Research shows that the number of people experiencing financial difficulties in Turkey has increased dramatically in the past five years, with the number of households receiving government assistance seeing an increase of 38 percent since 2017, Turkish Minute reported.
The research, conducted by retired civil service chief inspector Mahmut Esen, revealed that the number of households receiving assistance increased from 3.2 million in 2017 to 4.4 million in 2022, with the total assistance provided to citizens reaching TL 151.9 billion ($5.6 billion) last year.
The assistance, which is provided by the Family and Social Services Ministry and Social Assistance and Solidarity Encouragement Fund (SYDTF), was only TL 36 billion ($ 1.3 billion) in 2017.
According to Esen, 18 million citizens in Turkey struggled to maintain their lives in humane conditions with the assistance of 49 aid categories provided by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government in 2022.
Among the types of assistance provided to citizens in Turkey in 2022 were elderly and disabled pensions for 1,556 people, home care service payments for 560,000 people, education aid for 2,100 people, health aid for 1,171 people, food aid to 936,683 households, coal for heating to around 2 million households and monthly child support for 3 million households.
Esen pointed out that the type and amounts of assistance were largely determined by presidential decrees rather than regulations and the fact that this aid could be made solely through administrative decisions without any legal basis led to the identification of the aid with political power. According to Esen, this situation directly influences the political preferences of the citizens benefiting from this aid.
Esen further emphasized that in order to ensure that elections in Turkey are conducted under equal conditions, it is necessary to first establish objective criteria for the type and topics of assistance to be provided, address legislative shortcomings and thus transform aid into social rights rather than favors from the ruling party.
Over the past several years Turkey has been suffering from a deteriorating economy, with high inflation and unemployment as well as a poor human rights record. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is criticized for mishandling the economy, emptying the state’s coffers and establishing one-man rule in the country where dissent is suppressed and opponents are jailed on politically motivated charges.
The lira, which lost more than half its value against the dollar in 2021 alone and tumbled 29 percent in 2022, has shed another 25 percent since this year’s elections in May. It has been the worst performer in emerging markets for several years running due largely to economic and monetary policy concerns under Erdoğan’s government.