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Recovery from Türkiye quake will take years

Along road Winding through the pine-covered hills north of Nur Daghi, one of Turkey’s towns devastated by an earthquake in early February, bulldozers are digging the ground to clear the way for new public housing. Once completed, the houses will accommodate approximately 450 displaced families. But more is needed. The earthquake destroyed more than a thousand buildings in Nurdagi. The rest were too damaged to stand. A local official said none of the larger buildings were safe. The entire town, which was home to 40,000 people on the eve of the earthquake, had to be demolished before it could rise again.

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“We will rebuild from the ground up,” Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, promised during a visit to the devastated area in February. “Give us a year.” Two months later, much of the 200 million tons of rubble covering the area has been removed and construction has begun on the outskirts of some towns, a drive through the area showed. But the looming challenge is more daunting than Mr Erdogan has suggested. Assuming he survives the upcoming presidential election, scheduled for May 14, the Turkish leader will need more than a year and a lot of outside aid to deliver on his promise.

On an area of ​​110,000 square kilometers, roughly the size of Bulgaria, more than 300,000 buildings have been destroyed, damaged beyond repair or planned for demolition. More than 50,000 people died and another 3 million were displaced. A recent report by the Turkish Strategy and Budget Office put the reconstruction cost at $104 billion, or 11% of Turkey’s reconstruction cost. gross domestic productand predicted the disaster would knock at least a percentage point off this year’s growth rate.

No one thinks Mr Erdogan’s timetable is realistic. The number of houses that need to be built exceeds the number of housing permits issued in the whole of Turkey last year, Turkish researcher Burku Aydin Ozudoglu said. TEPAV, a think tank. Mustafa Ozcelik, president of the local architects’ association, estimates that in places like Antakya, a city of 400,000, most residents are now largely empty, replaced by Homes and heavy machinery were destroyed, and the cleanup alone will take another six months. Only about half of the rubble has been removed. Much of the old city remains inaccessible, even on foot, with streets and alleys clogged with debris. Analysts say rebuilding will take up to five years.

Reconstruction costs will widen budget deficit, expected to hit 3.5% gross domestic product This year, even before the earthquake, it was at least a few percent off. Mitigating the impact of future disasters, especially in Istanbul, where the risk of a major earthquake is alarmingly high, will require more spending. Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu estimates that earthquake resistance for the city’s aging housing stock, especially the 90,000 buildings most likely to collapse, could cost more than $19 billion.

Most of the money for reconstruction will have to come from abroad.this European Union Other foreign donors have pledged about $7.6 billion in funding, in addition to a $1.6 billion loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and a $1.8 billion loan from the World Bank. But coming up with additional financing would be costly and difficult for a government that scares away foreign investors by removing the independence of the central bank, slashing interest rates amid soaring inflation and draining reserves to control the exchange rate of. Türkiye can still borrow in international markets, but at high prices. Foreign investors can earn yields in excess of 9 percent on dollar-denominated Turkish bonds.

Mr Erdogan has the option of trying to squeeze some money out of domestic banks. Over the past year, the government has forced Turkish banks to buy government bonds at ridiculously low interest rates. It could do this again to help pay for rebuilding. However, this would severely overwhelm the banks and only meet a fraction of the government’s needs. “We need external financing,” says Kamil Yilmaz of University College Cork. “But under current policy, that cannot happen.”

Mr Erdogan has a month to let voters decide whether to entrust the construction work to him. He must have felt the pressure. In late March, he presided over the groundbreaking of a new hospital outside Antakya. It was later learned that the tender for the hospital had not yet been carried out.

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