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Istanbul’s grand plan

The government of Turkey has plans to turn Istanbul into an international financial centre. The historical, geographic and political reasons behind the plan seem sound but the details suggest that practicalities might put the project out of reach. Nick Lord reports from Istanbul.

AT SOME STAGE in an emerging market’s development, a certain grandiosity takes hold of the governing class. The new airport has been built, the stock market is at all-time highs, the coffers are full and the rivals are creaking. The next must-have accessory is an international financial centre. Like a lottery winner buying the Bentley, countries want an IFC to show they’ve made it.

It is easy to sneer. The field of dreams approach (if we build it they will come), has come to naught in many countries. The Labuan IFC – built on a tropical island off the coast of Malaysia – is notable only for the eerie silence of nothing happening. The various IFCs set up in the Middle East have similarly been a triumph of money spent rather than finance raised.

Now Istanbul is staking its claim to develop the latest IFC. In October last year the government announced a plan to launch the Istanbul IFC Project through the launch of a Strategy and Action Plan. According to prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it is a "top priority and importance for our government". The project is at the heart of government: it features in the 2009 Action plan and the 2009-11 Medium Term Programme and is a key part of the government’s Ninth Development Plan 2007-13.

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