TURKEY

Yıldırım to invest in youth if elected on March 31

The ruling Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) Istanbul mayoral candidate for the March 31 elections, Binali Yıldırım, is preparing to invest in students and young people with his projects for Turkey's commercial capital and the most populous city.

Speaking on a panel to exchange opinions with young people, Yıldırım yesterday shared his projects aiming to make Istanbul a more student-friendly city. Pointing out that the university students have extensively contributed to Turkey, Yıldırım highlighted that these students will carve out the future of Turkey.

Stressing that knowledge is power, Yıldırım said "we give utmost importance to libraries. We will also increase the number of libraries in the city. We will set up the biggest libraries of Turkey in Istanbul with over 7 million books."

Noting that small libraries will be also established near subway stations, Yıldırım stressed that people getting on the subway may take the books with them and later return them after reading.

Turkey is among the countries with the fewest public libraries compared to its population, although libraries have started to thrive in recent years. A few libraries offer 24-hour service, such as the Istanbul University Library, while some others like the Turkish Diyanet Foundation Center for Islamic Studies library, remain open only until 23:00 p.m. The country has long sought to increase reading among the public despite the rise in book sales. During his election campaign earlier this year, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan introduced what he called "public coffee houses" that are designed to be culture-savvy places. Originally started in the last days of the Ottoman Empire as places for intellectuals, coffee houses devolved into tea houses where men gamble, sip tea and watch TV.

Touching upon his projects on technology, Yıldırım underlined that Istanbul will become an "online" city and a world brand attached to it. In addition to science and technology centers, Yıldırım said that TL 500 million was allocated for building a data center in Bayrampaşa to analyze and draw conclusions from more than 30 million data circulating in the city.

Accordingly, Yıldırım has taken the first step in his efforts to make the municipality more involved in technology and innovative activities by opening a YouTube account. In his first video, Yıldırım discussed the history of Istanbul and historical monuments in the city with the renowned historian İlber Ortaylı. Yıldırım highlighted that he has many projects for preserving the historical heritage and is expected to continue shooting his videos.

On the panel he attended, Yıldırım also added that students can benefit from the municipal gyms and sports facilities free of charge by showing their student identification documents.

In relation to the traffic problem of the city, Yıldırım indicated that the definite solution for the traffic problem is a well-equipped transportation system. He stressed that his aim is to increase railway systems to 518 kilometers, which will result in a 35 percent decrease in the heavy volume of the traffic. Istanbul, Turkey's most populated city with more than 15 million inhabitants has been notorious for its massive volume of traffic. It also has the largest number of motor vehicles compared to other cities in Turkey, at more than 4.1 million. However, thanks to a set of preventative measures and recent projects by Istanbul municipality, the city has seen a 17 percent drop in traffic jams.

Commenting on the projects for people with disabilities, Yıldırım stressed that they "will first lift the limits in their minds and the rest will be a lot easier." Reminding listeners of some previous projects carried out by the AK Party, Yıldırım highlighted that thanks to his party, the infrastructure of the city has been re-arranged for disabled people and opportunities for employment in the public sector were increased to over 50,000. He added his main objective will be to increase equal social opportunities and increase the participation of people with disabilities in social life.

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