Empty beer bottles and broken plastic chairs are strewn in the corridors of an abandoned golf course on the island of Bali, part of what was a tourist resort that billionaire former US President Donald Trump wanted as his “dream project” before it failed. and hundreds of Indonesian workers were laid off.
Almost 10 years ago, Trump signed an agreement linking his name to the 6-star “Nirwana Golf Resort”, one of the most famous golf clubs in the world.
But today that golf club has become a weedy area that adds to the series of failed ventures for Trump, whose bankruptcy of 6 casinos and hotels has resulted in billions of dollars in debt and damages to thousands of people.
“There was no clarity about our future,” says Dita Doi (26), who was responsible for accompanying golfers with their equipment, before she was forced to work as a waitress in anticipation of Trump’s new project, “we heard that we would be rehired, but it never happened.”
The Trump Organization and the Indonesian “MNC” group closed the resort in 2017, laying off hundreds of workers after forming a partnership to change the commercial identity of the “Nirwana Golf Resort” overlooking the Indian Ocean.
During a visit to the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, in 2019, President Trump’s son said the resort’s renovation was a “dream project.” It was Trump’s first venture into Southeast Asia’s largest economy.
But Trump’s deal to license his name to and help operate the new resort, struck in 2015, turned out to be a pipe dream for Indonesian workers.
After 5 years of layoffs, the hotel and golf courses are torn down and abandoned, while a lone security guard drives around in a van to keep tourists away from the site.
The abandoned site is a far cry from the high-end image Trump has long maintained with his real estate projects before setting his sights on the White House.
But the real estate tycoon, who recently announced that he will run again for the US presidential election in 2024, has faced major failures in his projects, and his hotel and casino projects went bankrupt 6 times between 1991 and 2009.
The first project to face Trump’s bankruptcy was the “Trump Taj Mahal” in Atlantic City, New Jersey, as part of a failure that threatened Trump’s personal wealth, and Trump had to sell his yacht, his private jet and put in half of its shares to cover some of that casino’s debt.
Postpone for financial reasons
Harry Tanuisodepgo, president of the MNC group and partner of the US president, who bought the Nirwana resort in 2013, spoke of the delay in the completion of the new project due to falling revenues during the Covid-19 pandemic . However, the flaws in the implementation of the project began to appear before the outbreak of the virus.
Edwin Dharmasetyawan, director of property at MNC Group, declined to say how many Indonesian workers were arbitrarily fired when work on the project was halted.
He said the delay is due to “financial reasons,” stressing his hope that the project will be developed within two years, although work has not yet begun. “I do not consider this project a failure, but rather a delay,” he told AFP.
“We have another project in Lido (city) that we are currently focusing on,” he said, referring to a giant resort project in Lido, south of Jakarta.
That project in West Java, which will include Trump’s golf club and a tourist resort, has sparked controversy over reports that construction workers removed Islamic tombs without the permission of local residents.
Many workers in Bali lost their jobs due to the billionaires’ decision not to move the project forward.
And while hotel employees received financial compensation after their layoffs, about 150 golfers’ guides – who are temporary contractors – received no money when they were suddenly fired.
“It was difficult,” says Doi. “The period when I lost my job was difficult. A lot of people felt angry.”
The young woman was paid a monthly salary of 1.3 million rupees ($86), but tips from rich golfers made her earn up to 15 million rupees a month. As for her new job as a waitress, she gets the same salary, but she doesn’t get tips.
However, the hotel and golf course workers, left out of work, are trying to forgive and forget. Doi told AFP it seemed “impossible” to get her previous job back. “I started moving forward,” she says.
Peta Dewey, who worked at the hotel spa for 18 years and now runs her parents’ cafe, says Trump’s shutdown has left her worried about her future.
“I got nervous just thinking about how to earn money because I have kids,” she adds, adding, “I was 48 years old, how could I have gotten another job?”
But in Bali, the locals traditionally believe in the importance of forgiveness and letting go of any negative feelings, including negative feelings toward Trump.
“We have to get on with our lives,” Dewey says. “If we hate him, will that make him give us our money?”