Questions mount on $128 billion that Turkish gov’t sold

Murat Yetkin

Journalist-Writer

The rostrtum that main opposition CHP leader was addressing his party lawmakers on April 13 was decorated by placards reading “Where is the $128 billion?”

The debate that was launched after 104 retired admirals made a statement for the stay of the 1936 Montereux Convention on sovereign rights of the straits, has faded with the release of 10 detained former military men. Had Russian President Vladimir Putin’s warning to President Tayyip Erdoğan “not to violate Montreux” any part in this? Or did Erdoğan hesitate that surprises would emerge from the incident just like the Russian dolls. I think we’ll find out both soon. But on April 12, the day that the former officials were released, the Interior Ministry began to remove posters of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which raised questions on the whereabouts of some $128 billion spent by the Central Bank in a bid to defend the value of the Lira against the greenback and low-interest rate policy last year.
Speaking to the parliament group of his party on April 13, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu addressed President Erdoğan on the retired admirals issue, saying “You said CHP was behind him? May Allah keep one away from slander”.
The rostrum that Kılıçdaroğu was speaking was decorated with placards reading “Where is the $128 billion?” CHP members wanted to ensure that this issue ignored in the government-controlled media be seen at least by TRT, the state-run broadcaster that airs weekly speeches of party leaders.

Are $128 billion posters banners with bombs?

The same night, the police started collecting the same posters at CHP district offices as if they were bomb banners of an illegal organization. The justification was, an investigation launched against the question for “insulting the president”.
How would it be an insult to the president to ask how and where the state’s money is spent? The question does not say that the President took the money. The cash was spent when Edoğan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak was the Treasury and Finance Minister. (Economists Kerim Rota, now a Future Party official, calculates the amount exactly at $126.3 billion). The opposition asks to whom, when and for how much liras was the money sold.
Economy columnist Uğur Gürses said the amount adds up to $140 billion when another $12 billion sold by the state banks and undertaken by the Treasury is also calculated. Based on the Central Bank data, and contradicting what the president says, Gürses also published a chart showing that the foreign exchange reserve, “does not actually stand in its place”, and that the deficit is “swept under the carpet.”

This chart above shows the 10-year state of the Central Bank reserves. Source: Uğur Gürses, @ugurgurses. The blue line stands for the gross reserves, the green one shows the foreign exchange liabilities including swap and the red one is the net foreign exchange position of the Central Bank. Gürses’ chart is based on the Central Bank data.

Banning the question instead of answering it

No clear answers have been given to the 15 questions Gürses raises in his article. Gürses says that this situation will be on the shoulders of any political party that wins the next elections.
In other words, the issue is important not only with its financial and economic dimensions but also with its political connotations.
The CHP asked for a parliamentary investigation into the $128 billion loss from state assets. It was rejected by the votes of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), its election partner.
Besides the CHP, Meral Akşener, leader of the IYI Party, accuses Erdoğan of letting his “son-in-law” “evaporate” $128 billion from the state coffers. Ali Babacan, leader of the DEVA Party, who was the economy captain of Erdoğan until a few years ago, threatens the government, saying that “If you don’t reveal it, we will.” Still, no answer. Ahmet Davutoğlu, the leader of the Future Party, whom Erdogan once appointed as a successor, says Naci Ağbal, who was appointed as the Central Bank governor only days before Albayrak resigned as the minister, was dismissed in four and a half months at seat for his attempt to investigate the whereabouts of the $128 billion. No response again.
The Erdoğan government must answer the questions on what happened to the resource accumulated from the people’s taxes with the accountability and transparency that should exist in democracies based on the rule of law. Instead, it tries to ban the questions. It tries to make sure the questions go unheard. It thinks this is the solution and it is wrong. Because the more these questions are banned, the more they spread.

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