Put dim lighting in the palace – for savings

Put dim lighting in the palace – for savings

Turkey’s leaders never cease to invent new annals of black humor.

In a recent speech, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan bitterly complained that “Turkish students know Einstein but not Muslim scholars.” Could that be because Turkish students harbor a hidden admiration for the non-Muslim world? Or simply because there has not been a single scientist of Einstein’s prominence in the Muslim world after the Industrial Revolution? 

What percentage of Mr. Erdoğan’s personal devices of advanced technology, including his fancy car, private jet, computer and its software, his mobile phone and the diagnosis devices his doctors use when he needs a check-up could have been invented, designed, developed and produced in Muslim lands? Would the president ever think about commissioning a Saudi engineering company to build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant? Or a Libyan company to build Turkey’s long-range air and anti-missile defense architecture? 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu made his December debut on the scene of humor when he blamed gender equality for high suicide rates in developed nations. Professor Davutoğlu deserves to be nominated for the Nobel Prize in social science as he successfully found that “equality in gender relations is responsible for high suicide rates in Scandinavian countries [and other developed nations].” 

Perhaps the professor should devote his time to more pressing social issues in the country he (partly) rules rather than in Scandinavia, like, for instance, explaining why about an average 1.2 women are being killed every day by the opposite sex in Turkey where, according to his theories, apparently, gender relations run on better terms than in Scandinavia – where silly men just commit suicide but don’t kill their wives, ex-wives or girlfriends. 

But this columnist cannot decide whether Professor Davutoğlu deserves a prize in public administration or humor. After his boss, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, doubled the presidential palace’s annual budget for 2015 in addition to spending nearly $800 million for the 1,150-room palace and a new private jet, Professor Davutoğlu launched a campaign to “stop the extravaganza in public spending.” 

Mr. Davutoğlu proudly said the government decided to drop the traditional practice of giving gifts during official events, a plan which he claims will boost the economy. Risking deaths from a spasm of laughter, the prime minister explained: “We are suffering serious waste in government spending due to gift giving, and local authorities should drop it from this day forward.” No more plaques and flowers are to be gifted at ceremonies. Palaces and jets are fine. That way the extravaganza in public spending will disappear and the national economy will be boosted. This columnist still cannot decide whether this theory falls into the discipline of economics, public administration or humor. 

The Turkish government’s 90,000 or so official cars mark an inventory of vehicles around 10 times bigger than in countries like Germany, France and Japan – in other words, with 10 times more government cars, Turkey produces 3.3 to 7.5 times less than these countries. 

But since the prime minister launched a savings campaign, this columnist feels compelled to contribute with ideas: Mr. Erdoğan’s palace should be dimly lit to cut down on electricity bills; pilots flying his jet should cruise at lower speed to economize on fuel; the public fleet of 90,000 cars should be replaced with brand-new ones in order to minimize repair and maintenance costs; Mr. Davutoğlu’s personnel should make it a habit to write on both sides of a page and avoid printing unnecessary material. Water cuts at public offices a few days a week is not a bad idea. And the officials who drive the 90,000 or so government cars can always switch to neutral while driving down steep roads. 

All that failing, Mr. Davutoğlu could order government offices to offer vegetarian food to all civil servants – cheaper and healthier. Lettuce instead of meat; with extra-diluted “ayran,” one portion could serve three people instead of one.

Finally, the big shot in the public savings campaign could be to launch a “Suspected Terrorist Poll Tax,” a lump sum amount of, say, 10 New Ottoman Liras (NOL). Since the government views all its opponents as potential terrorists, it could well raise an annual 40 billion NOL from this source.