Main opposition spox slams Turkey’s government for unemployment rates

Centre-left main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Spokesperson Faik Öztrak on Tuesday said Turkey’s economy is sick, state-owned Anadolu Agency reported.

“The decrease in employed citizens has continued for eight months. Unemployment at such persistent levels wasn’t even seen in the 2009 crisis when the economy shrunk by 4.7 percent,” Öztrak said.

Faik Öztrak held a press briefing in the CHP headquarters after Turkey’s Statistics Institute (TÜİK) announced unemployment data for June and said, “If young people can find employment after college in a country, then things are going well there. But the unemployment data announced today has shown that our economy is severely sick,” he said.

Unemployment rose to 13 percent, with a 3 percent increase since last year, said the CHP spokesperson.

The true number of unemployed Turkish citizens is at 7.724 million people, he said.

“Only 137,000 people entered the workforce last year, despite the population at working age increasing by 800,000,” he added.

Öztrak accused TÜİK of doctoring the numbers, saying that the head of the institute has “done some corrections” as he is a friend of Berat Albayrak, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law who has served as the Minister of Treasury and Finance since 2018 in the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

Appointed as the deputy president of TÜİK in April 2019, Yinal Yağan had previously worked in the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources alongside Albayrak.

Despite all doctoring, youth unemployment has increased by 5.4 percent in the last year, Öztrak said, adding that one out of every four young citizens is unable to find a job.

Stating that 802,000 people lost their jobs in the last year, Öztrak said only 657,000 people received unemployment benefits, alleging that the unemployment fund was used for other purposes.

Öztrak referred to pensioner Recep Peker, who set himself on fire to protest unemployment, and showing his photograph, said, “Remember, governments have fallen in this country because an unemployed citizen threw a cash register in protest, but today people burn themselves alive because they can’t pay their debts.”

Öztrak criticised lavish government spending, mentioning the purchase of four luxury vehicles worth 80 million liras (roughly 14 million dollars) each.

“Their answer when asked is, ‘One cannot skimp on prestige.’ These people have strayed far from the troubles of the people in their waste, pageantry and flash,” he said.

Referring to the Borrowing Directorate set up under the Treasury, Öztrak said, Minister Albayrak tries to convince foreign news agencies of Turkey’s financial strength but establishing a borrowing directorate paints a different picture.

“The public-private partnership projects have turned into black holes,” Öztrak said, adding that Turkey’s foreign debt has increased 3.5-fold to 453 million dollars and domestic debt is over 700 billion liras.

Öztrak said the government wanted to sell a strategically important tank factory to Qatar, and called the deal “a gift to the Qatari army.”

As expenses continue to increase, the government has tried to support the budget through one-time income streams, said Öztrak, adding that the method is not sustainable.

Eleven million dollars out of the budget have been allocated to interest payments in the first seven months of 2019 , Öztrak said, and added that the total interest payments since 2003 was 467 billion dollars – which comes to some 77 million dollars paid every day for the 16.5 years of AKP rule in Turkey.