Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is not in a showdown with the republic in response to criticism leveled by the opposition during harsh debates in the first day of budget talks in Parliament on Monday.
Parliament began debating the government’s planned budget for 2013, with Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek praising the government’s performance in improving economic growth and pledging that the growth will keep on next year.
Later in the day, Erdoğan delivered a lengthy speech in what seemed an immediate riposte to main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu's criticism of the government's handling of the economy.
Erdoğan stated that the opposition has been portraying the government as trying to eliminate the core values of the republic and presents its economic success as a radical reckoning with the republican era.
“When we compare the 10-year successful performance of the AK Party with the entire republican history, some people get uneasy with it. Let everyone know that the AK Party is not in a showdown [with the republic],” Erdoğan said, underlining that his government has contributed greatly to the republic and that is has raised it to a higher level.
“The success seen in the last decade [under AK Party rule] is the success of Turkey, its people and the republic.” He said if the government says it has set a record achieved in the entire history of the republic in almost every field, he and his party view this as a success achieved in the name of the people, the country and the republic.
Erdoğan lamented that following the death of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the republic, Turkey's natural resources, and the energy and hopes of its dynamic and young population were wasted through trivial discussions and military interventions in large parts of the republic's history.
During his address to lawmakers, main opposition leader Kılıçdaroğlu argued that the right of Parliament to supervise budget planning is an indispensable part of fundamental rights and democracy. He said it is impossible for Parliament to cede this right, which was first introduced in the country in 1876 when a new constitution was adopted.
Kılıçdaroğlu said Parliament exercises its right of supervision of government and state budgets through the Court of Accounts. He lamented that the reports of the court are not presented to Parliament despite the Law on the Court of Accounts.
He also said the rate of economic growth fell short of expectations, arguing that the released numbers on economic matters prove that the government does not have a successful performance on the economy.
The main opposition leader pointed out that people become heavily indebted all across the country to handle financial problems, citing that the number of enforcement chambers to deal with debt cases have increased under the AK Party rule.
Parliament began discussing next year’s planned budget at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. The talks were chaired by Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek. Şimşek was the first to take to the podium to outline the government’s views on the budget. The minister said the Turkish economy would keep growing despite the instability in the global economy. “Data belonging to the last quarter of 2012 suggest that the growth in the Turkish economy will keep on,” he stated, and added that the government and the Finance Ministry were very successful in managing repercussions of global fluctuations on the Turkish economic system.
Şimşek also said Turkey managed to decrease its current account deficit, which was over $78 billion in 2011, to $55 billion this year thanks to successful policies of economy pursued by the government. “The decrease in the current account deficit occurred despite hiking oil prices and shrinking in EU economies, one of our greatest trading partners,” he added. The successful policies in economy also led Turkey to strengthen its reserves of foreign currency, according to the minister.
In addition, the inflation rate which was around 10.5 percent toward the end of last year was dropped to 6.4 percent in November of this year. “We expect the inflation to drop down to 5.3 percent in 2013,” Şimşek stated, and recalled that the inflation was 29.7 percent in 2002 when the AK Party was first swept to power. “Turkey retreated to the 54th rank in its rate of inflation among all other countries in 2012. Our aim in the medium run is to further decrease the rate of inflation. In this way, we will get rid of the greatest obstacle before the economic growth,” the minister added.
Şimşek, in addition, said Turkey managed to increase its overall exports by 13.7 percent in 2012 even though its export rate with EU countries dropped by 7.9 percent due to financial problems in those countries. He also said Turkey pursued its successful fight against unemployment in 2012. When concluding his remarks, the minister defined the budget for 2013 as a “budget of services for the people” because it was shaped in manner to give priority to education, health, infrastructure and research and development projects.
Deputies from the opposition parties, however, complained that Parliament would not able to discuss the budget allocated for several state institutions for next year because the Court of Accounts has failed to send audit reports of the expenditures of the institutions to Parliament, which was supposed to examine the expenditures. Deputies from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the CHP asked the ruling AK Party to explain why the court has not sent the audit reports. In response, the AK Party’s parliamentary group deputy chairman Nurettin Canikli said the failure is linked to an amendment on the Law of the Court of Accounts.
Şimşek’s speech was scheduled to be followed by the speeches of pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Co-Chairwoman Gültan Kışanak, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Chairman Devlet Bahçeli and CHP Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Parliament plans to complete budget talks by Dec. 20.
Erdoğan: Turkey backs Syria's territorial integrity
Erdoğan contended that Turkey does not have a single question concerning the territorial integrity of Syria and added that it strongly backs the territorial integrity of the war-torn country. Turkey holds the same views on Iraq's territorial integrity, he added.
Erdoğan touched upon a wide array of issues during his speech as part of budget talks in Parliment.
Referring to the festering Syrian crisis, Erdoğan said the Syrians are brothers and sisters of the Turks and added that Ankara has no problem with Syria but only with the Bashar al-Assad administration.
In response to criticism leveled by the opposition, which asked the government about claims of secret talks with Israel to end a longstanding crisis that first began after Israeli commandos raided the Gaza flotilla two years ago, Erdoğan strongly dismissed the claims.