Diesel fuel prices and the elections

The price of diesel fuel has been one of the main topics of discussion during the June 7 parliamentary election campaign. The ruling party and the two major opposition parties have insistently promised that they will do whatever they can to lower the price of diesel fuel. Personally speaking, as my car runs on diesel, I would welcome such an initiative no matter who undertakes it. We all know that Turkey is dependent on foreign oil as our national reserves are quite limited. That is why the Turkish economy always suffers from the instability of the world oil market, as well as because of the rising value of the US dollar. Moreover, taxes on oil in Turkey are among the highest in the world. As a matter of fact, the taxes on diesel fuel used in cars are very high, much higher than in Europe, while the taxes for diesel fuel used in small factories and tractors are much lower than in Europe. It seems that the state decided long ago to help farmers by overtaxing those who live in urban areas. That is why some people claim these taxes are essentially being collected in the west to finance those in the east. When politicians talk about slashing diesel fuel prices, they probably think about the fuel used by agricultural producers who have faced many challenges in recent years amid droughts and disappointing yields. In other words, they don’t really care about the amount of money we pay in big cities to drive our cars. That said, let’s try to find out how on earth they will manage to lower fuel prices. There are only three possible ways to achieve that: Maybe someone has discovered incredible oil reserves somewhere in Turkey. As far as we know, that hasn’t happened. The second way may be to reduce the taxes for fuel used in agriculture. That will mean, however, that the urban population will have to pay more. The third way may be to turn a blind eye to fuel smuggling. Perhaps that is the reason why the pro-Kurdish opposition party has never made any comment on fuel prices: They are the best people to know all about the fuel “trade” along Turkey’s southern border. This is not about accusing anyone as there are many players involved in smuggling, from those who take the real risks to those who receive “gifts” in exchange for looking the other way. Everyone who lives in the Southeast is well aware of how this works. That’s why the talk about lowering fuel prices does not fool those living in the villages as everyone knows what can and can’t be done. Thus it is hard to understand why all political parties have continued to dwell on it since the 1970s. In every election I have witnessed in my lifetime, politicians have promised lower fuel prices, but no one has never been able to test if farmers do really vote according to these promises. We are not an oil producing country that can manipulate the oil market, nor are we a major consumer that can do the same. Besides, the voting behavior of Turks is in many ways similar to that of Europeans. Yet I’ve never heard a Belgian, Portuguese or Austrian politician talking about cheaper diesel. So is it really meaningful for Turkish politicians to repeat the same promise for the hundredth time for populist purposes? The problem, unfortunately, is that there are no mechanisms in Turkey that sanction politicians who have not kept their promises. The only hope is sanctioning them in the next elections. However, as Turkey has many problems, when the next election arrives people have already forgotten all about the promises of the last election. So politicians keep promising cheaper diesel. In the meantime, we can only dream about better prices while purchasing our fuel every morning.

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN