Turkish opposition hits COVID-19 donation campaign’s lack of transparency

Turkish opposition hits COVID-19 donation campaign’s lack of transparency
People wear protective face masks against to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Kizilay Square, in Ankara on June 24, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 27 June 2020

Turkish opposition hits COVID-19 donation campaign’s lack of transparency

Turkish opposition hits COVID-19 donation campaign’s lack of transparency
  • Money collected by the campaign totals $306 million so far
  • Former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu also hit donation drive

JEDDAH: The recent National Solidarity Donation Campaign launched by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came under fire by Turkish opposition parties over an alleged lack of transparency.

Alpay Antmen, a lawmaker from Mersin province representing the main opposition party, the CHP, submitted a question to the vice-president, asking how the money collected by the campaign — which totals 2.1 billion Turkish liras ($306 million) so far — was reimbursed to needy people.

However, he was advised to direct his request to the family, labor and social services minister, whose only response was advice to “check out the ministry’s website,” which did not provide any details about the campaign or its recipients.

Erdogan donated seven months of his salary to help fight COVID-19 on March 31, the day he launched the campaign. Cabinet members in the government and some parliamentarians also donated 5.2 million Turkish liras ($791,000) to the campaign.

The initiative was designed to provide support to low-income people facing economic hardship following lockdown measures.

“We will follow hard after this issue. They are obliged to reveal where this money was spent. It is the parliament’s responsibility to be held accountable for money-related issues,” Antmen told Arab News.

“The state should be managed in a serious way. When a parliamentarian asks where this money was spent, a strong presidency should be accountable for the spending. If they have concerns about disclosing this basic information, then we can assume that they have something to hide,” he added.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, municipalities headed by mayors from opposition parties were prevented from organizing online donation campaigns, where funds they had collected were blocked by the Interior Ministry, over concerns that it “may create a state within state.”

Fundraising campaigns launched by mayors from cities such as Istanbul and Ankara just before the presidential campaign were quickly declared illegal on April 1. It was not an April Fools’ joke.

“They excluded municipalities from fundraising efforts, although they were totally accountable until the single penny of their citizens. But now they don’t give us any single answer about the details of their own nationwide campaign” Antmen said.

The presidential fundraising campaign was also criticized by former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who formed the Future Party last year. He said it was a waste of time and resources.

“There can be nothing more absurd than state bodies being involved in such an aid campaign. You are just taking money out of one pocket and putting it in the other,” he said.

The CHP is set to launch a parliamentary probe if information about money spent under the fundraising campaign proves unsatisfactory.

Following constitutional changes made last year, opposition members of parliament lost their right to submit censure motions in these cases.

An April report by the CHP estimated pandemic-related job losses in the Turkish labor force to be around five million.

The figures highlight the need to support low-income households with money collected under the fundraising campaign.


Egypt registers three new coronavirus vaccines within days

Egypt registers three new coronavirus vaccines within days
Updated 16 min 45 sec ago

Egypt registers three new coronavirus vaccines within days

Egypt registers three new coronavirus vaccines within days
  • Joint contract to manufacture vaccine in the country to be signed soon

CAIRO: The Egyptian Minister of Health, Hala Zayed, said Egypt has registered for three coronavirus vaccines — from the UK, Russia and Chinese respectively — after approving the use of each.

She added that the cold chain in Egypt allows for storage of 140 million vaccine doses.

“We have begun steps to register three Chinese, English and Russian companies, and within a few days, new shipments will be received and new vaccines will be registered,” Zayed said at a press conference.

She added that Egypt will sign a joint contract to manufacture the vaccines in Egypt soon with their partners.

The Russian Embassy in Egypt announced earlier that Moscow was ready to supply Egypt with the Sputnik V vaccine, and provide the technology needed for its manufacture to Cairo.

“Moscow is ready to provide the technology for manufacturing this vaccine in Egypt, which has a suitable production base,” Zayed she added.

She indicated that Egypt has 101 million citizens and 7 million residents, explaining that residents will also be vaccinated.

The minister confirmed that Egypt is the first African country to start its vaccination campaign, and also the first country to receive a vaccine on the continent.

Zayed indicated that Egypt seeks to vaccinate 20 percent of citizens with vaccines from the GAVI coalition. She also confirmed that the government would receive other batches of the vaccine within days, with elderly people over 65 years of age able to start registering to receive doses.

The registration will take place either in the nearest hospital or electronically.

She confirmed that all public hospitals in the country would provide the vaccine, starting from Monday.

“There are no financial challenges to obtaining vaccines, the Long Live Egypt (Tahya Misr) Fund will finance the purchase of vaccines,” she added.

Medical staff in all hospitals nationwide, and those unable to pay for the vaccine, will receive it free of charge.

She explained that the names of those who are unable to pay will appear on the vaccination system prepared by the Ministry of Health automatically once each citizen’s identification is entered, since the new system is linked to the Takaful and Karama program.

The vaccine will be offered for a cheap price, at a maximum of EGP 200 ($12.71) for the two doses.

She indicated that registering for the vaccine can be done in two ways, either through the website and uploading data proving that the person is eligible, or going to the nearest hospital affiliated with the Ministry of Health and registering.

“Everyone can apply to register to receive the vaccine through the website, and whoever is unable to access it can go to any hospital belonging to the Ministry of Health, and the workers there will register his name.”

The minister explained that the first groups that will receive the vaccine are medical staff and the elderly; those under 18 years and pregnant women will not be allowed to receive the vaccine.