Turkey for sale by auction

Every month, millions of square meters of land belonging to Turkey’s Treasury are sold. When unemployment and poverty are at a record high, the most valuable public properties are shared among the rich via ‘land auctions,’ putting agricultural production and food safety at risk.

There is another question which is as central to the current “Where’s the 128 billion dollars of the Central Bank?” debate. Every month, millions of square meters of land belonging to Turkey’s Treasury are sold. To whom? During a period where unemployment and poverty are at a record high, the most valuable public properties are shared among the rich via ‘land auctions.’ A hayloft in central Anatolian town of Niğde, and the shores of Bodrum are listed on the market at the same time. The rush to sell is so intricate that it’s difficult to follow the transactions.

The sale of such lands is a grave problem that will negatively affect the country’s future. Public properties are being transferred to private hands and this change puts agricultural production and food safety at risk. This is one of the dark holes that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has created regarding Turkey’s future.

According to the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, Directorate General of National Property, tenders will be held for 1,103 properties, that will be sold in the next 10 days. The area of land to be sold is 2.13 million square meters. Some 6,779 properties are listed for upcoming tenders. There are building plots, fields, houses, vineyards, shrubberies, and farms among them. In the midst of economic crisis, sales at the shores and bays have soared. Most of the land sold is close to olive groves, forests, and protected areas. One of the recent Treasury lands that went out to tender is in the Kargı bay of the highly popular Datça in the south west of the country. Similar tenders are held for popular places such as Alaçatı, Kaş, Çeşme, and Bodrum that increase the appetite of tourism and construction companies.

Let’s now take a closer look at how these public lands are being sold…

Which method?

Every possible method has been used in order to sell public properties. The government makes amendments to the Tourism Incentives Law, the Shore Protection Law, transfers Treasury property to the Housing Development Administration (TOKİ), creates extra development land via urban transformation, renews industrialization subsidies, pretends as if they are creating new agricultural and forestry areas, income partnerships with constructors, and 2B regulations. All of these methods are put to use in order to sell public property.

The government’s targeted land has reached an alarming level. The National Property General Directorate’s activity report stated that 59.6 billion square meters of 3.4 million pieces of Treasury land are to be sold. The portfolio and distribution of public property gives us an idea about the threats hidden in these transactions. The number of public properties registered under the Treasury grows every year. This means that the state owns up to its properties, but the real reason behind this ongoing registration is to have more registered properties to sell.

Forests make up 77 percent of all public land that the Treasury owns. The land that is suitable for development and construction makes up 12.5 percent. 

Since we know the government’s mentality, we can assume that they will sell everything other than forests, the sale of which is highly improbable. The National Property General Directorate’s preparations prove this assumption. The Treasury owns 33.4 percent of the area of all 81 provinces in Turkey. Approximately 8 percent of this figure is immovable, not forests. Turkey’s regime change from parliamentary democracy to the so-called presidential government system two years ago has given the president the sole authority to determine the boundaries of the forests. We may conclude that this one-man rule endangers the forests as well. This system could open-up our forests for sale.

How much public property has been sold in 19 years?

Direct sales via official tenders are done according to the Regulation of the Treasury Real Estate Management (2007), which is based on Article 2886 of the Public Procurement Law (1983). This regulation excludes incentives, allocations, and transfers to TOKİ. The National Property General Directorate has carried out sales according to this regulation since 2008.

Between 2002 and 2020, excluding incentives, allocations, barters, grants, etc., 196,306 pieces of property comprising 1.98 billion square meters were sold. The reason for these sales is said to be privatization. When private capital buys Turkey’s institutions, the most lucrative part of these sales are the buildings and the plots that belong to those institutions.

The National Property sold 89,653 immovables comprising 337.77 million square meters after the regulation change in 2007. The 2B sales since 2012 are not included in these figures. The 2B sales are done after forest fires. Some 559,289 pieces of land corresponding to 2.16 billion square meters were sold according to the 2B regulations as of end of 2019.

Revenue from sales

Let’s look at the National Property Directorate’s revenue after these sales. The revenue from sales in 2008 was 214.76 million liras. Until 2013, revenue did not exceed 1 billion liras. An increase in sale revenue began with the economic crisis. The revenue until the end of 2020 was 3.35 billion liras. When we analyze direct sales closer, then the AKP government’s aim becomes clear.

The revenue from the sale of 89,653 pieces of land with a surface area of 337.7 million square meters after 2007 was 18.8 billion liras. There’s a significant detail here: The estates that were sold between 2008 and 2011 are much bigger both in number and surface area compared to those sales realized in the last three years. But the revenue of those sales makes up only 10 percent of the total sale revenue brought in the last three years.

There’s a reason for this: The Treasury lands were allocated mainly to energy, highway, airport, and tourism projects and to TOKİ contractors in those years. The estates that the National Property Directorate sold at that time were mainly houses, fields, shrubbery, etc. in Anatolia. The public properties listed for sale during economic crisis periods have a very high revenue value. Our shores, resorts, areas around bays, and places in the heart of the cities are on the tender lists now. Actual change in ownership happens in those places.

Does selling public properties at their lowest price during the worst economic crisis and a devastating pandemic read anything other than ‘dirt cheap?’

When there is a change in the government, you can cancel the tenders, track those people who are responsible for the erosion of 128 billion dollars of central bank reserve money and even stop mega projects. But, can it be that easy to redeem those public properties which have already become private?

March 11, 2021 A poisonous cocktail