15 Nisan 2011 Cuma

Libya urges Turkish companies to finish projects quickly

In the aftermath of political turbulence in Tunisia and Egypt, Libyan officials have told Turkish construction firms there to finish their projects ahead of time, according to company officials talking to the Hürriyet Daily News. However, Turkish businessmen say a spillover of the turmoil to Libya is a long shot, as one points to the ‘welfare state’ advantages provided to the population
Libya accounts for 14 percent of all construction projects in North Africa run by Turkish companies. AA photo

Libya accounts for 14 percent of all construction projects in North Africa run by Turkish companies. AA photo
The North African nation of Libya has not yet seen much of a “spillover effect” from the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, but developments regarding some housing projects have worried Turkish contractors.

Speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Wednesday, Turkish contractors said Libyan officials have started to urge them to “complete their projects as soon as possible.”

“We do not even want to think of what could happen if the tension reaches Libya,” said Gönül Bingöl, assistant project manager at Güriş Construction. The current situation is “rather stable,” she said, despite a few street protests that took place in the Libyan city of Al-Bayda last month, according to a story by The Guardian.

Libya, ruled by the iron fist of Muammar Gadhafi since 1969, is a lucrative market for Turkish contractors, who have completed hundreds of projects in the country. According to data from the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey, or DEİK, 110 Turkish construction firms have ongoing projects worth $23.6 billion in Libya. The figure corresponds to 14 percent of all construction projects in North Africa run by Turkish firms. Turkey’s share in Libyan construction projects was $350 million only six years ago.

“Due to rising tensions, Libyan state officials have urged us to complete projects earlier than the set deadlines,” Bingöl told the Daily News. The company is currently building the faculty of medicine and dormitories for Al Fateh University in Tripoli. “Our projects were scheduled to finish by the end of the year,” Bingöl said, adding that state officials recently asked the firm to complete projects in a few months, without giving an explanation.

Companies thinking of Plan B

Memdost Dirlik, a partner of Ankara-based Artes Construction, confirmed that his firm had received a similar request. “I do not expect a serious rebellion against the government in Libya,” Dirlik told the Daily News. “The Libyan state is pretty much a welfare state and this might deter a movement whose primary motivation is poverty.”

Artes recently won a $250 million contract to build 2,000 housing units in three years. “If the spark of the fire reaches Libya, we might have to launch our Plan B and halt all our operations,” Dirlik said. “In that case, we would wait until the situation goes back to normal.”

The Libyan government has increased the amount of funds allocated for infrastructure from $25 billion to $125 billion, money that will be spent through 2013, according to the website of the Turkish Embassy in Tripoli. Libya is predicted to spend $38.4 billion for residential buildings, $38.4 billion for educational buildings, $4 billion for civil aviation projects, $2 billion for roads and bridges and $1.8 billion for municipality projects in this period.

“Libya remains to be the most important country for Turkish construction,” said Orhan Turan, head of the Turkish Building Material Producers Association, or İMSAD.

Noting that the turmoil in Tunisia and Egypt has not yet had an influence in Libya, Turan said: “If the domino effect continues to Libya, Turkish constructors might suffer deeply in the long run. These firms, which have been enjoying the benefits of taking risks in the Middle East and North Africa, might be hit hard if the chaos spreads and lasts for a long time.”

An official call to occupy homes

“I do not expect a revolt in Libya,” said Serdar Hekimoğlu, coordinator of Libyan projects at Yüksel Construction, which oversees the maintenance of two coastal highways.
“Gadhafi has already secured his rule with a TV speech after the Tunisian revolt,” Hekimoğlu said. “He called on poor Libyans to claim their rights to public housing.”

After the call, thousands rushed into public housing units that were not even completed, according to Hekimoğlu. “Then, state officials visited the houses and registered them in the names of the occupiers. Gadhafi has managed to secure his position with this clever move.”

Meanwhile, the International Tripoli Building Expo, to be held Feb. 26 through March 1, is expecting huge participation from Turkish companies undeterred by the risks in the region. The expo is organized by the state-owned Organization for Development of Administrative Centers, which reportedly has $50 billion in its coffers to spend for infrastructure projects.

Speaking to the Daily News, Tuba Negiz, a director at Istanbul-based Pyramids Fair company, which organizes Turkish attendance at the event, said the expo would attract more Turkish businesses to the country since Libya is “the safest harbor in the region.”

The North African country plans to build from scratch six cities around six oil fields, Negiz said, adding that Turkish firms are interested in taking “the lion’s share” in government bids.

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