Has the AK Party created its own rich?
For the last six to seven years, I have developed a particular habit. I take a look at the “richest 100 people in Turkey” lists to see whether there is a pro-government wealthy person on the list. Up until this year, I did my evaluations based on the Forbes lists, but this year I am not waiting for Forbes, I looked at Turkey’s Ekonomist magazine.
I skimmed through the list to check who had dropped out and who the newcomers were. I searched for the “pro-government quota,” and I noticed again that all the same old names of the big bosses club had remained. There were ups and downs but few new names.
There was no one from the nouveau rich who climbed the social ladder during the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) era, somehow fed by the government.
In the past 10 years, the fortunes of the Koç, Sabancı, Şahenk and Ülker families have tripled or multiplied by five. Some of them fell a little and some of them rose. Because of the fall in the Turkish Lira and the rise in the U.S. dollar, some of their fortunes have eroded a little.
The Boydak and Nakipoğlu families, recently charged over links to the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), are not on the list. However, three new names have been added to the list: Hüseyin Arslan, Yusuf Öztürk and the Gülay family.
There are no big surprises. Those who made it to the list for the first time are not newly rich people; they have been well-off for a long time but were on the waiting list for a long time. Clearly, wealth is circulating in the same hands, among those who inherited their fortunes from their parents and grandparents.
My interest for the list developed because I was in search to find if the AK Party era produced new rich people, because I always believed that every government created its own rich.
There are contracting firms that won major public tenders during this era on the list, like Cengiz İnşaat and Kolin İnşaat. But none of them were particularly boosted during this era. They were firms that did business and prospered under former governments. Even if they have added more to their fortunes, they cannot be regarded as “AK Party riches.”
This is a significant in determining the permeability between social classes.
In the past 15 years, a new middle class has been born. The middle class has been saturated and expanded. I call it the “jeep society.” The top 100 richest, meanwhile, is the “jet society.”
We do not see shifts between the “jeep set” and the “jet set.” It is the same for shifts between the lower and middle segments. It is as if there is a glass or an invisible wall in between them.
Those attempting to rise from the middle are stopped at the ceiling of the upper middle segment.
Is the crème-de-la-crème keeping its gates tightly shut and not accepting the new rich? Or is it the current system not allowing those from below mix with the top of the top, preventing the very rich from spreading? Is there a lack of entrepreneurs?
Maybe all of these possibilities are true. But at the end of the day, even if there is favoritism in the distribution and sharing of wealth, it certainly is not in favor of the “jeep society.”
The truth is that in Turkey the wealthy of today are actually the wealthy of the preceding eras. There is no indication of a change in the hierarchy of worldly goods in the list.