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Opposition slams Erdoğan for exempting presidency from new austerity measures

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has attracted criticism from opposition politicians for keeping the presidency, which according to local reports spends TL 10 million ($1,148,264) daily, exempt from the latest austerity measures introduced for state institutions and organizations.

In the circular from Erdoğan on the austerity measures to be imposed on state institutions and organizations to facilitate the effective, economic and efficient use of public resources, which was on Wednesday published in the Official Gazette, the presidency and the parliament were exempted from the measures.

The circular bans the purchase of newspapers by state institutions other than library documentation centers and organizations involved in media monitoring as well as the publishing of reports, books, magazines, bulletins and similar publications aimed at promoting administrative activities, saying that instead they will be prepared and shared electronically.

It also aims to decrease the number of official vehicles of state institutions by 20 percent by the end of 2023 and prohibits those institutions from buying, expropriating or leasing new land to build public service buildings, lodging, civil servant accommodation, camps, nurseries and the like.

According to the circular, excursions, cocktails and meals won’t be categorized under other names due to activities related to openings, conferences, seminars, anniversaries and similar celebrations, except for international events and national holidays.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Seyit Torun on Tuesday said Erdoğan’s move to exempt himself from the austerity measures stated in the circular amounted to the president openly stating that he will continue wasting public resources.

“Those who wasted all of our country’s resources during their 19-year rule are now talking about austerity,” Torun said, adding that it was “insincere” for Erdoğan and his ruling party to introduce austerity measures for those in the public sector while they themselves were living a luxurious life.

“The first thing to do to save money isn’t halting the purchase of daily newspapers, but to cut down on the luxury expenditures of the palace. Start by reducing the palace’s fleet of luxury planes and helicopters by half,” CHP deputy group chairman Özgür Özel tweeted, addressing Erdoğan.

“The palace, which costs the country TL 10 million per day, was exempted from austerity [measures],” Veli Ağbaba,  deputy chairman of the CHP, said, adding that Erdoğan decides to cut down on the use of paper in the public sector while using Mercedes as official cars in addition to private planes and building new palaces across the country.

Turkish taxpayers, who have already paid TL 125 million ($14.3 million) for the construction of a new palace in the Ahlat district of Bitlis province in eastern Turkey, will spend another TL 99 million ($11.3 million) on the presidential complex this year, according to the 2021 Investment Program signed by Erdoğan.

The measures come amid an already deteriorating economy in Turkey, where double-digit inflation and a slump in the lira’s value are affecting the standard of living, putting many people into poverty.

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