Choose what serves your purpose

Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek is an active Twitter user and I strongly recommend that you follow him to see how desperately a government member tries to polish statistics to make overtures to the electors.

He was cherry picking some statistics on Wednesday to show off how fabulous his government has performed in the economy. The rate of the population earning less than $4.3 a day was down from 30.3 percent in 2002 to 2.06 percent in 2013, he wrote. Those who made less than $2.15 comprised 3.04 percent of the population in 2002 and as of 2013, this rate was down to 0.06 percent, he asserted in another message.

A daily earning of $4.3 means roughly $130 per month and this is really not enough to meet even a fraction of the minimum conditions required for human dignity. But Simsek stopped there, without mentioning how the income distribution has actually evolved since the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came to power. Turkey is still the worst performing member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). There are 23 million people in Turkey living in poverty, but they are out of the minister’s scope. How about the desperately jobless youth? Forget them also. The high cost of living? No word about it. Let’s hear about the overwhelmingly high taxes then, for which you are responsible. Maybe some other time.

The same Simsek last week tried to convince his voters that raising the minimum wage to the level promised by the main opposition — TL 1,500 — would be “torture for the workers.”

The numbers are there for those who want to see them. If the GDP growth rate has truly been reflected in the minimum wage for the last 35 years as is, it should have at least been TL 1,800, whereas it is now less than TL 950, a number even the pro-government president doesn’t know. So, I guess the minister meant quottorture for employers,quot but his tongue became twisted.

The main opposition is taking on the government from the economy front, wittingly and wittily. However, I sense a pernicious despair in the discourse of some opposition supporters that no matter how bad the economy gets, people will still vote for the AK Party. This is not entirely the case.

A Deutsche Bank study released early this year found a close correlation between the overall condition of the economy, which it measured through a sui generis “macro momentum index,” and the votes the incumbent party has garnered in elections since it came to power. Whenever the economy’s performance turned positive, popular support for the government also rose and vice versa.

Economist Mahfi Eiilmez published a similar study in his personal blog “Kendime Yazilar” (Articles for Myself) two weeks ago to gauge how sensitive ruling party supporters were to GDP growth. The correlation coefficient between AK Party votes and the GDP growth rate was 0.81, which indicates that changing political preferences was much easier for floating voters in times of economic setbacks.

Substantiating such statistical approaches, a number of recent surveys conducted to predict the results of the upcoming election, even those conducted by companies known for their ties to the AK Party, have all shown a decline in the popular support for the AK Party. Add to this that political commentators from various walks of life seem increasingly confident that a coalition government is becoming more likely with every passing day. Indeed, as the prospect of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) surmounting the 10 percent election threshold increases, inflicting serious damage to the AK Party, even making it impossible for the party to obtain a majority in Parliament, discussions over possible coalition scenarios have become more heated than ever.

The economy is not doing well, and this is no secret. Every passing month key indicators point to the deepening deterioration of the economic situation in the country. Yes, manufacturing industry production was better than expected in March and automotive sales enjoyed a tremendous hike last month, but these are not enough to reflect the picture in its entirety. We need to be careful as the rate of industrial production may still be a flash in the pan. Also, remember there was a jump in automotive sales to record levels a few months prior to the financial crisis in 2001.

Domestic demand is getting weaker, unemployment is stubbornly above 10 percent and the economic confidence index is at the worst level in years, even close to the crisis of 2008. So opposition parties must place more emphasis on their rhetoric to speak to the economic woes of the masses. That the president blatantly accused them of “buffoonery” for their election commitments is nothing but a sign that they are on the right track.

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN