Blame game begins over construction disasters

Blame game begins over construction disasters

Hacer Boyacıoğlu ANKARA
Blame game begins over construction disasters

A construction worker walks in front of graffiti reading 'workers' council' during a demonstration on Sept. 8 in Istanbul. AFP Photo / Ozan Köse

A blame game over responsibility for work safety in the Turkish construction sector is intensifying in the aftermath of a deadly elevator accident, as ministers and business tycoons point fingers at each other.

The repercussions of the elevator collapse, which killed 10 workers at the construction site of a lavish new tower complex in central Istanbul, have recently shifted focus to general weaknesses in the sector.

Labor Minister Faruk Çelik, who has come under fire for government negligence regarding labor safety, said those responsible for the accident were “clear” and “nobody can throw the ball into the other’s court.”  

“When the elevator tragedy happened, all eyes turned to us naturally. But by its nature this issue concerns a lot of institutions, including us, the Environment and Urban Planning Ministry, the Industry Ministry, municipalities and building control surveyors,” Çelik said.

Former Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar, who resigned after he was announced among the suspects of the Dec. 17, 2013 graft probe, also joined the debate, saying he had initiated a new land settlement regulation that would relieve construction congestion, but his efforts were thwarted.

“The reason behind the land settlement congestion in cities is the land settlement regulation,” said Bayraktar, who also served at the helm of the state-run housing agency, TOKİ, in an interview with Hürriyet.

“We prepared a [new] regulation for this, and I was taken down by it. They collapsed my world around me, and they delayed it [the regulation],” he added.

Bayraktar said the initiative was blocked because of the “lobbying by those who earn without working.”
“We wanted the money earned from settlement gains to go to the municipalities’ cashboxes,” he said.

He also said he hoped the new Cabinet would act quickly on the issue of accidents. “People die like flies. Who can bear the pain of this?” he said.

Bayraktar also touched on a heated debate over the construction sector’s allegedly outsized role in Turkey’s development, saying the solution was to improve industrial output in relation to the construction sector, rather than putting the brakes on the latter.

“Industry would stop if construction stopped,” he said.