Law to take revenge on chambers

Law to take revenge on chambers

In the first minutes of Wednesday, an omnibus bill was passed in Parliament – I wonder which umpteenth omnibus bill this was – and a clause was added regarding the Chambers of Engineers and Architects. From now on, projects and plans do not need to be endorsed at engineering chambers; since there will not be any approval and permit procedures, the chambers will not be able to charge any fees from project owners.
The aim of this bill is to cut the incomes of chambers to a huge extent.

According to Article 33 on the Law on the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB), dated 1954, it was required that every engineer and every architect in Turkey register with a relevant chamber and become a member in order to do their profession. This article remained as so for 60 years; only in 1983 was a paragraph added and those who worked at public institutions were exempt from registering with a chamber.

When membership fees were not adequate to meet the costs of the chambers, a directive was issued that introduced an obligation that every study, plan, map and project be submitted for the approval of a public agency had to be endorsed by the chambers. Now, this rule is being lifted.

Let me write for my readers that I am a civil engineer. Some 50 years ago, I was also a member of the executive board of the Istanbul branch of the Chamber of Civil Engineers. When I moved to industry management, my relationship with the chamber was cut.

I guess it was at the end of the 1960s; we prepared and submitted a proposal to the general assembly of the chamber. It was against the monopolist mentality of the law; it suggested that the obligatory membership fee to the chambers in the 33rd clause be lifted and that engineering rights should not be granted only to a university diploma. It was debated for a short time and not accepted. My thoughts, the ones we submitted at that time, have not changed. One of the urgent issues of the engineering profession also today is the relationship with the members and the chambers.

I read the minutes of the parliamentary debate. The clause accepted after midnight Tuesday has not been prepared to improve member relations; on the contrary, it was added to a proposal that was prepared beforehand with feelings of vengeance.

Nevertheless, the clause in question has not been added to the bag bill, as spokespersons of the opposition party have said only to remove the powers of the chambers.

The original proposal was prepared to broaden the authority of the Environment and City Planning Ministry in the planning of rural areas belonging to new metropolitan municipalities, urban transformation, the application of new “crazy projects” and other topics; this clause has been pushed through to cut the income sources of chambers. It has been seen more often that people get involved in such pettiness for political necessities.

The ruling party – let’s be more frank and say Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – is trying to make chambers pay the price for being Justice and Development Party (AK Party) opponents.

However, the opposition and the head of the TMMOB have not been able to stage what needs to be done upon this incident.

In the entire proposed text, there are several topics from urbanization to rights of the local government where powers are given with one hand in the metropolitan law while the other hand removes them. The opposition should have examined all of them and when it was the turn of the clause on chambers, should have adopted a stance of “Do it if it suits you.”

As a matter of fact, the renewal of the founding principles, member relations, powers and responsibilities of chambers has been due. This topic cannot be handled with one clause; engineering, just as trade unionism, is falling behind, is being weakened in effect.

In short, this incident has revealed two matters: The AK Party makes laws with individual observations and feelings. The second is the current question of our political life; whether there are any executives and deputies within the AK Party who are able to stop individual sentiments.

Tarhan Erdem is a columnist for daily Radikal in which this piece was published on July 11. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.