Vice President Fuat Oktay announced in reply to a question posed by a main opposition lawmaker that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s office has eight VIP aircraft in its inventory, the Sözcü daily reported on Tuesday.
The question was asked by Utku Çakırözer, a Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker from the western province of Eskişehir, during budget talks in parliament.
Oktay, who has not answered questions from MPs about Erdoğan’s VIP aircraft until now and has said in the past that “the subject in question falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure,” provided information about the president’s airplanes for the first time, Sözcü said.
“The fact that one person has the use of eight aircraft while our country struggles with an economic crisis and a pandemic points to luxury, lavishness and extravagance [on Erdoğan’s part]. While the president’s office has use of eight, the total number of VIP aircraft is at least 15 when we add those that belong to the ministries, General Staff and the police,” Çakırözer said in response.
The opposition MP further underlined that Turkey, which holds the world record for the number of official airplanes, spends millions of dollars for the maintenance of those aircraft.
“What needs to be done in this period of [economic] crisis is to decrease the number of aircraft. We should sell the redundant ones and use the money for the 83 million [citizens] in this difficult time,” Çakırözer said.
Turkey has long been suffering from an economic crisis that has worsened since the beginning of 2020, causing the country’s currency to lose 30 percent of its value against the US dollar. Turkey’s annual inflation jumped more than expected, to 14.03 percent, in November, its highest since August 2019 on the back of the Turkish lira’s depreciation.
Journalist Semra Topçu revealed in January 2020 that Turkey also had the highest number of official cars compared to other countries around the world, with a total of 125,000.
Topçu said Erdoğan’s office had use of 268 official cars in early 2020, while only two official vehicles had been used by the presidency when his Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002.
Erdoğan and his ruling AKP have long been criticized for spending taxpayers’ money on luxury transportation.