Turkey triples budget allocations for foundations in 2020

Despite questions being raised this year over the Turkish government’s hefty subsidies to non-profit organisations linked to the ruling party, the 2020 budget has increased payments to these organisations to almost 3 billion liras ($522 million) while concealing which ones are being paid, Turkish news site Artı Gerçek reported.

The discovery that millions of liras had been paid to NGOs closely linked to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) by the party’s municipalities played a role in the local election campaign this year, in which opposition candidates won some of Turkey’s largest cities, including Istanbul and Ankara.

But the budget for next year has assigned significant funding for non-profit associations and foundations in nearly every government department, Artı Gerçek said.

A report prepared by the Turkish Presidency’s Strategy and Budget Directorate shows that 818 million liras was transferred to these organisations in the 2018 budget. But the records conceal which organisations received funding and how much they were paid.

That amount has leapt to nearly 2.9 billion liras ($504 million) in the budget for 2020, Artı Gerçek reported.

This includes a proposed 609 million liras in payments from the Treasury and Finance Ministry, 465 million liras from the Education Ministry, 576 million liras from the European Union directorate and 436 million liras from the Environment and Urban Planning Ministry, the news site said.

Like public tenders, payments to NGOs are known in Turkey as a way for political parties to create and maintain client networks.

The victorious Istanbul candidate for the main opposition Republican People’s Party, Ekrem İmamoğlu, cut 357 million liras ($62 million) in funding to pro-government foundations after winning the city’s rerun election.

The foundations all enjoyed close relations with the AKP, and one of the five, the student housing organisation TURGEV, had President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s daughter, his communications chief’s wife and a former AKP mayor on its board.