18 Aralık 2014
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A Seaside View - Alanya

Donna Boyle

Which way is progress? An offensive against illegal workers hit foreign residents this month. The days of working without a permit and "staying under the radar" are over: Europeans who want to work in the sun would be well-advised to give Alanya a pass and head for a European Union member country instead. Two young Danes, both new to the country, were deported for working illegally at a real estate agency. Another Danish-owned agency was closed down as a punishment for employing foreigners without permits. The case of several Germans, discovered working during a raid on a marketing and news office, is still under investigation and they await their fate. Some foreigners have established Turkish limited companies to sell real estate, and assumed that if they invested money in the country and employed Turkish staff, then obtaining a work permit would not be impossible; or at the very least, that their contribution to the local economy would ensure some protection from deportation. They have had a rude awakening. While this is one sector where foreign staff can be a huge asset—working permission is rarely granted. Meanwhile, Turkish people of all trades, education and backgrounds are operating freely as real estate agents. Newly created jobs in the construction sector and other income created by the boom are dependent on future sales. Property owners are extremely valuable because they provide year-round income for the resort. It isn't unusual for new homeowners to spend 15,000 euros in two days on furniture alone. When it comes to property, every lost sale is a loss to the whole business community.

Alanya's current financial depression is partly the result of locals investing in 20,000 surplus properties—all standing empty and awaiting buyers. One day the town might do the math on how much this crackdown on foreign workers cost the resort and its people. Alanya's dual personality is also evident this month. The town has a strong ambition to achieve ‘il' status (meaning a regional administrative centre). But others oppose the changes that come naturally with growth. Last week protestors demonstrated against the opening of Koçtaş, a national chain store selling home improvement goods. Several associations of small businesses and grocers turned out to oppose the influx of superstores, such as Kipa, METRO and now Koçtaş. Anyone who has lived in Europe knows that convenient neighborhood stores sadly disappear once supermarkets come to town. In the UK we saw it happen in the early 1980s. These people are not protesting without good reason. Yet it is residents of Alanya who have embraced the culture of superstore shopping wholeheartedly.  Locals, accustomed to paying inflated resort prices, now have a wider choice of goods and pay the same price as city-dwellers. And the attraction isn't just about price. Families on Sunday outings to METRO enthuse over clothes and shoes which aren't particularly stylish or cheap, but which are displayed on shelves and rails you can touch. Yes, people of Alanya have discovered what foreigners already knew – a price on a label and nobody following you around the store makes for a more enjoyable shopping experience. Local entrepreneurs were not always opposed to large supermarkets. Fifty Alanya businessmen invested in a supermarket called "ALMAR." With its prime location in the town center, the store should have been successful. But management bravely decided to ignore fifty years of research in supermarket design and the store was run in a unique style. Luxury goods and underwear were placed at the entrance in the busiest aisle, fresh produce was hidden at the back and the fish and bread counters were put together. No soothing music for this store – just non-stop announcements listing the price of beans, lentils, rice… When the combination of smell of fish and bread and headache-inducing announcements failed to win customers' loyalty, the struggling store was sold off in its second year—to MAKRO—a retail giant of the type that protesters demonstrated against last week.