ABDuLKADIR – The AKP’s welfare and election economy

The AKP’s welfare and election economyThe ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has increased the amount of aid offered to the diverse disaantaged social groups in Turkey at an unprecedented rate over the past decade. Thanks to this aid, the conditions of these needy people have visibly improved.

However, this policy has led to some reactions in other social segments and to the perception that the AKP has actually bought the loyalty of the voters by way of aid.First, one thing should be underlined.

A total of 13 percent of the national income was allocated to aid in different categories in 2013 by this performance, Turkey is ranked as the fourth-lowest out of all the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)ountries in terms of the amount of aid it allocates, after Mexico, Chile and South Korea On average, OECD countries reserve 22 percent of their national income to the aid. This number reaches 30 percent in some welfare states, like France.

Though not a visible trend, we observe that developed nations reserve a greater amount of money to aid policies. Therefore, if Turkey has performed better in terms of development under AKP rule, then it is only normal that a greater amount of money would be dedicated to aid.

I think the primary reason for this response to the AKPand#39s aid is not an allocation of funds for the poor, but the belief that those who receive aid vote for the AKP in return. Given that the AKP governments have still won election victories despite poor performance in some areas since 2007, some political and social opposition groups have argued that people who received aid supported the AKP in the election these people were further accused of selling their votes in return for aid.

I should note that I do not agree with this accusation. It is, however, interesting to note that left-wingers, who are supposed to be sensitive to the rights of poor and disaantaged groups, and religious people, who are expected to extend their hands to oppressed people, are the ones raising these arguments.

Buying votes?Despite a growing amount of research focusing on the question as to why people become so poor that they would need aid, there is still no clear answer In addition to man-made factors, including extravagance and laziness, some uncontrollable factors — including socioeconomic situations, genetic inheritance, accidents, education and chance — also affect peopleand#39s economic conditions. Holding a kid with no hands responsible for his poverty in the future cannot be endorsed by any ethical system Likewise, it is not possible to hold people who were not able to obtain high-quality education because their fathers were alcoholics responsible for their poverty.

It is a reality that the socioeconomic status of individuals and their parents play a determinative role in their success.On the other hand, some argue that the AKP seeks to buy the votes and support of the people by relying on aid policies.

Above all, it should be noted that the policies a government pursues to attract popular support are legitimate. Therefore, I do not think that social policies are wrong, even if they are developed to obtain the support of the people.

On the other hand, it is also not strange for the people who receive aid to support the AKP. Governments offer different services to the people, by spending public money in a number of fields, including education, health, transportation, national security and culture.

Therefore, it is legitimate that the people who receive aid support the political actors that pay the greatest attention to their needs and priorities.But this does not mean that aid is distributed justly or that the system works properly or perfectly.

The problems observed in this system can be analyzed in three categories. First, the recipients of the aid are determined by the input of the AKPand#39s local party branches, rather than objective criteria Second, in the procurement of direct aid, funds are allocated to the AKP and the suppliers by means of corruption.

Third, there is a huge danger that aid could make the recipients poorer in the long term, because of the type of aid they receive. Because the first two criticisms refer to criminality, I would not be able to make any comment on them But I would say that there is more corruption in aid-related fields.

Income and wealth inequalityOn the other hand, I should note that I would agree with the third criticism suggesting that aid transforms acute poverty into chronic poverty. By a simple example, it could be said that a person who receives fish every day in the form of aid would never learn how to fish.

Developed nations acquired great experience on how aid should not be delivered in the 1970s and 1980s. In light of these experiences, they introduced radical changes to the forms and methods of the social aids.

However, based on my observations, I would say that Turkey has not used the experiences of the developed nations or of international institutions, including World Bank and the United Nations. By distributing aid to the poor, we actually hold their children hostage to poverty.

And, as a reflection, we face a long-term income inequality problem Academic works on income and wealth inequality show that in the AKPand#39s terms in office, there have been visible improvements in the economic situations of the social groups with the highest and lowest amount of income, whereas the middle class — the backbone of the society — is in decline.According to a report by Credit Suisse, Turkey has the gravest income inequality, after Russia In addition, this state of inequality has been exacerbated in the AKPand#39s terms in office.

The national income has grown by 5 percent in this era, but the average wages have increased only by 2 percent this shows another dimension of the problemLastly, criticisms raised by the opposition figures against the aid policies of the AKP refer to a problematic area in real political and ethical terms. These criticisms are not politically appropriate, because they intimidate 10 million people who receive aid and make them natural supporters of the AKP.

And they are not ethically proper because these criticisms prevent the allocation of the public resources, which belong to a sizeable social group.Abdulkadir Civan is an associate professor at Gediz Universityand#39s Department of Economic.

SOURCE: The East African