Turkey’s forestry agency has spent more than 10 times more on basketball teams this year than on firefighting, agency financial records cited by main opposition Republican Party have shown. of the People (CHP), August 9.
The revelation of the General Directorate of Forestry (GMO) ‘s seemingly bizarre priorities will add to the storm of criticism directed at the Erdogan administration for not being prepared for the wildfire crisis that has devastated parts of Turkey over the past two weeks. The government is already lashing out at critics for not having water-bombing firefighting planes to send into action when the underworld erupted. He responded to his criticism by claiming that the social media hashtag “HelpTurkey” is used by opponents of the conspiracy who post messages to portray Erdogan officials as incompetent and to humiliate the country by saying he is in desperate need. foreign aid to deal with the fire disaster. . The government has taken legal action against dozens of social media users. Turkey is relying on firefighting planes brought in from several countries in the region in its fight against the fires. On August 10, only about half a dozen were still burning.
Agency records obtained show the GMO, which has an annual firefighting budget currently standing at 193 million Turkish liras ($ 22.3 million), spent 40 million TRY in the first half of this year for the Ormanspor men’s and women’s basketball teams. During the same period, the GMO spent only TRY 3.4 million on forest fire prevention and control projects and equipment.
“The GMO has an annual allocation of over four billion lire and only 190 million lire has been allocated to fighting fires, of which only 3 million lire has been used,” said Murat Emir, a CHP legislator, who submitted a written question on this to Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Bekir Pakdemirli.
“However, when we look at the budget allocated to Ormanspor, we see that almost 40 million lire has been spent. This budget is almost four times that of Besiktas. [basketball club], who played in the basketball league semifinals, ”he added.
Turkey has a history of public bodies funding sports clubs that play in professional leagues.
Emir questioned some of Ormanspor’s spending and said he did not disclose the amount spent on player salaries.
“The GMO’s budget was planned as if there would be no fires,” Emir concluded.
The GMO posted a statement on Twitter, but then deleted it. The tweet described the suggestions regarding his spending as “far from reality.”
A statement from the GMO said there was a total budget of TRY 1.5 billion for airplanes and ground vehicles in 2021 and would be “spent by the end of the year.”
“What is the source of the 1.5 billion lire?” The emir replied. “Will you spend it after the forests have been reduced to ashes?” “
Eight people are known to have died in the wildfire disaster, while thousands of homes, businesses and herds of cattle were lost as the flames swept mainly across southern Turkey, including areas around the Mediterranean and Aegean seaside resorts of the country.
The extent of some of the devastation can be seen in the released drone footage.
In a TV interview on August 4, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the opposition was spreading a “terror of lies” about the firefighting operation. He claimed his government had handled natural disasters professionally during his 19 years in office.
The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) called for an investigation, alleging that preparations and responses to the fires were late and insufficient.