Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has announced a 45 percent increase in the wages of some 700,000 public servants, the latest in a series of such announcements before critical elections scheduled for May 14.
Erdoğan announced at a meeting attended by Labor Minister Vedat Bilgin and representatives from some labor unions in Ankara on Tuesday that the minimum wage of a public servant would be TL 15,000 ($768) for the 2023-2024 period, which begins in July.
The minimum wage in Turkey is currently TL 8,500 ($435).
The president said his government would not let inflation take a toll on the lives of the people.
Turkey’s working classes have been hit the hardest by an economic crisis that saw the annual rate of inflation reach 85 percent last year. More than 40 percent of the country’s workforce earns the lowest income allowed by law.
Turkey’s official inflation slowed to 43.68 percent in April, according to official data.
In an apparent bid to woo disenchanted voters, Erdoğan has unleashed a wave of public spending in recent months to win back their support in the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for this Sunday.
“He [Erdoğan] is now throwing the kitchen sink, the cooker, the fridge and the entire contents of the Turkish house at this election,” emerging markets economist Timothy Ash tweeted, referring the frenzy of public spending Erdoğan has been making to win the vote.
Erdogan announces 45% hike in wages for 700k public sector workers. He is now throwing the kitchen sink, the cooker, the fridge and the entire contents of the Turkish house at this election. Lamb barrelling on GMO steroids, Turkish style.
— Timothy Ash (@tashecon) May 9, 2023
In March, he announced a TL 2,000 ($105) increase in pensions, bringing the lowest monthly pension to TL 7,500 ($393) and also promised yet another increase in the monthly minimum wage, which was fixed in December the last time.
In recent speeches and interviews Erdoğan has focused on the daily needs of the Turkish people and promised to relieve them financially and help them with other forms of assistance. He makes election promises to mitigate the effects of two powerful earthquakes that hit the country’s south in February, claiming more than 50,000 lives, and improve the economy.
Erdoğan, who has been in power for 20 years, is facing his toughest challenge yet as an increasing number of opinion polls show him running neck-and-neck or losing to the opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.
While the first decade of Erdoğan’s term was marked by rapid economic growth, prosperity has declined in the last 10 years, which has affected his popularity with voters. Many hold the president responsible for the country’s worst economic crisis in recent years and for a poor response to the earthquakes in February.
Erdoğan’s promises are seen as an attempt to win back the support of disappointed voters and secure his position as president for another term. Whether the moves will return dividends for him on May 14 remains to be seen.