By Hamdi Firat Buyuk
The annual investment programme published in the Official Gazette on Saturday shows that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will have two more palaces to enjoy this year, a summer palace and a winter one, costing taxpayers some 740 million liras, or 86.26 million euros – despite the ongoing economic and health crises in the country.
One will be built at the popular resort of Marmaris on the Aegean and the other will be built in Ahlat, a lakeside town in eastern Turkey.
The summer palace at Marmaris was supposed to cost 150 million liras when it was started back in 2018 but the cost has skyrocketed because of additional expenses.
The high cost of the new palaces and the maintenance cost of the existing presidential palace have drawn criticism from the opposition and experts who say that taxes are being spent unwisely in an economic crisis that has toughened the lives of most ordinary people.
In his column on Monday for the daily Sozcu, Murat Muratoglu criticized the high cost of “state representation” for Turkey “a country … where people are unemployed, hungry and poor”.
The presidency earlier in 2017 responded to similar criticism by saying: “There is no saving [to be made] in state presentation and prestige.”
The annual investment programme also shows that another 81 million liras, or 9 million euros, will be spent on an additional building at the existing presidential palace in Ankara. The new building will eventually cost more than 332 million euros before it opens.
The maintenance cost of the current palaces in Istanbul and Ankara in 2021 will also cost 60 million Turkish liras (6.63 million euros) while 183 million Turkish liras (9.18 million euros) will be spent on buying new cars and other vehicles as well as the maintenance costs of the existing fleet.
After he was elected president for the first time in 2014, Erdogan ordered the construction of a new, luxurious palace in the capital, Ankara, abandoning the humbler Cankaya Mansion, which former presidents including the founder of the republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, had used.
The total cost of the luxurious new palace, which has 1,150 rooms in addition to a library, a mosque and a conference centre, is still unknown.
The Turkish Presidency currently has three palaces in Istanbul which are all former Ottoman royal palaces and the new palace and Cankaya Mansion in Ankara. The two new palaces are supposed to serve as summer and winter residences.