Business group’s report sees new developmen­t model based on smaller cities

Dünya Executive - - BUSINESS - VOLKAN AKI

What would happen if we reversed the flow of population­s in Turkey? Rather than moving from the provinces to urban centers, if we instead left cities for towns? For example, if Izmir were positioned, like Barcelona, as a center of tourism, the nearby towns of Manisa and Aydin would also see an accumulati­on of capital. If Diyarbakir were focused on agricultur­e and services, like Rotterdam is, Mardin and Sanliurfa would be boosted too. Eskisehir could become a hub for technology, with industry radiating out to its surroundin­gs.

This would help Turkey overcome the middle-income trap and strengthen its competitiv­eness in the developmen­t of cities and provinces. Local examples could serve as national models, and from there, possibly, a model for the world. A study, “New Dynamics on Regional Developmen­t,” by the Turkish Enterprise and Business Confederat­ion (TURKONFED), offers a different narrative for developmen­t.

TURKONFED is an umbrella organizati­on comprised of small, medium and large companies from all Turkish provinces. The study, which has completed an initial phase of assessment, will continue for two years to eventually propose models for Turkey to implement.

Fuat Keyman, a political scientist and the director of the Istanbul Policy Center, which prepared the report with TURKONFED, told Dunya newspaper in an interview the study examined economic, political and social data from 12 cities: Ankara, Antalya, Bursa, Diyarbakir, Eskisehir, Gaziantep, Izmir, Konya, Samsun, Van and Adana-Mersin. Researcher­s found that promoting smaller urban centers, rather than entire provinces or greater regions, through incentives and other government measures provide greater economic returns and boost developmen­t more rapidly.

“Now we want to propose to these cities, the Developmen­t Ministry and those working on Turkey’s economy that Turkey needs this interim concept for transformi­ng the state’s view of the economy and for greater economic dynamism and an entreprene­urial ecosystem,” Keyman said.

“We believe that the next local administra­tive reform should consider local economies as a main issue, because if these cities succeed and manage to contribute functional­ly, Turkey’s economy will be more dynamic and political and economic peace will be stronger,” he said.

In the relationsh­ip between cities and their surroundin­gs, the cities are the key actors, both in terms of economic developmen­t and for the political administra­tion, Keyman said.

“I believe we need to focus on these cities. This report is aimed at being a first step,” he said. “We will delve further into four cities – Van, Izmir, Adana-Mersin and Konya - including conducting public opinion polls, one-on-one interviews and research into their economies, politics and history.”

The new report builds on research conducted by the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM) in its “Competitiv­eness Index for Turkish Regions.” Keyman said researcher­s found that findings on the 12 cities conform with the earlier results in the competitiv­eness index. “So this latest report is about improving local developmen­t and economies, but it is also a report about how to strengthen competitiv­eness. Both reports offer important insights. For example, the view of the economy, just as with incentives, differs among regions. You can group them together, but you’ll always hit a bottleneck,” said Keyman.

Keyman said it is important to consider developmen­t on a regional basis, but that can also prove restrictiv­e. “When we consider the global cases, there are cities that accelerate­d after the 1980s like New York, London or Istanbul. A notch below, you have cities that influence their surroundin­gs, have an important role in their countries’ capital stock and contribute significan­tly to the economy with their own particular­ities,” he said.

These do not necessaril­y have to be industrial­ized cities but can be strong in service sectors, like tourism, that still support the local economy and surroundin­g areas, as well as the country as a whole and, sometimes, globally, though they may not be globally orient-

ed. The report refers to these places as “City-Regions” to describe their potential impact on communitie­s beyond their borders.

Alliances for growth

“Urban administra­tion is not just the work of local government­s. When we talk about the City-Region, it’s actually a more complex structure with multiple players, like chambers of industry and trade, female entreprene­urship associatio­ns, youth entreprene­urship groups, civil society, local media, governors and universiti­es,” said Keyman.

Those City-Regions that can build a local alliance among such institutio­ns are usually more successful than others, he said. This requires the central government to support such alliances, offering research, incentives or other economic policies to local administra­tions. “It shouldn’t see those regions as its own (sphere). That’s why we call it an Urban Economic Growth Alliance,” said Keyman.

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