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Türkiye’s opposition media blasts finance minister over minimum wage comments

Türkiye's opposition media blasts finance minister over minimum wage comments A woman displays her electricity bill during a protest against high energy prices in Ankara, Türkiye 05 May, 2023 (Reuters Photo)
By Newsroom
Jul 2, 2024 2:25 PM

Treasury and Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek’s recent comments on the minimum wage have ignited a firestorm of criticism in Türkiye’s opposition media.

Speaking on a joint broadcast by Haberturk and Bloomberg, Simsek highlighted the economic agenda, particularly focusing on the minimum wage.

Key points from Simsek’s statements:

  • Minimum wage increase: Simsek emphasized that the minimum wage has increased by 5.5% in real terms over the past 20 years. He noted significant dollar-denominated growth during the Justice and Development Party (AK Party)’s tenure.
  • Comparison with developing countries: He claimed that Türkiye’s minimum wage is among the highest in developing countries, though he acknowledged ongoing living cost challenges.
  • Populism warning: Simsek warned against the exploitation of the minimum wage issue for populist purposes, citing a 670 billion Turkish lira cost for exempting the minimum wage from taxes.

Opposition media reactions

Türkiye's opposition media blasts finance minister over minimum wage comments

Cumhuriyet’s critique

Headline attack: Cumhuriyet’s front-page story, titled “Normalizing Hunger Wages,” sharply criticized Simsek’s remarks. The article included a caricature of Simsek with the caption, “We can’t always be pessimistic… Let’s see the glass half full in the economy!”

Statistics dispute: Cumhuriyet pointed out that the lauded ₺17,000 minimum wage falls short of the confederation of Turkish trade unions’ recently reported hunger threshold of 18,979 ₺ and the poverty line of ₺61,000 for a family of four.

Public outrage: The newspaper highlighted the public’s struggle with inflation and questioned how the finance minister could claim the minimum wage is not low.

Türkiye's opposition media blasts finance minister over minimum wage comments

Sozcu’s response

Direct challenge: Sozcu columnist Deniz Zeyrek challenged Simsek to live on the 17,002 ₺ minimum wage for a month. He proposed the finance minister should forgo the perks of office, such as living in a government residence and using a luxury car, and instead pay for rent, utilities, and family expenses within this budget.

Let’s see if you can make it through a month on this wage and then tell us if it’s high

Deniz Zeyrek

Comparison with Europe: The newspaper also refuted Simsek’s claim by noting that Türkiye lags behind countries like Croatia, Hungary and Romania in terms of minimum wage levels.

Insult to intelligence: Zeyrek criticized Simsek’s assertion that the current minimum wage is the highest in Türkiye’s history, accusing the minister of “insulting the public’s intelligence.”

Last Updated:  Jul 8, 2024 2:46 PM