Müzeyyen Yüce/ DUVAR

Turkey’s opposition parties have criticized the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for a proposed bill that seeks alternative funding for the country’s megaprojects, asserting that the legislation is an attempt by a cash-strapped government to get the public to pay for its ambitious projects. 

The 40-article bill would enable citizens and companies to purchase securities in order to finance long-term infrastructure and energy projects that require large amounts of capital, including the controversial Kanal Istanbul project. That initiative, which was dubbed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as his “crazy” project, aims to create an artificial shipping canal on the far European side of Istanbul between the Black and Marmara seas. 

The government claims that the project is necessary to relieve shipping traffic in the Bosporus strait, but critics say it will result in an environmental disaster and is merely an attempt to create real estate speculation along the route that will benefit landowners close to the government. 

“No one emerged as an investor for Kanal [Istanbul], the cost of which is said to be 75 billion TL. Well then, is there money in the budget for this monstrosity? No, there isn’t. Forget about setting aside money for this monstrosity, the budget is increasing its dependency on Central Bank resources,” said main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) spokesman Faik Öztrak, adding that the bill was an attempt to place the weight of such projects on the back of the public. 

“First they wanted foreign investment for Kanal Istanbul, but they couldn’t find any. Then they said ‘We’ll do it with public funds,’ but there are no such funds in the budget. When it was revealed that the land around Kanal Istanbul was snapped up by people close to the government, the article [of this bill] was created to make the public a partner in this crime,” said pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Garo Paylan.

Though Turkey is in the midst of a deep economic recession that has impacted the construction industry, once its locomotive of economic growth, Erdoğan and the AKP have stubbornly vowed to move forward with Kanal Istanbul, while Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu has vocally and publicly opposed the project.

“Kanal Istanbul is not a public project — it does not contribute to industry, energy or exports. This is a very large megacity project. There is no capacity or power to create the income for this canal. The people who will benefit the most from this project are real estate owners in the surrounding areas. For that reason, the project should be funded with the taxes of the real estate owners,” said opposition right-wing Good Party deputy İsmail Tatlıoğlu.