An Indian multibillionaire's project planned for Lake Ohrid will create jobs and could serve as a springboard for additional foreign investment.
By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times in Ohrid -- 09/02/13
Macedonian Finance Minister Zoran Stavreski (left) and Indian businessman Subrata Roy (right) talk to reporters about plans for a resort along Lake Ohrid. [Miki Trajkovski/SETimes]
The recent announcement that Indian multi-billionaire Subrata Roy plans to build a world-class resort on Lake Ohrid is viewed as both a boost for Macedonia's tourism industry and a major step in the country's ongoing quest to lure international investment.
Roy's Saharayan Macedonia will occupy 240 hectares of property on the southern end of the lake, adjacent to Ljubanishta, and about 10 kilometres from the town of Pogradec in Albania. The resort will include hotels, casinos, a marina and a golf course and is expected to have a major impact on Macedonia's economy.
In September, Roy purchased the Hotel Slavia in Ohrid and is using it as a base for architects and engineers who will work on the resort, which will be constructed over the next five to six years.
"The entire project will have a huge effect on the country's economy and is initiated from the point of view of business interests," Roy said. "Our efforts are not being an average resort, but a destination that would be among the top five to 10 in that area in the world."
The resort will be one of the largest tourism investments in the Balkans, and its proximity to Albania, Kosovo and Greece will make it an easy destination for citizens of several nations.
Donco Tanevski, president of the Hotel Association of Macedonia, said the resort will allow tourism season to be extended year-round.
"The project will bring high category guests who we wish to have, but now we do not have conditions to [serve]," Tanevski said, adding that the resort "will have a major impact on the regional economy, because it will be one of the best complexes in the Balkans."
Viktor Mizo, Macedonia's director of technological industrial development zones, told SETimes that local companies will be heavily involved in construction of the resort, which is expected to employ about 1,000 people once it opens.
"Surely there will be a need for firms with international experience, because the complex will have content that is not found in other places in the world, but most of the activities will be carried out by local firms," Mizo said.
Anastas Dzurovski, professor of public finance at St. Kliment Ohridski University in Bitola, told SETimes that Macedonia's economic connection with India is significant.
"Political, economic and cultural relations with India will seriously improve. Input of such a big investment will contribute to the establishment of new contacts between economic entities of the two countries as a major benefit," Dzurovski said.
He added that the arrival of Roy's Sahara Group in Macedonia will attract other Indian companies and could help Macedonia become a springboard for Indian companies seeking to reach broader markets, including the EU.
"They will be closer to Europe, one of the most important markets, and to which they hardly come," Dzurovski said. "We are a small market, but because of the free trade agreements we have with European countries … we will have a great opportunity out there."
According to Skopje officials, Macedonia's investment agreements with foreign companies in the last four years totaled 1.55 billion euros -- twice the amount from the period of 1990 to 2005.
Among the companies are Kemet Electronics, Johnson Matthey, Kromberg & Schubert, Johnson Controls and Drexler Mayer.
"These investments will directly create new jobs and will directly affect the export from Macedonia, the total balance of trade and economic development of the country," Mizo said.
Both locals and tourists expect to see an impact from the Saharayan Macedonia resort.
"Often we come in Ohrid, which is nice throughout the year. We heard about the investment of the Indian billionaire who believe that if realized would change the character of the city, which would then live through the whole year," Snezana Milosevic Baranac, a tourist from Belgrade, told SETimes.
"I think Pogradec in Albania as the neighboring town of Ohrid will benefit a lot from this investment," Pogradec resident Rasim Cala told SETimes. "Many of the tourists who come to Ohrid will come one day to Pogradec, which also is a tourist city."