Cabinet cannot be above the nation and the law

Cabinet cannot be above the nation and the law

A draft law for amendments in certain governmental decrees consisting of 75 articles on the establishment of a Turkey Sovereign Wealth Fund was submitted to the Parliamentary Speaker’s Office on Aug. 1.
In accordance with the articles of the wealth fund, major infrastructure projects such as the nuclear power plant and the “Kanal Istanbul” project to be financed by the unemployment fund and privatizations, as well as the article which grants privileges to the Ankara Metropolitan Municipality on the Atatürk Forest Farm and Zoo in Ankara (AOÇ), were removed from the draft because of the reaction of the opposition and the public, who opposed the notion of taking from the poor and giving to the rich. As a matter of fact, the opposition appreciated the fact that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) took into account these constructive criticisms and removed these articles. However, a few days later, these articles were re-introduced at the Planning and Budgeting Commission without any change. 

Apart from the Sovereign Wealth Fund, there is an article in the draft, unheard of and unknown, that came to attention when the text was made available.  

I am talking about Article 70. It is about investments defined as “Strategic Investment” that the cabinet regards as important and involves several fiscal privileges such as a customs tax, insurance and legal privileges. 

The justification for this is listed as “meeting the current or future needs of our country, providing a security of supply, decreasing foreign dependence and achieving technological transformation.”

Even though the justifications sound nice, the nine different types of fiscal privileges are things that no citizen or business has ever enjoyed, including exemption from customs tax, a 50 percent reduction in energy, the allocation of free public land and even partnering in the investment. The infrastructure investments may even be built by the state if the cabinet decides so. 

In the fourth paragraph, procedures that all of us are obligatory for all of us, such as permits, allotments, licenses, certificates and registrations are defined as “restrictive clauses” and authorization is granted to the cabinet to introduce exemptions; moreover, to speed up and facilitate the investment, the cabinet is authorized to make arrangements in legal and administrative procedures.  

As a real-life example, for instance, if you are to build a nuclear power plant, there are building certificates, permits and licenses to obtain. The cabinet may exempt you from these documents. Moreover, it can allocate public land to you and lower your taxes to almost nothing. The required condition for this is that your investment should have “strategic” features. 

Climate and energy expert Önder Algedik said, “These justifications may be logical but in practice, we should not forget that we are building the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant to lower our foreign dependency and to provide for a security of supply, but we are becoming more dependent on coal and we have multiplied our coal importation six times in comparison to 1990. 

This is the most recent situation of the incredibly fast-moving process: The draft law will be at parliament on Aug. 15. Thus it will be enacted before the parliamentary recess during the three-month state of emergency. 
It is extremely wrong to authorize the cabinet with above-the-law powers. Beyond being wrong, it is unlawful. The decision will no doubt be taken to the Constitutional Court. Unfortunately, the advantages of the state of emergency are being used. 

With Article 70, the cabinet is deemed superior to the nation and the law with powers to grant privileges and benefits. Investments that are not qualified to obtain a permit or license will override the laws with this cover. This right is being offered to them on a golden tray. 

It is unacceptable to facilitate projects that commit crimes against nature, cities and society. This article should be taken out of the omnibus law and steps should be taken to prioritize nature and society for a better Turkey.