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Why Erdogan Needs the 'Crazy' Istanbul Canal Initiative?

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During his election campaign in 2011, the current leader of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, expressed his intention to bring to life several grandiose political and infrastructure initiatives.

The most ambitious of these projects entails the construction of a new waterway, to the west of the Bosporus, that will connect the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. Officially, the initiative is called Istanbul Canal (which will serve as an alternative to the Bosporus), but unofficially, it has been dubbed the crazy project. In fact, some time the past, Recep Erdoğan gave the waterway this name because of its enormous price tag and the complex topography of its bed.

According to various estimates, it will cost 15 to 20 billion US dollars to build the canal. Considering the current global climate, Turkey’s involvement in the military conflict in Syria and the pressure of US sanctions, Ankara is, in fact, experiencing difficulties finding the necessary funding for the project, since China, Turkey’s main economic partner (also involved in the New Silk Road initiative), is unlikely to come to its aid. Hence, it is expected that a substantial portion of the money will come from the government budget on condition that the Turkish army plays a significant role in the implementation of the project. In order to attract Turkish investors, there is an active information campaign that claims the construction of the canal will result in creation of more jobs and improvement of residential and commercial infrastructure along this waterway, and will act as a driver of growth for the Turkish economy.

This partisan project inspired President Erdoğan back in 1990s when he was the mayor of Istanbul. Still, the concept of building such a canal is not new and originates from the Era of Suleyman the Magnificent (1520-1568). Later on, sultans of the Ottoman Empire revisited the idea on more than one occasion from 16th to 19th centuries, but, at the time, there were always more important tasks to be dealt with. In 1994, the leader of the Republican People’s Party and subsequently the Democratic Left Party, Bülent Ecevit (who served as the Prime Minister of Turkey four times), also remembered the Istanbul Canal initiative. And after some time, it became one of Turkey’s mega projects meant to........

© New Eastern Outlook