Turkish business chambers want job support policy back
The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) chair Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu posted a Twitter message on April 15 in a rare opposition to a government decision despite his support for the government.
“Problems of our companies have increased due to the pandemic. First of all, Shorter Employment Allowance needs to be restored,” said the head of the country’s broadest business organization in reference to the government initiative introduced as part of economic measures against the pandemic but removed on March 31.
“There is an urgent need to postpone tax and similar payments to the state and to provide new credit support to our businesses” he said.
Business representatives who applied to Erdoğan and called from Turkish ındustry and Business Association (TÜSİAD), a leading business group, Türk-İş, a leading trade union, and other groups had called on the government to continue the Allowance, which supports jobs, arguing that ending it would boost unemployment. But the economy administration of President Tayyip Erdoğan disregarded the warnings and ended the government support to salaries in many businesses.
Reactions from members of chambers union
Reactions from the opposition parties, business and labor organizations did not change the outcome.
Istanbul Chamber of Commerce (İTO) chair Şekip Avdagiç, known for his closeness to the AKP, was one of the first figures to openly fire the first flares within TOBB. Avdagiç said on April 9 that the loan rates should be lowered and the Short Work Allowance be restored during the pandemic, or a way should be found to compensate for its absence.
Once his chain of crowded part congresses ended, Erdogan finally acknowledged on April 13 that the Covid-19 pandemic had escalated to grave levels and the new restrictions.
The TOBB chair’s statement came only one day after Erdoğan’s new measures against the pandemic were declared in writing.
It should have been difficult for Hisarcıklıoğlu to publish a message, which would obviously not going to make Erdogan happy. We can conclude that the reason behind it is the pressure from the TOBB grassroots, which actually overlaps with the AKP grassroots. Chamber of commerce chair of the Central Anatolian province of Konya, an AKP stronghold shared Avdagiç’s message. So did Van Chamber of Commerce and Industry chair Necdet Takva, the AKP candidate for the mayor seat in the eastern province in the 2019 local elections. These add to chamber chairs from other provinces. Would Erdoğan retreat from his decision just because TOBB bluntly asked for it?
Any plans to use unemployment fund in somewhere else?
One might say that Erdoğan says the economy is in good shape – except for the exchange rate he attributes to foreign manipulation.
One might say that the president, who will lay the foundation of Kanal Istanbul, a giant water canal northwest of Istanbul, on April 24, surely would not insensitive to the problems that would increase unemployment and decrease production. Erdoğan actually can use the Unemployment Fund built for these days, and brings back the job support program.
However, the savings in the Unemployment Fund, which stood at 135 billion liras (roughly $16.8 billion) in January 2020, decreased by more than one-third during the pandemic and fell to less than 100 billion liras. And of course, this is the case according to official figures. Has the short-employment allowance stopped due to a shortage of resources? Does the government intend to use Unemployment Fund resources in other areas rather than supporting jobs and employees? Isn’t it possible to find a resource for the allowance, which is indispensable for the employers and the employees according to the economy world?
Could Treasury and Finance Minister Lütfi Elvan make a statement on this issue, instead of remaining silent to avoid any reactions?
Or shall asking for the return of the fund be banned just like asking about the $128 billion from reserves?