Which Turkey, which Istanbul?

Which Turkey, which Istanbul?

Two stories published on the same day actually explain everything. According to the Changing Dynamics of Luxury Spending report of the global management consulting firm and advisor on business strategy, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), global luxury spending is nearing $2 trillion.

Although there has been a slowdown in luxury spending in recent years, in the coming years it is expected to grow more than economies of many countries, with an annual average growth rate of 7 percent.

The part of the BCG that concerns us most is that Istanbul is shining as one of the new centers of luxury. According to the report, Istanbul has the 10th place in the world in the list of growth in luxury spending. Indeed, Istanbul is the heart of the economy of a country where shopping malls have increased at a rate of 400 percent in the past 10 years.

Shopping malls full of luxury goods, luxury housing mushrooming in numbers, hotels that are opened on every corner, restaurants and art galleries already give clues to the report’s data. Istanbul is a city that hosts a significant capital accumulation.

However, on the other hand, the second story that I will mention now shows the dark face of a country that is developing “wildly” like Turkey.

The construction of the Third Bosphorus Bridge, which is continuing at full speed despite all the objections of environmentalists and transportation experts, has cost the lives of three workers last Saturday evening.

Three of the workers, who were somehow working at the weekend and in the dark of the night, fell to the ground from 50 meters.

Turkey is number one in Europe in occupational fatalities and third in the world. According to the report of the Occupational Health and Safety Assembly, some 1,203 workers - 59 of whom were minors - lost their lives at work in 2013. According to the statement of the same assembly, in the first three months of 2014, some 80 construction workers have died; in the first five days of April, seven construction workers have died.

A statement from main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chair Adnan Keskin appeared in the papers yesterday, claiming that nearly 12,000 people died in work-related accidents during Justice and Development Party (AKP) rule. If this number is correct, it is not an exaggeration when Keskin says that work accidents have reached the dimension of a “massacre.”

While Turkey is growing rapidly and without a plan, it is leaving behind thousands of workers who have lost their lives.

We have not forgotten that 11 workers died in the fire in their tent in 2012 at the construction site of shopping mall called Marmara Park, which was built at a cost of 500 million Turkish Liras.

When the accidents that occur at construction sites are viewed, they happen at the sites of major construction firms that mostly win the tenders. For instance, IC İçtaş Construction and Italian Astaldi are partners in the construction of the Third Bosphorus Bridge and the North Marmara Highway Project.

However, when subcontractors step into this project and in others, then weak links in control mechanisms emerge.  

The saddest part of the accident at the Third Bosphorus Bridge is that, according to calculations, this bridge will already be jammed in 2023.

One of the co-writers of the recent report from the Turkish Foundation for Reforestation, the Protection of Natural Habitats, and Combating Soil Erosion (TEMA) on the three projects affecting Istanbul’s future, Professor Haluk Gerçek from Istanbul Technical University, has stated that the third bridge is “absolutely not” a solution for the city’s inescapable traffic.

It is the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality itself that estimated that the third bridge, which has already cost the lives of three workers, will be clogged as of 2023. This prediction appears in the Transportation Master Plan for Istanbul, according to Professor Gerçek.

So, Istanbul has risen up to the 10th place in the world in luxury spending, but at what cost?