Turkish state religious body’s budget dwarfs seven key ministries

The four-month budget of Turkey's top religious body exceeded that of seven of the country’s key ministries, Cumhuriyet newspaper reported.

The Religious Affairs Directorate, also known as Diyanet, spent 3.8 billion liras ($558 million) over the first four months of the year, surpassing the expenditures of the Interior, Foreign Affairs, Energy and Natural Resources, Culture and Tourism, Industry and Technology, and Environment and Urban Planning ministries for the same time period, it said, citing data from the Ministry of Finance and Treasury.

Of the country’s key ministries, only the Treasury and Finance, Health, Justice and Defence ministries’ budgets were higher than Diyanet’s.

The religious body has come under criticism for the ever-growing money spent on it. Its 2019 budget was increased by 34 percent compared to the previous year to 10.4 billion lira, while its budget for 2020 has been set at 11.5 billion.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has quadrupled Diyanet’s budget during its 18 years in power, sparking criticism that the organisation is being used by the Islamist AKP as a vehicle for soft power. 

According to official data, the Ministry of Finance and Treasury had the lion’s share of expenditures from January to April, with spending totalling 165 billion lira ($24 billion).

The Health Ministry’s budget for the same period was 19 billion ($ 2.7 billion) and the Justice Ministry’s was 7.6 billion ($1.1 billion).