Turkish deputy minister becomes chairman of state-run property bank

Mehmet Emin Birpınar, deputy minister for environment and urban development, has become chairman of a state-run bank involved in property construction.

Birpınar was selected as a board member of Emlak Katılım in September 2008, just after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was re-elected with vast new presidential powers, according to the bank’s website.

The deputy minister is earning a combined 45,917 liras ($5,325) per month, including 18,000 liras as chairman of Emlak Katılım, Deniz Yavuzyılmaz, a member of parliament for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said on Twitter on Sunday. He provided a copy of a document allegedly published by Emlak Katılım in March outlining financial compensation and changes to the bank’s board.

A resume of Birpınar published on Emlak Katılım’s website makes no mention of his position as deputy minister. A similar resume on the ministry’s website states that Birpınar is “also a member of the board of directors in several institutions and foundations” without mentioning their names.  

The CHP has made regular complaints that the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is politicising public enterprises that previously enjoyed autonomy. The steps have included establishing a sovereign wealth fund that now controls many state-run firms, including Turkish Airlines and three banks, established in 2016. Erdoğan made himself chairman of the fund in late 2018.

Politicisation and excess spending by state-run banks in the 1990s led to large duty losses, helped provoke a financial crisis and forced Turkey into signing an economic rescue deal with the International Monetary Fund. The economic turmoil helped Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) gain popularity and win general elections in 2002.

Turkey's state-run banks almost doubled lending to businesses and consumers last year to help the government engineer a borrowing boom. Erdoğan has based Turkey's economic growth model on property construction. Several firms with close ties to the president have won contracts worth tens of billions of dollars for housing, bridges, roads and airports.