Turkey’s Erdoğan to build Istanbul canal despite losing city election

Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) will press ahead with plans to build a canal through Istanbul despite losing the seat of city mayor last month, Hürriyet newspaper reported.

“There will be no backtracking,” said Murat Kurum, minister responsible for the environment and urbanisation. “It will be done in the framework of the manifesto announced by the president.”

But the AKP has a problem. Ekrem İmamoğlu, the opposition politician who has been inaugurated as mayor after the March 31 vote, has labelled Kanal Istanbul, which is designed to circumvent the Bosporus Straits, as a “project of chaos and waste”.

The ministry has responsibility for the canal, not the Istanbul municipality, Kurum said, adding that the government would work with Istanbul’s city district administrations to ensure that the project was completed. The waterway will form part of a five-year plan to be announced shortly, he said.

Turkey’s economy entered a recession in the second half of last year and investors are looking for commitments from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government to reduce budget spending to help slow inflation, which stands at 19.7 percent.

Erdoğan has employed state-run banks and Treasury guarantees to help finish projects such as a vast new airport for Istanbul, which was opened late last year, along with bridges and tunnels around the country. But non-government banks, which are struggling with rising bad debt amid the economic downturn, have also contributed to project financing.