AK Party brings dead projects back to life

Turkey has become a hall of dead investments, largely stemming from prodigal and extravagant politicians who applied populist policies in the hunt for more votes.

AK Party brings dead projects back to life
Turkey has become a hall of dead investments, largely stemming from prodigal and extravagant politicians who applied populist policies in the hunt for more votes.

Billions of dollars were wasted and unfinished buildings are still everywhere to mark this unfortunate era, which seems to have been ended by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.

The latest official reports by the State Planning Organization (DPT) and Court of Accounts note the number of incomplete investments in Turkey is 5,556. Turkey has spent more than $130 billion on these projects, and $360 billion in additional funds are needed for the completion of the projects that have remained incomplete since the 1960s.

Ever since the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) took the power in 2002, it has crossed 700 projects of the list and completed the largest 10 including the Bolu Tunnel, previously referred to as a dead investment even by the DPT. The construction of the tunnel started in 1993, three years after the Italian Astaldi won the tender. The tunnel was affected by the 1999 earthquake, but the damaged parts were fixed and the project was revised.

The cost of the project was estimated at $570.5 million, but so far $900 million, exclusive of value-added tax (VAT), has been spent on the project. Astaldi had given up on the project because of the earthquake, which leveled large sections of urban sprawl located east of Istanbul. The project resumed shortly after a meeting between the Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan and Italian Prime Minister Sylvio Berlusconi in 2003. Thanks to the project, the time needed for the travel between Ankara and Istanbul has been reduced to three-and-a-half hours.

Another large project revived by the AK Party administration was the Black Sea Coastal Highway, whose construction started in 1983 during the first term of Turgut Özal. The successive 19 governments failed to complete the project. Because of their alleged involvement in corruption in connection with the construction of the highway, former ministers Yaşar Topçu and Safa Giray were brought to trial. The Samsun local road was another project that the AK Party worked to complete.

For the completion of the 12-kilometer road, YTL 30 million was needed in addition to the previously spent YTL 22 million. In 2006, the government put the highway into operation.

The 21-year-old plans for the Bursa local highway was also a dead investment but opened to service by the prime minister in 2004. During the AK Party administration, Batman State Hospital was also completed in three years and opened for public use.

Despite the YTL 78 million in financial allocations, the Kiraz State Hospital in Izmir was not completed, so the building was turned into a potato warehouse. However, the Health Ministry transformed the structure into a hospital on March 24, 2006. Currently, the hospital serves more than 50,000 people. Likewise, $250 million has been spent on the construction of the Fethiye State Hospital since 1995; however, it became evident that the construction was being carried out in a swamp. In 2003, the Health Ministry reinforced the foundation of the building and opened it for service.

The Sabiha Gökçen Airport in İstanbul was also rescued from death during the AK Party's term. It was constructed in 1995 by the Mesut Yılmaz government but had become trouble for the former prime minister. There were dozens of investigation commissioned against Yılmaz in Parliament and although billions of dollars were spent for construction not a single aircraft had landed at the airport for years. During all this time, the state was employing 1,200 people, paying their salaries for nothing. But precautions taken by the AK Party government rendered the airport active, resulting in a productive terminal for cheap domestic and international flights. As a result, Sabiha Gökçen was leased to Limak Corp., which submitted the highest bid with roughly $4 billion for 20 years.

Another undertaking, the İstanbul-Ankara fast train project, was launched in 1975. Since then, 22 consecutive governments allocated money for it every year but none could succeed in completeing it. In almost 30 years, a total amount of YTL 615 million had been spent on the project but not even a nail was driven. The AK Party government pushed the button in 2003 to complete the project and by last year, the Eskişehir-Ankara line was completed. If the current allocation continues, by mid-2008, people will be able to travel from İstanbul to Ankara in just three-and-a-half hours by train.

Tiny roads unfinished for 40 years

* The construction of a road to Mt. Nemrut was kicked off by the Suat Hayri Ürgüplü government in 1967. The road would not be more than 40 kilometers, but 30 governments let it remain unfinished.

* The Manisa-Akhisar Cigarette factory was left unfinished for 31 years after construction for its building began. But because of the quotas brought to the production of tobacco, the building of the factory became no more feasible, and the AK Party government removed it from its project list.

* The İzmit-Haramidere oil pipeline was in the investment allocation programs for 22 years. Turkey used an $8.5 million loan from the Islamic Development Bank for the project but failed to channel it for the construction of the pipeline. The pipeline project was still idle yet the state had to pay a large sum of interest to the Islamic Development Bank.

* When the Doğubayazıt Cultural Center building in Ağrı, a city in eastern Anatolia, started in 1977, during Süleyman Demirel's term, the projected cost was only YTL 1 million. Turkey has spent more than YTL 301 million since then, but unfortunately, the building is still uncompleted.


'Century's biggest project' moribund

The Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) has been called the largest and most significant project that modern Turkey has ever started. It was first kicked off in 1960s, during Süleyman Demirel's Justice Party (AP) government, and the projected deadline was 2010. But this grand project, which is estimated to have a total cost of $130 billion, is far behind schedule because of insufficient funding. Despite major parts of the project being completed, specifically energy generation, the irrigation sections seem impossible to be finished in a reasonable time. Even though Turkey has spared nearly all of its current investment allocations for the completion of GAP, the project will finish by 2080 under the best of conditions.

Today's Zaman
Güncelleme Tarihi: 31 Temmuz 2007, 15:29