Peanuts of the finance ministry concern us all

Peanuts of the finance ministry concern us all

Like everybody else, I was astonished when the finance minister commented on the armored Mercedes allocated to the head of the Religious Affairs Directorate by saying, “The money spent on vehicles for public institutions is 3.3 billion Turkish Liras, peanuts in Turkey’s budget.”

Luxury cars allocated for public officials draw the reaction of the people everywhere in the world. 

In Greece, for instance, Alexis Tspras government announced immediately that the ministries’ luxury cars would be sold. The prime minister tried to curb the rage of the Greek people by saying the ministers could go to work by taxi or motorcycle. 

Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu of South Africa called on cabinet ministers to abandon their luxury cars.  

In countries such as Turkey, Greece and South Africa, luxury cars are always a discussion point. On the other hand, we frequently see in the media cabinet members, especially in European countries with high levels of welfare, going to work riding a bicycle or taking the metro.  

Finance Minister Şimşek who lived in the UK for many years should definitely know this controversy very well between developed countries and developing countries about luxury official cars. 

Well, then, what is the point in fueling the fire by calling it “peanuts?” 

On the other hand, as main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has pointed out, in a country with 17 million poor people, it is unacceptable that the finance minister defines 3.3 billion liras as “peanuts.”

According to OECD’s latest data, Turkey is ranks top three in income injustice, together with Mexico and Chili. Besides, Turkey is the champion in terms of its “massive army of the needy.” According to April 2015 data from the Ministry of Family and Social Policies, 23,668,000 people were in need of aid in 2012; this figure went up to 30.5 million at the end of last year. 

In other words, 39 percent of the Turkish population belongs to the category “in need of help.” They are receiving social aid, primarily in fuel, food and education.

On the other hand, this portion is only 7 percent of the budget. When we compare it to other items of the budget, the situation is more serious. 

In Şimşek’s own words, the amount allocated to innovation (in other words, tools to advance Turkey) in the 2015 budget is approximately 2.8 billion liras. With the 400 million liras to be handed over from the Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey, this figure will reach 3.2 billion liras.  

The Culture and Tourism Ministry will receive only 2.3 billion liras. 

When you review the income gap, the huge army of the needy, the limited budget for research, arts and culture, then the 3.3 billion liras of “peanuts” indeed concerns all of us.