Where is the money that was collected for earthquake relief? Where could it have gone in a city like Elazığ, eastern Turkey, which is located on tectonic fault lines? In fact, by the time we’re able to answer this question, we will have understood further questions related not only to the Elazığ earthquake but to the expected major Istanbul earthquake and to the country’s climate policies.
Thanks to a Special Communication Tax that was introduced after the 1999 earthquake that was later made permanent, some 67.5 billion Turkish Liras have been collected up to now for earthquake relief. When converted to 2019 values and prices, this figure corresponds to 140,171,000,000 liras.
Yet this money has not been spent on earthquake relief and preparedness. As it went into the general budget, it is impossible to determine exactly how it was spent. The former Minister of Finance Mehmet Şimşek once said the money had been spent on education, health and infrastructure. But the state has withdrawn from the sectors of health and education to a great extent, though it continues to build highways.
The sum should have amounted to 140.2 billion liras and if one looks deeper into state expenditures, one understands what minister Şimşek meant. In 2018, prior to the elections, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) issued a report on its performance. I conducted a general analysis of this study entitled “Confessions of the AK Party” (AK Parti’nin itirafları: İcraatlar) before the election on June 24 that same year.
That report clearly shows that the AKP chose to allocate resources to asphalt and concrete in urban areas.
A similar examination can be conducted for Elazığ. As of 2018, Elazığ had a population of 595,683 of which some 350,000 lived in urban areas. Up to 2018, 18.1 billion liras were invested into city. But within 17 years, only 171 million liras had been allocated to the health of Elazığ’s residents. Virtually no money had been spent on health in this province. Instead, the state allowed construction companies to take over the field through the construction of city hospitals.
More money was spent on education, though, amounting to a total of 450.1 million liras, most of which went to the construction of schools. The AK Party is so proud of its school constructions that it boasts of 2,289 classrooms being built in their era. Yet with 10 schools that were damaged and knocked down following the earthquake, it again seems that money was spent not on education, but on contractors.
Quite obviously, the state has not invested for people of Elazığ. But if it has neglected education and health, where did the money go? To asphalt and concrete.
The state has spent 1 billion 200 million liras through TOKİ, Turkey’s Mass Housing Administration. Still, one cannot say this served to build houses, as rental aid was only granted to 682 families. Instead, TOKİ money was spent on such investments as the “Millet Bahçesi” – city parks and public gardens designed by the AKP.
The state spent 3 billion liras through İlbank, a state-owned development and investment bank. The bank has spent 435 million liras itself, and with the rest of the money, it funded special provincial administration and municipality expenditures. If it remains questionable whether or not it has solved the city’s infrastructure problem, there is no question that adequate resources have been allocated to contractors.
The state has spent 3 billion and 710 million liras on transportation and communication projects. Assuming this was spent on communication, one would imagine Elazığ to be endowed with a space satellite: India sent a satellite to Mars that cost 73 million dollars. And as 3.7 billion Turkish liras is worth approximately 950 million dollars, we could had sent more than 10 satellites into space! Yet Elazığ does have one.
In short, in 17 years, 18.1 billion liras were spent in Elazığ, though not on earthquake preparedness. While little money was spent on health and education, 8 billion liras were spent on concrete works such as city parks and double highways.
Today, Ankara is not Wuhan. Wuhan is a good example compared to our capital city. Today, Ankara is a construction site. Ankara residents have to remind the city again that they do not want a municipal administration that works for contractors — alongside a presidential system that works for contractors.
This good news about the discovery of natural gas reserves in the Black Sea at the same time means a disaster for the environment. Turkey is a country in which environmental protection standards are very low, and it cannot control even this. This project will be the end of the Black Sea.
As Turkish politics have been reduced to a binary dichotomy between the government bloc and the opposition, İYİ Party plays a somewhat unifying and dampening effect in that regard. But while the government is out of touch with the people, the opposition is not tuned in with it either.
In the past four months, none of our municipalities prepared the infrastructure for washing our hands. They were not able to meet the sidewalk conditions of 1.5 meters width for the social distancing of pedestrians. Almost all of our 1,397 municipalities have failed according to these criteria, including opposition ones.
Even though there are now 163,000 cases detected in Turkey and even more cases that are undetected, the malls are opening. At what cost and for whose sake they are opening? It is quite apparent that they are not opening for our sake; the data is clear. When you review the equation from the point of view of the novel coronavirus, then you have five huge reasons not to step inside these malls.
In Turkey, the pandemic seems to have also opened asphalt season for some local administrations. Municipalities regarded this period as a huge opportunity to pave asphalt.
The Energy Ministry’s 2019-2023 Strategic Plan tells us a lot about the government's intentions. It is obviously a plan that still insists on coal and hydroelectric power policies, and that has solar and wind energy only as an accessory. The climate crisis is not even mentioned.
The first coronavirus month in Turkey will be recorded in history as the month of opportunism, the month of abusing a pandemic. It kept some of its people at home and others at mines and factories, turning the country into a labor camp. Only the local administrations were left, but there were policies to curb their powers as well.
As a host to 85 percent of all international travels, Istanbul has become an attraction center for coronavirus. And as a host to 38 percent of Turkey’s domestic travels, Istanbul spread the virus to the rest of the country.
The Turkish government has not taken steps related to the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak. They actually took steps in the opposite direction asking people to do their own homework and resisting a total lockdown in the country. Meanwhile, the opposition self-quarantined itself politically.
Both the stage that the capitalism has reached globally and Turkey’s implementation of it, cannot be neglected while discussing the underlying factors which tie the climate crisis and the COVID-19 outbreak to each other.
In 2019, the number of issues broke the record with 935 extreme meteorological issues recorded in Turkey. That's 9 times the overall number recorded for the second half of the 20th century. Last year, floods occurred in cities including Ordu, Düzce, Trabzon, Antalya and Mersin that cost the lives of many people.
While Russia needs to sell its energy to Turkey, the US must stay within the Middle East to get its oil. That is why they are both seeking Turkey on their side.At the moment, Turkey is paying for the Syrian war with its loved ones and poverty. It is only by achieving peace with its neighbors that we can attain a win-win situation.
Kanal Istanbul is a project based on unjust profit-earning that is well-known first to Turkish companies, followed by Arab, European, and even Pakistani capital owners. But we still don’t know the full truth of what is going on with the project. Good that we do not know, because if we did, the Kanal Istanbul project would end immediately.
According to OECD data, Turkey allocated 289 million dollars for waste management in 2008. Ever since, the country has developed and grown, right? Despite this, the money allocated for waste management fell to 147 million dollars in 2015. We have a government that does not want to manage waste and spend money on it. Burying trash is easy; the soil is free.
President Erdoğan's government recently suffered two fiascos, one involved thermal power plants while the other had to do with a plan to rescue the private company “Simit Sarayı”. So why would it press forward with the Kanal Istanbul project?
It is possible for us to close down all coal mines! The way to this has been paved with the veto on the proposed bill. But if we leave public policy unattended and representatives continue to leave parliament seats empty, the opposite will happen. I should point out as a warning that, just like the Environment and City Planning Minister could actually be referring to the business schedule when he says “we installed a filter in 6 months,” a similar wordplay could be at hand with the veto. We will go after the answer together, I promise.
We know how much the ministry earned from shopping bags in the first nine months of the year. At 25 kuruş (cents) for each nylon bag, 15 kuruş were deposited to the ministry and the total was 188 million lira. You heard it right, 18.8 billion kuruş.
The Ministry of Forestry routinely opens up forest ecosystems for economic exploitation. It distributes permits to use forests for mineral exploitation, mining, construction and even for oil drilling. In 2012, 2,810 permits were granted for those purposes. Between 2012 and 2018, that number rose to 18,515.
The government has found a way to take back the Bosphorus after losing İstanbul elections. The Ministry of Environment and Urbanization has drafted a 28 point legislative proposal called the Boshporus Law. With the new law, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and four provinces no longer have any authority in the Bosphorus.
Volkswagen's investment plan in Turkey is a scandal. It is no less than an attempt to rescue a drowning company ensnared in corruption. While the Turkish public will bear the economic costs of this plan, environmental damage will also be caused.
Erdoğan changed the climate of the UN Climate Action Summit. He talked about how he multiplied fossil fuels and how not recycling waste is a good thing, and he put concrete as a policy on the world stage.
Turkey wants to be a party to the Paris Agreement as the structure of the deal allows countries to increase emissions. Turkey, which is among the 12 countries that have not yet joined the agreement, had added 193.5 million tons to climate changing greenhouse gases in last 20 years before 2010.