In the 2023 Turkish General Assembly budget negotiations, the resource allocation for defence has caused heated debate, as the country deals with a failing economy and increasing poverty.
Despite economic hardships, the Turkish government has not paused cross-border operations with neighbours Iraq and Syria. Ankara is currently threatening to initiate a ground offensive against Kurdish groups in northeast Syria.
Turkey’s expanded military footprint in the Middle East is accompanied by increased military spending. The country’s defence budget is expected to reach $15.8 billion in 2023, witnessing a compound annual growth rate of 8.36%, according to a report by the Strategic Defence Intelligence.
The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) has strongly criticised the government for prioritising war over economic policies.
“You have allocated TL 470 billion [$25 billion] of the budget for security and defence,” said Pervin Buldan, the co-chair of the HDP, during her speech in the parliament. “That is one of the reasons for high inflation, unemployment and poverty. This is exactly giving budget to war, not to the people or employment,” she said.
Buldan added that Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have reached the end of the road, and in the upcoming 2023 elections will lose the popular support it has enjoyed for the last 20 years.
The HDP defines the government’s 2023 spending plans as a “war budget”. AKP lawmakers do not deny that a substantial budget is allocated to warfare.
“Ammunition fired from multi-barrel rocket launchers cost $5,000 each. Thousands are fired in a smallest scale operation,” said Nurettin Canikli, deputy chair of the AKP.
Canikli said Turkey had been spending on resources to defend its borders. “Turkey today has to keep troops in three countries in order to protect its territorial integrity and huge amounts of money have been spent for security,” he said.
According to the opposition MP Buldan, the government could choose to solve its problems around the Kurdish question through dialogue with the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, but instead, the government’s plans for a ground offensive into northeast Syria will only escalate Turkey’s military spending.
“The result of the election will not be determined by the sound of the bombs you dropped on Syria, but by the sound of empty pots, the objections of millions who suffer just to subsist, and the strong social will that favours peace and democracy,” Buldan said, referring to upcoming polls in 2023.
Calling on the opposition and the public to unite against war, Buldan said, “We believe that the alliance that will be built around peace will win. We will continue to insist on a democratic solution to the full extent.”
Discussions on the 2023 Central Government Budget Law Proposal will continue for 12 days and will end on 16 December.