The shocking cost of Melih Gökçek’s AnkaPark

The shocking cost of Melih Gökçek’s AnkaPark

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) recently called for certain mayors to resign, appointing new ones in their place. These sweeping changes also embroiled Melih Gökçek, the mayor of Ankara since 1994.

Gökçek was replaced by the mayor of Ankara’s Sincan district Mustafa Tuna. As soon as Tuna took office, Gökçek’s former officials resigned. What’s more, public transport in Ankara used to shut down after midnight on Gökçek’s insistence but public transport now operates 24 hours a day, as ordered by Tuna.

The newly appointed Ankara mayor has also attracted attention by hugging Çankaya Mayor Alper Taşdelen, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). Some were unhappy, but in general people commended this move as long-awaited progress.

If Russian President Vladimir Putin had not hugged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Nov. 22 during the Sochi talks, a key summit that seeks to address the Syrian issue, maybe Tuna and Taşdelen’s hug would have stirred more debate.

The act caught me by surprise and is worth examining more closely. ü

Tuna raised an interesting point during a recent visit to daily Hürriyet’s Ankara bureau.

“We will ask the public to see what they want. We could conduct a survey on Ankara’s new theme park, AnkaPark, [built by the Ankara Municipality under Gökçek]. We could say: ‘This much has been spent, this is the current situation, what do you think?’ And we could ask them what they think the next steps should be,” he said.

Indeed, let me tell you a little bit about AnkaPark.

Four years ago, construction work began on 1.1 million square meters of land handed down from Turkey’s founding leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk to the Turkish nation.

Four 10,000-square-meter and six 5,000-square-meter steel tents were built on the site.

Some 1,217 giant toys, with dinosaurs and giant robots among them, were bought for the park.

The goal was supposedly for Ankara to compete with Disneyland Paris and Universal Studios in Los Angeles, creating a flood of tourists to the Turkish capital.

But Melih Gökçek resigned without even seeing AnkaPark open its doors to the public. The opening date is scheduled for April 23, 2018. And now the new mayor has put the future of AnkaPark on the table.

The reason why AnkaPark has not yet opened is said to be the high costs.

It currently employs 300 people. At full capacity this number would rise to 3,000.

This figure is almost the same as the total amount of government personnel employed in one of Ankara’s district municipalities such as Keçiören, Mamak and Altındağ.

When you include the electricity and water costs, it all adds up to a terrifying figure.

Gökçek had voiced his wish to hand over management of AnkaPark to Chinese and Qatari investors, but talks have reportedly yielded no result. Tuna has also been unable to find a manager to solve the issue.

According to him, the municipality has spent almost two billion Turkish Liras on the venture so far. Now we are going through a period when every single kuruş counts, two billion liras is no small amount.

The AnkaPark saga makes us wonder what we should lament more: The sad loss of the historic Atatürk Forest Farm, or the waste of at least two billion liras.