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