Press Releases | April 12, 2023

TDP Calls for Increased Scrutiny of the Turkish Construction Sector

(Washington, D.C.) —  The Turkish Democracy Project has called for increased scrutiny of the Turkish construction sector following the publication of its new resource documenting corruption in the industry, which has come under fire in the wake of Turkey’s recent earthquakes. Corrupt procurement laws and an irresponsible amnesty policy have led to shoddy construction and buildings that are not up to code, causing excessive damage and costing more lives in the wake of the February 6 earthquakes.

In Fall 2021, the Turkish Democracy Project (TDP) commenced an economic campaign investigating international companies with ties to the Turkish construction sector and dubious government-sponsored projects, such as the Gaziantep Solar Project, the Istanbul Basaksehir Cam and Sakura City Hospital, Bursa Hospital PPP, Ankara Etlik Hospital PPP, and Gaziantep Hospital PPP.

Commenting on the construction industry’s flaws under the helm of Erdogan’s AKP, Mark Wallace, CEO of the Turkish Democracy Project, said:

“Corruption in the construction sector enriches Erdogan’s allies while they help him suppress Turkish citizens’ rights. Now, it has cost tens of thousands of lives. The international community can no longer tolerate Erdogan’s cronyism at the expense of Turkish citizens’ safety.”

TDP’s research reveals networks of corruption in the Turkish construction sector, including the notorious “gang of five,” a group of five companies that have been awarded the vast majority of the state’s public tenders without any competitive process. These five companies have led overpriced and poorly regulated mega-infrastructure projects, such as the $12 billion new Istanbul Airport, which often cause environmental damage. They have also benefitted from rigged tenders as Erdogan expands Turkey’s prison system. For example, Rec İnşaat, a favorite contractor of Erdogan, has been awarded 266 million liras to build a 203,000 square meter prison. Rec İnşaat is a subsidiary of Ronesans Holding, whose CEO Erman Ilıcak featured heavily in the Pandora Papers.

The February 6, 2023 earthquakes claimed the lives of over 55,000 in Turkey and Syria, and the International Labor Organization (ILO) found that the earthquakes destroyed over 150,00 workplaces and left over 658,000 people unable to work. Several analyses found that Erdogan and his government’s implementation of construction zoning amnesties resulted in outsized damages. Nevertheless, the ruling party has already pledged to rush rebuilding in the area in order to garner favor ahead of the elections—causing anxiety around the possibility of a repeat disaster.

To read TDP’s resource on the construction industry, click here.

To read TDP’s resource on construction and the Turkish prison complex, click here.