Does Turkey solely exist to feed the construction sector?

Translated by Translators for justice

Written by E. Attilla Aytekin

It is known that the construction sector has been the leading sector in Turkey’s economy since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power. It is also well known that the leading party almost holds the construction sector and ground rent as sacrosanct. This attitude to the sector from the party takes the form of a motto: even Erdogan has said “If needed, we will even destroy mosques”, showing where the party’s priorities and sense of sacredness lay.

The government has not only failed to solve the structural problems of the country’s economy but also lacks the will to try to solve them, instead carrying on promoting an endless pillaging without caring for the environment, humans or aesthetics. New construction is the continual driver of the wheel of the AKP.

Another one of the things that keeps the wheel going is speed. All construction is required to have project designs and to be completed at breakneck speeds. The obsession with speed has three consequences. First, as a result of the omission of technical and schematic aspects of the projects, the buildings end up being aesthetically and functionally monstrous. Second, the passion for speed creates a climate that does not allow the present laws and regulations to be fulfilled or legal processes to get taken care of, let alone the general process of deliberative democracy. Third, the pressure to have both high speed and low cost forces labourers to work under very dangerous conditions with low wages.

The tragic work accidents statistics in Turkey indicate that the construction sector is an outlier. According to the data obtained over the last 12 years Turkey has an average of 172 work accidents per day and every year nearly 1000 workers lose their lives. As such, the construction sector is responsible for 10 percent of total work accidents and it is responsible for nearly one third of the fatalities. Since many more accidents are unrecorded, we can assume the number of accidents, injuries and deaths is actually higher. Work accidents increase hand in hand with subcontracting; precariousness, unlawfulness and disorder kill workers.

The AKP government’s primary goal is to build buildings at any cost. While the leading party does not bother either to solve the problems created by subcontracting or to reduce the number of work accidents, it is eager to trick people into the severance pay fund that has yet to be established.

Nazır Kapusuz from Social Rights Organisation Turkey analysed and documented the cunning behind the severance pay draft law. According to Kapusuz, the fund, which is rejected by many workers, is supported by the government’s rush to find sources for the construction sector.

Truly, one of the biggest economic problems of the country is the low rates of savings. The AKP has attempted to compensate for this deficiency by outsourcing, which feeds the current account deficit. Establishing the severance fund means that there would be a giant source of 100 billion dollars. The draft places many obstacles in the way of workers to take what they are given by the fund, so what will the real function of the fund be? Since the private sector will run the severance pay fund, this enormous source will provide capital markets with support functions; however, some regulations made in the draft show other purposes. The accumulation of the fund will be utilised by government bonds and bills or certificates of rent paid. That is to say, one of the purposes of the fund is to transfer money to the construction sector by essentially making it obligatory to invest in certificates of rent paid. What is more, a worker can only withdraw money early provided that he/she will buy a house. In the end, everything is for property market to revive and for buildings to be completed.

The insistence on having three kids, the comments on abortion and caesarean birth, the passion to cover any green area with concrete, the crazy projects that disregard environment and human life, the confession “We can even destroy mosques to build roads” and finally, the cunning to give building contractors even the pittance that is deserved by workers after removing the severance pay fund make it quite clear:the big plan of the AKP is to have a country made up of concrete and a society whose only entertainment is to spend time in shopping malls and or to be stuck in traffic. The ultimate goal is a bifurcated society, half of which works in dangerous conditions to build ugly TOKI buildings, and another half which will have to live in them.

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