ANKARA: Missing reserves of $128 billion from Turkey’s Central Bank has triggered a publicity campaign from the country’s opposition party demanding to know the money’s whereabouts and police action to stop the question from being asked.
The Republican People’s Party (CHP) said $128 billion of foreign reserves were used during former Finance Minister Berak Albayrak’s tenure to stabilize the Turkish lira, which has been plummeting in value, and that it was a party’s constitutional right to probe where the country’s reserves were being spent.
It hung CHP banners up around the country asking about the missing money, while also trying to raise awareness about the financial hardships that Turkey was facing.
Police, using water cannons and armed vehicles, moved in to stop the party’s efforts. Banners hung up on balconies were removed by officers under the pretext of pandemic measures.
The CHP has vowed to keep displaying the banners on buildings and billboards for as long as the police keep removing them.
“We are asking about the money of the poor, those in need and orphans,” tweeted CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
Hundreds of CHP lawmakers and party members changed their social media profile pictures to “128” in reference to the publicity campaign.
Naci Agbal, the Central Bank’s former governor, was reportedly fired after he tried to launch an investigation into the missing reserves.
The bank has changed governors four times in the last 20 months, each of them sacked through presidential decree without any reason given for their dismissal.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Feb. 24 that the massive sum of money was channeled into the country’s fight against coronavirus.
The bank’s reserves are currently believed to stand at around $43.2 billion.
Goldman Sachs said in November that the bank had misspent over $100 billion of its reserves to stop the lira’s depreciation during the first 10 months of 2020.
“NASA’s budget for 2020 is $22.6 billion,” tweeted prominent journalist Serif Turgut. “We could have even gone to Mars with $128 billion.”
CHP lawmaker Kamil Oktay Sindir said the missing reserves showed the lack of financial transparency in the country, where several public-private partnership projects had been exempted from the audit of Turkey’s Court of Accounts.
He explained that one of the key missions of lawmakers, who were representatives of the people’s will, was to monitor Turkey’s budget and financial resources.
“We derive this right from the constitution,” he told Arab News. “Turkish people, who are already paying huge taxes, deserve accountability from the government about each penny it spends. Such moves of the Central Bank seriously undermine the Turkish economy’s credibility and they discourage foreign investors from investing in the country, as their trust in the functioning of the economy is getting eroded. The economic functioning of a country shouldn’t be so dependent on a one man-rule.”