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War Clouds Gather Globally as Turkey Navigates its Own Challenges in 2024

M. Ahmet Karabay*

In the last three years, the world’s five richest individuals have more than doubled their fortunes. The daily happenings in our region are too much even for the Middle East. Turkey, in just December, experienced its biggest budget deficit in the last 20 years. 2024 has already started to make us miss the year we left behind.

First, let’s look at the newly published report by the British international humanitarian organization, Oxfam. According to this report, the world’s five wealthiest businessmen have more than doubled their wealth since 2020.

These individuals are; Elon Musk, founder-owner of Tesla, Bernard Arnault, owner of the luxury goods company LVMH, Jeff Bezos, founder-owner of Amazon, Larry Ellison, founder-owner of the software company Oracle, and Mark Zuckerberg, founder-owner of Meta (Facebook). Interestingly, Bernard Arnault is the only one among these five who inherited wealth. The other four made it to this stage by growing their own businesses.

Despite the pandemic since 2020, these wealthy individuals increased their wealth by 114%, adding an additional $464 billion, reaching $869 billion. An inquisitive person has calculated that these five individuals’ wealth increased by $14 million per hour. The British organization conducting the research predicts that in the next 10 years, the fortune of one individual will surpass $1 trillion.

The picture Oxfam paints is quite striking. Meanwhile, in the same period, the real wages of about 5 billion people, making up 60% of the world’s population, decreased by 0.2% in real terms. Around 1 billion people live on less than $1.9 a day.

Oxfam announced that it prepared this report based on data from the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World Bank, and Forbes magazine.

After the release of the report, some reminded that these multi-billionaires have made groundbreaking discoveries that changed the fate of humanity. There were arguments that comparing these rich individuals with ordinary millions of people is not acceptable.

Of course, they earn money due to their contributions to the world. The problem is not about earning but sharing. It’s clear that humanity is facing a significant breakpoint. What’s frightening is that the future likely breakdown is being planned by the names at the top of this skewed distribution.

THIS IS TOO MUCH EVEN FOR THE MIDDLE EAST

The events of the last couple of days in our surroundings made us say, “This is too much even for the Middle East.”

Yahya Saree 🛑 Yahya Saree, the military spokesman of the Yemeni Houthis, announced, “We consider all American ships and British warships participating in the attack on our country as enemy targets.” 🛑 Shortly after this statement, a U.S. cargo ship was hit by the Houthis at the entrance of the Gulf of Aden. 🛑 U.S. forces in the region reported that they narrowly prevented a second attack on another ship. 🛑 The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) launched missile attacks on some centers in northern Iraq. The Revolutionary Guard claimed that the targeted site was a Mossad base in Iraq.

Iran explained that the attack in Northern Iraq was a retaliation for the explosion during the commemoration of the death anniversary of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, which occurred the previous week. In the attack aimed at Erbil/Hewler, four people, including the businessman Peşrew Dizayi known for his oil trade with Israel, lost their lives.

The danger bells never stop ringing in the Middle East. From the east to the southeast of Turkey and downwards, the fire never seems to extinguish but rather intensifies. On the U.S. side, it is indicated that all options are on the table. Sadly, the tragic aspect of this is the absence of diplomacy among these options.

All this indicates that war in the surrounding region is likely to escalate. With a major military intervention, the war against the Houthis in Yemen, which Saudi Arabia has been conducting alone for years, will inevitably turn the Red Sea into a sea of blood with the inclusion of the U.S. and the UK. In this scenario, the Suez Canal will become inoperative, and the supply chain will suffer significant disruptions.

TURKEY LIVES IN A DIFFERENT UNIVERSE

While all these are happening in the world and around us, Turkey’s agenda is completely different. The budget deficit, which was 142.7 billion TL last year, reached 1.4 trillion TL (46.5 billion dollars) this year. The deficit for December alone was 842.5 billion TL. For the first time in history, the deficit was 2.2 times the cash deficit. Previously hovering around 1%, the budget deficit reached 5.4%, surpassing the crisis figures of 2001.

The government, knowing the burden that the Currency-Protected Deposits (KKM) would impose, transferred its payment from the budget to the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey (TCMB). Without this shift of around 900 billion TL, the budget deficit would have risen to 2.8 trillion. In this case, the budget deficit would have approached 10%.

In 2009, when Greece was on the brink of bankruptcy, it presented its budget deficit as 3% instead of 12% through different accounting techniques with Goldman Sachs, in compliance with Maastricht. The Minister of Treasury and Finance, Mehmet Şimşek, who shifted the KKM to the Central Bank, could say that “excluding earthquake expenses, the budget deficit is 1.7%, in line with Maastricht criteria,” employing a similar tactic to that of Greece.

This is a separate discussion. There’s another claim that the deficit of 2024 might be intended to be hidden and written off in the 2023 budget due to election expenses.

According to the calculations of tax expert Ozan Bingöl, last year the residents of this country paid:

  • 8 million 557 thousand 429 TL per minute,
  • 513 million 445 thousand 766 TL per hour,
  • 12 billion 331 million 138 thousand 591 TL per day,
  • 375 billion 72 million 132 thousand 147 TL per month,
  • A total of 4 trillion 500 billion 865 million 585 thousand 767 TL in a year.

Turkey, with this budget deficit, has become a main topic of discussion in global economic circles. It seems that the extra taxes collected are not sufficient for Ankara’s wasteful administration.

THE WORLD IS LIVING THROUGH THE SPRING OF 1914

It seems like the world is gathering storm clouds of war. In the Far East, there’s the China-Taiwan tension that’s actually a China-U.S. conflict, the Russia-Ukraine war in our north entering its second year, and a war cauldron being heated right next to us.

I do not know if the contemporary version of the assassination that ignited World War I – the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Archduchess Sophie in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914 – has happened. I’m not sure if the Hamas attack in Israel on October 7 can be a substitute for it. But it’s certain that the world is gathering war clouds.

Stay safe and be prepared for many things.

*M. Ahmet Karabay is a commentator and columnist for TR724.com.

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