The Turkish government is under growing pressure from the public and opposition parties over the use of an “earthquake tax” designated for disaster relief.
A charge on the use of internet and mobile phone services was introduced in 1999 following a quake that killed more than 17,000 people near the city of Izmit.
The charge, officially branded the Special Communications Tax, has raised an estimated 88 billion Turkish lira (roughly £3.8bn)But adjusting for changes in exchange rates since the tax was introduced, Turkish economists believe the fund should be worth more than £30bn.
There has been little indication of this revenue being used in recovery work following the disaster that struck on Monday, with the death toll passing 10,000, thousands more injured and widespread devastation across 10 Turkish provinces.
Ankara has made heavy use of foreign aid, with dozens of countries said to be contributing to relief efforts.
Adnan Sinan Cakiroglu, a politician with the opposition iYi party, accused the government of failing its people at a time of crisis.
“You have been collecting earthquake tax to protect people for years,” he said. “Ten provinces are dying, you are still waiting for financial aid.”
Critics of the government have highlighted comments from former Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek in 2011, in which he stated the proceeds of the tax were used to fund infrastructure such as roads and railways.
German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported further claims from the minister that funds were also used to repay loans to the International Monetary Fund.
Mr Simsek and the Turkish finance ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Ankara had not made a statement on the tax by Wednesday afternoon.
But discontent is growing over the issue. Turkish business journalist Turhan Bozkurt said the government had questions to answer.
“Tens of thousands of people died. There are hundreds of thousands of injured,” he told i.
“Where is the money collected for the earthquake? It’s not just a technical bankruptcy. It’s a moral collapse.”
President of the Republican People’s Party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, laid the blame at the feet of President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan.
“Erdogan is primarily responsible for this process,” he said. “The people, who had paid earthquake tax for years, could not see the state by their side when they needed it.”
The term Earthquake tax was a popular topic on Turkish social networks on Wednesday, with many users accusing Mr Erodgan’s regime of corruption.
“Thousands of buildings were built rotten,” said one user. “People were killed not by earthquakes, but by carelessness and corruption.”2023-02-08T15:06:52Z dg43tfdfdgfd