Turkey ushered in the new year under the mounting stress of economic crisis and local elections looming on March 31. The stress is felt heavily in Istanbul, Turkey’s biggest city and commercial capital, which contributes 31% of the country’s gross domestic product and harbors 22% of the labor force and is now the epicenter of the economic tremors.
Under the 16-year rule of the Justice and Development Party, construction became the engine of economic growth and Istanbul drew the largest investments of the sector, ranging from sprawling housing complexes and business high-rises to countless urban infrastructures and “megaprojects” conducted as public-private partnerships. Istanbul’s economic rent and public wealth was appetite-whetting. Rent-seeking proliferated and businesspeople close to the AKP grabbed the biggest shares.