Turkish government gearing up efforts to regulate ‘messy’ construction sector

Turkish government gearing up efforts to regulate ‘messy’ construction sector

Gülistan Alagöz ANKARA
Turkish government gearing up efforts to regulate ‘messy’ construction sector

AA Photo

Turkey is preparing legislation to tighten regulations for the construction business amid growing safety woes in the sector.

The Environment and Urban Planning Ministry is working on a contractor law which could result in 30 percent of contractors in the business losing their licenses.

The deadly elevator collapse at the construction site of a luxurious tower in Istanbul that cost the life of 10 workers has put the irregularities and safety weaknesses of the sector under the spotlight, fuelling calls for the government to tighten its control over the qualifications of contractor companies and labor conditions.  

The law was first heralded by Environment and Urban Planning Minister İdris Güllüce in a Twitter post on Sept. 11.

“We are working on the contractor law. We will send it to Parliament after it is completed,” he wrote on his Twitter page.

Ministry sources confirmed the studies, saying they were working on a regulation that would audit contractors’ technical and financial competence, classify them and increase punishments.

The draft, which has also been worked on by the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) and the Confederation of Construction Contractors (İMKON), is expected to be sent to Parliament within two months.

Officials say the elevator accident that killed 10 workers on Sept. 6 has accelerated the studies.

Speaking to daily Hürriyet, İMKON Chairman Tahir Tellioğlu said they had been working on drawing up a contractor law for six months.

He said the move aimed to remove “rotten contractors” from the sector, which could mean banning around 30 percent of the 300,000 contractors currently active in the sector.

The first step will be to create a definition for the job of contracting in the country, Tellioğlu said. “We will define the job first and oversee it later.”

Contractors without a certificate of competence will be banned from doing business in Turkey and abroad. Likewise, contractors who are proven to be committing professional errors or duping consumers will be excommunicated from the profession, he added.

Meanwhile, the head of the Housing Developers and Investors Association (KONUTDER), Ömer Faruk Çelik, said the sector needed more comprehensive restructuring.

“Regulations prepared in hurry don’t achieve their primary purposes,” he said. “If there is going to be a regulation, all parties should sit down and discuss it. Otherwise, a single regulation wouldn’t solve anything.”

Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan had also said Turkey needed a comprehensive change in the construction sector that approached all aspects of the business.

Speaking in a live interview with state broadcaster TRT on Sept. 16, he said there were several parties, including municipalities, earning income from construction and real estate businesses, but that the arrangement was not operating smoothly.

“Mostly problems occur in large-scale and individual projects. This is a big problem if the value of a piece of land or a project can be changed by making a small adjustment with a municipality council overnight, and if we can’t accurately measure who gained and lost or tax the income earned there,” he said.

The deputy prime minister recently said Turkey needed a change in protocol to shift investments from the construction sector to other industries, in a move that would enable a better share distribution and prevent “ugly cities.”

His statements drew a reaction from Turkish construction mogul Ali Ağaloğlu, a figure who has become a pantomime villain for his seeming lust to knock down forests and erect condominiums. “Whatever construction has done, it has done so by itself. If you are going to support industry, then reduce the costs of its loans, energy and labor and reduce its taxes,” Ağaoğlu had said.

In his remarks on Sept. 16, Babacan defended his words and said contractors’ fury proved that his words had hit the target.

The government also needs to take steps that will prevent unmeasured transactions in the real estate, according to Babacan.

“As we said these things, some people reacted and there will be reaction in the future as well,” he said.