Gov’t orders 50 more luxury cars amid criticism of waste

Despite criticism that it wastes billions of lira every year on luxury items, the Turkish government is preparing to add 50 high-class armored automobiles to its official car fleet of nearly 9,000 vehicles, media reported on Sunday.

The Zaman daily revealed on Sunday that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is continuing to squander money on the purchase of new luxury cars for senior officials’ use. The daily recalled that the AK Party government had spared TL 3.3 billion from the state budget for luxury car purchases this year but the scale of purchases so far is about to exceed this allocated amount. Not only the government but also the Office of the Presidency under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been accused of spending extravagantly. Following a deal between the Turkish government and the German car maker Mercedes Benz in March, the State Supply Office (DMO) has placed an order for 8,895 vehicles to serve separate ministries as well as the police force. Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek earlier this year announced that the government had allocated a total of TL 3.3 billion in the 2015 budget for official vehicles, including procurements, repairs and maintenance work as well as gasoline costs. The Presidency will get two of the 50 new vehicles while the Prime Ministry and Foreign Ministry get 20 each, the Ministry of Internal Affairs will get five and the Justice Ministry four. Other beneficiaries include the Council of State, which will get two, while the Ministry of National Security and the Ministry of Transport will get one each. Critics who have slammed the AK Party’s reckless spending have included government spokesperson and Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, who will not feature in the new government to be formed after the June 7 general election if the AK Party is reelected. Arinc openly criticized the level of “reckless spending” in a speech in April: “Our government has presided over a number of successes but our report card on tackling wasteful spending has been poor.” Recently, the most notable budget-hogs have included the “Ak Saray” presidential palace, which Turkish chambers of architects claim has cost TL 5 billion instead of the official figure of TL 1.4 billion. Furthermore, TL 1 million was spent on an armored Mercedes Benz for the head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, Mehmet GOrmez, in December.

AK Party Deputy Chairman Ekrem Erdem in April added fuel to the controversy by stating that every minister needs a private plane, adding, quotwithout this, Turkey cannot grow.” A study conducted by the Center for Legal, Ethical and Political Studies (HESA) concluded that the massive misappropriation of funds in the government and pervasive corruption have resulted in a slowing of economic growth from 5 percent to 1.7 percent on a year-on-year basis. The study announced on Tuesday by Professor ibrahim Cerrah, the president of HESA, provided a detailed account of the economic costs of tender rigging, corruption in the construction and contracting industries, tax evasion and irregularities in the advertising industry. The report underlined that the government resources collected from tax revenues were misdirected and misappropriated towards spending on a lavish palace, expensive planes for government leaders and luxury government vehicles. It also said the misappropriation of funds contributed to the dropping of per capita income in Turkey to below $10,000 in 2015.

Don’t be ungrateful, Erdogan chides protesting workers

President Erdogan took a brief break from a speech on Saturday to reprimand a group of subcontracted workers who demanded permanent jobs, telling them to stop being ungrateful. “Don’t be ungrateful. You have a job, don’t be ungrateful,” Erdogan told the group, who were shouting slogans demanding permanent jobs as he was delivering a speech to supporters in the southeastern province of Batman. Erdogan told them to follow statements made by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoilu on the issue and said that “steps will be taken after the elections” on June 7. “Stop the provocation. Twenty to 30 people come together and engage in provocation,” Erdogan said angrily. The workers were reportedly employed by a company on behalf of the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO). Subcontracted workers, whose numbers across Turkey have surged in the past years, are frequently denied social security, insurance and overtime benefits that a salaried or staff worker is entitled to.