Investments to go on, says mayor .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} ISTANBUL - Speaking at a UCLG meeting, focusing on effects of the global economic crisis on local governments around the world, Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş says, ’If local governments stop investment, the economic crisis would be felt more strongly by a different strata in society’

The budget for Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality has been designed with the economic crisis in mind and there will not be a halt on investment, according to Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş.

Topbaş was speaking at a meeting of United Cities and Local Governments, or UCLG. Discussions of the UCLG Executive Bureau and the World Council at the Hilton Convention Center over the weekend focused on the effects of the global economic crisis on local governments around the world.

As to how the economic crisis will affect the municipality’s budget for 2009, Topbaş said 75 percent of their budget income comes from taxes and if there is a recession and taxes are reduced, the budget will be affected. "However, we aim to provide for our estimated budget expenditure by making use of credit opportunities, or by privatizing estates and companies." Topbaş said.

Topbaş said if local governments stop investment, the economic crisis would be felt more strongly by a different strata in society.

"That is why we have to maintain investment. We want to, of course, but we have to be careful. Istanbul is not like other cities. It is like a locomotive." Topbaş said if the economic circulation of Istanbul falters, then Turkey will face serious difficulties because 43 percent of taxes are collected from urban areas in Turkey.

Topbaş said the municipality has big responsibilities and they have demanded more caution and assistance from banks and the government to create funds for local governments to more easily overcome the economic crisis.

Privatization of IGDAŞ and IDO
Topbaş said the crisis would definitely affect the prices of companies the municipality plans to privatize. "We may not reach the levels we intend to. Maybe prices will be lower than we want them to be," and said it was a matter of accounting. He said the use of credit or a reduction in prices sought when privatizing companies may occur depending on the situation at the time.

Topbaş said he does not believe there will be big losses with the privatization of either Istanbul Gas Distribution and Trade Inc, or IGDAS, and Istanbul Sea Buses and Fast Ferries Inc, or İDO. These are two major companies, both in big demand, Topbaş said. "These companies are not stationary, they are developing. There are investors who are currently waiting and who expect to turn the crisis into an opportunity." He said they believe the crisis might end to the municipality's advantage.

New credit interviews
Topbaş said there was no problem with the previously signed credit deal for nearly 1.6 billion euros for transport investment and they were negotiating with the European Investment Bank, among other foundations, for new credit requests.

"I believe there will be credit available for the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality," said Topbaş, who added they were planning to use credit for investment in the Istanbul Waterworks Authority, or ISKI. Topbaş said there was ongoing investment in areas such as wastewater and biological treatment.

Topbaş said the World Bank and other foundations are sympathetic to environmental projects. "I have requested cheap, long-term credit from the European Investment Bank to fortify people’s houses against earthquakes and to transfer the needy to new housing," Topbaş said, adding that he is still waiting for a response.

As to whether Topbaş will run for office again, he said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, leader of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, will announce candidates on either Thursday or Friday. "Wait until Friday," he said.