Istanbul budget deficit reduced by $612 million, says mayor

The opposition mayor of Istanbul has said the city’s budget deficit has been reduced by $612 million in his first two months in office.

Ekrem İmamoğlu was elected mayor of Turkey’s biggest city in June after a hard-fought rerun of the vote, ending 25 years in which the financial hub had been run by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its Islamist predecessors.

İmamoğlu, from the secular main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), pledged to tackle what he said was the extravagant council spending and the vast amounts it transferred to charitable foundations close to the ruling party.

“It is firstly our president who should be pleased with every cent we have added to the Istanbul budget by preventing waste. The 10.5 billion lira ($ 1.8 billion) budget deficit was brought down to 7 billion lira with measures over 75 days,” opposition newspaper Sözcü quoted İmamoğlu as saying on Monday. 

The 49-year-old mayor said another 50 million lira had been saved through cancelling tenders since he stepped into office.

“We are easing the burden on the shoulders of the central government. A new era is starting in Turkey,” İmamoğlu said.  

İmamoğlu has embarrassed the government by lining up hundreds of vehicles the previous administration rented to highlight the scale of wasteful spending in Istanbul. Government supporters have meanwhile criticised him for firing at least 1,400 council employees this month.