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Erdoğan says ‘petty desires’ are behind Turks emigrating abroad

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Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is criticized for a lavish lifestyle funded by Turkish taxpayers, has said “petty desires” are behind Turks seeking to move to other countries, local media reported.

“I feel sorry for people who go to other countries just to drive a better car, buy a newer phone, go to more concerts based on their ‘petty desires’,” Erdoğan said, speaking at the inauguration of a hospital in Ankara on Wednesday.

Public surveys show that most of Turkey’s younger generation wants to move abroad amid the deteriorating quality of life in Turkey, which has a record level of inflation, around 80 percent in August, and high unemployment.

One such survey, conducted by the Turkey office of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS), a German political foundation, published in February said the majority of Generation Z in Turkey, which includes people between the ages of 18 and 25, wants to live abroad.

According to the survey 72.9 percent of Turkey’s 7-million-strong Generation Z, the majority of whom will be voting for the first time in the 2023 elections, said they would like to live in another country if given the opportunity.

When asked about their motivation for living abroad, 32.4 percent of participants said it was the quality of life in the country they wanted to live in, which they said was better than  the situation in Turkey.

Erdoğan, his family and the government are frequently criticized for wasting taxpayer money on luxury and mismanaging Turkey’s resources.

Barış Atay, a lawmaker from the Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP), slammed Erdoğan for his remarks targeting people who seek a better life abroad without looking at his own lifestyle.

“You travel in a [convoy] of 300 vehicles, live in an illegal palace with 1,100 rooms and spend TL 10 million [$539,000] a day. And you dare criticize people who have to move abroad due to concerns about supporting themselves here?” Atay tweeted, calling on Erdoğan to stop such talk.

According to a recent audit report released by the Court of Accounts, the presidency spent TL 10.1 million ($539,000) a day in 2020.

Erdoğan’s luxurious presidential palace and the large convoys that accompany him during his travels in Turkey and abroad are frequent subjects of debate in Turkey at a time of increasing poverty in the country.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Alpay Antmen also referred to the contradiction in Erdoğan’s remarks and his lifestyle given the fact that three of his four children studied university abroad and own property in Europe and the United States.

“Turkish children can’t even afford to eat at a restaurant or buy a cup of coffee because they’re so expensive,” said Antmen.

Tuncay Özkan, an advisor to CHP chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, said Erdoğan, who criticizes people for moving to abroad for a better life, had an 1,100-room palace built for himself in addition to having for separate summer and winter mansions.

Erdoğan’s presidential complex in Ankara was at the center of criticism when it was constructed due to its large budget, expensive interiors, more than a thousand rooms and luxurious design as well as the felling of trees in its neighborhood.

Over TL 1.7 billion ($244 million) had been spent on the palace, twice the original estimate, when Erdoğan moved into it in November 2014.

It was also built in part of the historic Atatürk Forest Farm (AOÇ), protected land that was one of the most well-preserved green spaces in Ankara.

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