner International was going to duplicate its success in The Bahamas by building the Atlantis Palm in Dubai.

Kerzner International signed an agreement with the Dubai government to build a billion-dollar resort, which includes the 2,000-room Atlantis Palm.

The project is being constructed on man-made islands in the shape of a palm, hence the name.

Mr. Wirth said that he understood the skepticism, which he put down to a lack of information about what would be involved in building the MOON project.

“I think people want to see before they believe,' he said. “If you look back to when Mr. Kerzner proposed his plans for Paradise Island you had the same kind of response. People did not believe that it could happen or that it would happen but today it is successful. I don't think Mr. Kerzner would have moved to Dubai to build there if he did not think it would be successful.'

Admitting that the MOON project is challenging, Mr. Wirth said that land reclamation is nothing new to The Bahamas. He said that what is now Arawak Cay was an island created by the UBP to put up hotels.

“The UBP created Arawak Cay which used to be called Kelly Island,' Mr. Wirth explained. “It is a man-made island which was created for hotels. Look at Dick's Point that was reclaimed by Sir Roland Symonette.

Mr. Wirth said that the same civil engineering company that had created the Palm and, which would also be building the new World project also in Dubai was the same group that would be building the MOON project.

Turning to why Grand Bahama was chosen Mr. Wirth said that the group had looked at several islands in The Bahamas before deciding to go to Grand Bahama.

“We looked at Andros, Eleuthera, Long Island and Cat Island,' he said. “None of these islands have an 11,000-foot runway. To build an airport would be about $200 million power generation would be another $300 million that's $500 million just for an airport and electricity.'

He said apart from the lack of infrastructure, Andros, which has the land, is the water table for The Bahamas plus large tracts of western Andros have been reserved for national parks under the supervision of the Bahamas National Trust.

Saying that the government's plan to anchor the islands with a major development is laudable but that as the experience with Four Seasons in Exuma was showing, it is practically impossible to get people to move from New Providence back to the Family Islands.

“On most of the islands, apart from the school-aged children, the population is older,' he said. “Every year we graduate 5,000 young people from our high schools most of them in New Providence. When people moved to Exuma from New Providence to work at Four Seasons, a lot of them left because there was nothing apart from work. No clubs no cinemas. They are already accustomed to the glitter of New Providence and they are not going to go back. Grand Bahama has all that you need to attract people to work.'

He said that by 2010, 30,000 people would have graduated who would need to work. Current economic expansion could not absorb enough of the young people to keep unemployment at tolerable levels. A frustrated group of underemployed or unemployed young people will turn to criminal activity.

“The professions are saturated or getting there,' Mr. Wirth said. “We only have about 10,000 persons over 65 and between 12,000 and 13,000 unemployed today in five years with 30,000 graduating from high school you have to ask yourself where will the jobs come from. Do we want to be like Jamaica with 15 murders a day? We are already seeing the first signs of this. The Commissioner of Police had to go up to Harbour Island because of the crime there. Harbour Island!'

He said Grand Bahama was created to meet the demand for large population growth and development, with its infrastructure, airport and energy. He said that an additional advantage for young Bahamians would be the 35 percent saving from building a home in Freeport.

“To build in New Providence you have to pay 35 percent duty,' Mr. Wirth pointed out, which you do not have to pay in Grand Bahama because of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement. Creating wealth would be easier for young Bahamians who would move there to work on the MOON project.'

C. E. Huggins, The Bahama Journal

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