Istanbul Municipal Council’s members from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have significantly decreased the municipality’s resources despite the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
During an extraordinary meeting of the council that was held to tackle the imbalance in the budget that occurred as a result of the pandemic on May 11, AKP members voted to decrease the municipality’s authority of borrowing from 4.6 billion Turkish Liras to 648 million.
While Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu is from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), AKP members hold majority in the municipal council.
Following the significant cut in resources, İmamoğlu reminded council members that the initial amount was accepted unanimously last year by the council.
“It was a meeting that the budget wasn’t handled realistically. I would like to share my sadness on that. We would want to hold a meeting that politics is not involved, but that wasn’t the case,” İmamoğlu said, adding that the pandemic cost the municipality 6.5 billion liras.
“We expect the number to grow. We don’t want charity from anyone. We are adopting decisions for the people and for the process to be managed,” he added.
Turkey reported its first coronavirus case on March 11 and subsequently implemented measures to halt the spread of the virus. Since hundreds of thousands of people were left unemployed and without income, municipalities launched donation campaigns to aid those in need.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP, however, prevented municipalities of the CHP to hold campaigns, saying that people can donate to the campaign launched by Erdoğan and that “there is no point in being a state within the state.”
‘This is a grave situation’
İmamoğlu on May 11 said the government didn’t allocate any resources to local authorities’ budgets, as he gave South Korea, which allocated 135 billion liras of resources to local authorities, as an example.
“This is a grave situation. Municipalities carry out daily works for the citizens. I should underline that these decisions will go down in history. This is wrong during the pandemic period,” he said, adding that the municipality is still struggling with the previous administration’s debts.
“We’ll get through this and we’ll save the municipality,” İmamoğlu added.
AKP members also trimmed the resources of the Istanbul Electric Tram and Tunnel Company (İETT), even though their usage have drastically decreased during the pandemic.