The cost of betrayal

17 Ocak 2024 Çarşamba

The cost is staggering: $84,678,372,715 or 1,486,900,741,243 Turkish Lira. I read these figures in the final pages of a 21-page report. As the numbers add up, so does the magnitude of the wrongdoing.

With just 73 days left until the elections, the most talked-about city is Istanbul. The question of "whether Ekrem İmamoğlu or Murat Kurum will win" is just the tip of the iceberg of a much more significant fate. And no, I won’t remind you how this election's outcome could also impact 2028.

I found out that İmamoğlu’s campaign frequently juxtaposes the words “Murat Kurum” and “betrayal.” İmamoğlu has already started hinting at this in his statements to İpek Özbey from Sözcü. But what did Kurum do to be accused of betrayal?

As you know, in 2017, President Erdoğan admitted, “We didn’t appreciate this city, we have betrayed it, and we still are.” Erdoğan's confession was never forgotten. Two years later, Istanbul's administration changed hands.

Now, the fate of the great city of Istanbul is up for a vote again. I’m not speaking metaphorically, but pondering, “Do we know what we are voting for?” While seeking an answer, I revisit a report that is known but needs to be remembered again.

When the opposition won the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB), an extensive audit was conducted internally. One of these efforts, summarized as “What did we inherit?” focused on the city's major project areas. The IBB Department of Urban Planning and Development scrutinized Istanbul’s report card during AKP’s 20-year rule and sought answers to these questions:

1- Have there been zoning plan changes and function changes in project-produced areas? How much construction area was produced in utility areas and areas opened for development?

2- How much construction area was produced contrary to regulations and architectural projects?

3- How much financial gain was realized through these changes and irregularities?

Profit from 130 Projects

To answer these questions, controls were conducted from past to present on a total of 227 large-scale projects and urban areas. The examination pinpointed significant irregularities and changes in 130 projects. So, what were the findings?

Let me simplify it for you.

In Istanbul, 78 lands designated as utility areas were opened for construction. Instead of providing public services like health institutions or cultural facilities, these lands were used for housing, malls, or hotels. We’re talking about a total of 16,112,518 square meters of construction. I also learned that 8 of these areas opened for development by AKP in Istanbul were formerly military zones.

But there’s more. During the AKP era, 2,846,621 square meters of 7 forest areas were opened for construction. Among the concrete structures erected in these forests are schools belonging to the NUN Foundation, founded by Berat Albayrak, son-in-law of the President.

From the same report, I find that in the 130 projects examined, the construction area allowed for 44 lands was increased from 3 million square meters to 10.5 million square meters.

So, what’s the outcome?

The monetary value of this betrayal to Istanbul amounts to 1 trillion 486 billion Turkish Lira. According to the exchange rate at the time the report was prepared, this is equivalent to 85 billion dollars, equal to Istanbul's gross domestic product in 2020.

When Murat Kurum was selected as AKP’s mayoral candidate, he said, “Together, we will end the five-year stagnation period in Istanbul.” Do you realize what they mean by stagnation?

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