Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan proudly describes Istanbul’s newly opened Marmaray railway tunnel, linking Asia and Europe beneath the Bosphorus, as “the project of the century.” But as a series of increasingly larger and more expensive engineering feats are unveiled, observers are wondering whether Turkey can actually afford the price of progress?
For Erdoğan, the answer will have as considerable an impact on the political health of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) as it will on the state budget. Beginning next year, Turkey is heading into an 18-month-long election cycle, culminating with a general election in 2015. With the economic growth rate for 2013 estimated by the International Monetary Fund at 3.8 percent – far lower than the average 7-percent rate of the past decade -- the prime minister needs something to keep the economy on track.
“The AKP made Turkey a mass-consumption society; this is why they won election after election” since 2003, observed economist Cengiz Aktar, a columnist for the daily newspaper Taraf. “So now, this success story, this fairy tale, is fading away.”
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Dorian Jones is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.