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HomeHeadlineThe Spatial Distribution of Capital in Turkey's Republic Centenary

The Spatial Distribution of Capital in Turkey’s Republic Centenary


Cuma Çiçek*

The Istanbul Chamber of Industry released the ISO500 data in September, which it has been publishing since 2008 and lists the largest 500 industrial companies in Turkey.[1] These data show that spatially significant inequalities have been built by the Republic, which has passed 100 years.

35.8% of the largest 500 companies are located in Istanbul alone. Istanbul, hosting 179 companies, is followed by Ankara with 44 companies, Izmir with 38 companies, and Kocaeli with 37 companies. In summary, Turkey has buried 59.6% of its large capital in the four major cities. However, only 33.10% of Turkey’s population lives in these four major cities. Capital concentration is almost double the population concentration, even when population concentration itself is a significant issue due to earthquake risks. In more striking terms, Turkey has concentrated approximately one-third of its population in its geographical area, but five-thirds of its large capital.

When we add 8 more provinces hosting 10 or more companies to these four major cities, the total number of companies reaches 420. This shows that 84% of the 500 companies are located in only 12 provinces within the 81 provinces. The remaining 80 companies are scattered among 34 provinces.

As you can see in Detail 1, the most striking aspect of the spatial distribution of Republican capital is that there is not a single major company in 35 provinces.

Detail 1: Distribution of Turkey’s largest 500 companies by province

The more striking issue is that the Kurdish region receives almost no share from large capital investments. Except for provinces located on the northern and western borders of the Kurdish region, such as Erzurum, Gaziantep, and Maraş, which have a significant number of Kurdish residents, Siirt is the only province in the Kurdish region that hosts one of the largest 500 companies.

Over the past century, Kurds have largely lost their symbolic capital, which includes their collective identity and their language as its main component. ISO500-2022 data show that Kurds experiencing symbolic/cultural resource loss have also not received a share from material capital sources. In summary, material and symbolic resource losses reinforce each other.

However, the spatial distribution of capital shows that the Kurdish region is not the only impoverished and deprived region.

Turkey’s capital is concentrated in four sub-regions. The first sub-region consists of the Istanbul-Kocaeli-Sakarya-Bursa axis, with 240 of the 500 companies, or approximately half, located in this sub-region.

The second sub-region is formed by Izmir-Manisa-Denizli, and the third sub-region is formed by Ankara and its surroundings. The last sub-region where capital is concentrated is the Hatay-Gaziantep-Kahramanmaraş-Osmaniye-Adana-Kayseri sub-region, located around the Iskenderun Gulf.

It can be said that a kind of fifth sub-region emerges in the area remaining between Ankara-Izmir-Hatay triangle. It is also possible to consider this region as the periphery of the mentioned four sub-regions. In this area, a kind of fifth sub-region can be claimed to have emerged, with the Eskişehir-Konya-Antalya-Mersin axis as its core. This fifth sub-region also plays a bridge role between the Ankara-Izmir-Hatay triangle and the southern coastal strip of these regions.

The spatial distribution of ISO100, which includes the largest 100 companies in Turkey, is even more distinct, as can be seen in Detail 2. Istanbul-Kocaeli, Ankara, Izmir, and Hatay clearly stand out from the remaining provinces. 76 out of 100 companies are located in these 5 provinces. The Istanbul-Kocaeli region, which has become a single region, hosts more than half of the largest 100 companies with 51 companies alone.

All of this data shows that approximately three-quarters of Turkey’s largest 100 companies are in 25 cities, with the remaining 56 cities not having large industrial enterprises on this scale. Moreover, 12 of the 56 provinces that do not host the largest 100 companies are metropolitan cities.

Detail 2: Distribution of Turkey’s largest 100 companies by province

Both maps show that there is a significant inequality in the spatial distribution of capital in Turkey. The region that suffers the most from this inequality is undoubtedly the Kurdish region. On the other hand, the Eastern Black Sea, Central Anatolia, and Inner Aegean regions also receive their shares of this inequality to varying degrees.

Furthermore, each region also exhibits enormous inequalities. According to the most recent data available in the TURKSTAT Geographic Statistics Portal as of 2021, the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in Turkey is $9,592. In Istanbul, this figure is $15,666, while in Kocaeli, it is $17,089.

Aside from Kars, Ardahan, Şırnak, and Hakkari, even neighboring provinces of the provinces that ISO500 focuses on clearly exhibit this inequality. For example, in the Izmir, Manisa, Denizli sub-region, the annual GDP per capita is $11,668, $9,378, and $8,663, respectively, while in Inner Aegean, which is adjacent to these provinces, Aydın has $6,444, Kütahya has $7,451, Afyon has $6,161, and Isparta has $6,870 per capita.

As the distance to industrial enterprises increases, the GDP per capita decreases: Yozgat has $4,869, Sinop has $5,119, Bingöl has $4,771, Kars has $4,611, Diyarbakır has $3,893, and Ağrı has $2,988.

The political conflicts and rivalries in Turkey primarily revolve around symbolic resources. It is important to consider these conflicts related to symbolic/cultural resources, such as language, religion, sect, and lifestyle, in conjunction with the distribution of material resources. If we want to preserve and enhance our symbolic/cultural resources and desire mutual recognition and coexistence, one of the first things we need to do is distribute capital.

We need to distribute the Republic’s capital; among regions, among provinces within each region, and among districts and neighborhoods within each province. Without distributing capital, it will be difficult to share political power/authority, establish balance, and ensure mutual control.”

[1] These data are publicly accessible on the internet. See: https://www.iso500.org.tr, access date: October 26, 2023. Information about the provinces where 16 of the listed 500 companies are located is not available. It is assumed that these companies are located in the provinces where their respective chambers of industry and commerce are located.

This article was originally published in Birikim Magazine and translated into English by Politurco.

Cuma Cicek is assistant professor in the Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences at Mardin Artuklu University, Turkey. He received his PhD from Sciences Po in Paris and has published several books in Turkish.

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