Searching the middle of the world is a very legitimate calling, I find. Stories of such searches have been told in many ways. For some, like Jule Verne, it is an expedition to the geometric center of the globe. For others, like Ursula Priess it is the encounter with stories and people in Istanbul, as she wrote in “Mitte der Welt: Erinnerungen an Istanbul” (The Middle if the World: Memories on Istanbul). I have visited this beautiful and magic town for a few days and was unfortunately only able to browse through her book before departure and not to read it properly, similar to also just scratching the surface of the town. I will for sure read the book upon return to Germany and blend it with my impressions. Luckily I read Orhan Pamuk’s “Istanbul, memories of a city”, which is a Turkish memoir which I liked a lot.
My main task here this time was to understand the economic momentum concerning the construction material industry. It is research done regarding the Zukunftskonferenz of B+L GmbH in July 2019, in which the future of residential and non-residential construction output will be forecasted and discussed. The basis of this. are quantitative models which have been developed for over 20 years. For cases with big question marks and large political interference, we conduct fact-finding trips and meet and interview industry insiders in the country. And this is what brought me to Istanbul.
Since the attempted military coup in July 2016, Turkey has been in the light of scepticizm. As one of the three main factors for driving construction output is people's confidence in the future, this is not helpful. When the Turkish Lira lost value against the US$ by about 30 % in a crash in mid-2018, this was also an expression of this sentiment and was driving inflation up to around 20 % today. The bank lending rates are also about this high (20%), which does not combat inflation, because other stimulus activities overcompensate this. One effect is, that nobody borrows money to buy residential property. Those who would have the money to do so, rather deposit it in the bank, where they get a higher interest return than they would ever get by renting out. And currently, if you need a home, renting is the much better deal. Even the potential demand for residential units is high with a young population of 80 million, the low confidence and bad financing situation brought construction to a shrieking halt. For developers, now it's a "wait and see game" which the ones with the deeper pockets are likely to win. For office buildings in Istanbul, some talk about a utilization of only 2/3. And walking through the places, this seems plausible. I spare you the photos of abandoned construction sites and homes for sale and offices for rent. But I do post some pictures of the bright sides I encountered below. The brightest though were the people I met, which will be for obvious reasons not represented by photos. Turkey is one of the most friendly places when it comes to its people. And I do wish them well.