We who have lived in Turkey remember well the wealth tax of the 40’s that forced most non-Muslims to poverty, to forced labor and to exile. But AKP government brought about a new social security system that will rival only the horrible memories of the past.
Previously all social security payments (as well as the income tax) were based on monthly income. To win past elections, the governing party distributed so-called green cards who claimed to be poor indiscriminately that in turned provided free health services to the card holders. Now, to get rid of this heavy burden on public finances, the government is implementing a universal health system, not based on employment or income, but on household wealth.
All people, including foreigners, living in Turkey independent of their work status is subject to social security premiums and obliged to pay it monthly. In case of non-payment the debt will accrue in their “public accounts” and will be considered as their debt to the state. While this debt is accruing, they will not benefit from health services. Only being current on one’s account gives one that privilege.
Apart from being anti-constitutional in many aspects, the new law will crush the poor with high monthly premiums while providing nothing in return. Most poor people will be indebted to the state for the rest of their lives.
Since the beginning of January people are scrambling in lines in freezing weather conditions to apply for exemption and to ratify their status as “poor people without proper income.” The system calculates the household income and divides it to the number of people living in that household. If the result is more than half the minimum wage, then over 18 year olds in that household has to pay the premium even though they are jobless. (Student children being the only exemption) Households will pay the premium even though the only income in that household is pension income.
In addition to being a relic of industrial revolution, this new application asks people to prove their income or the lack of it. The state in Turkey falling almost always short in its commitments to people, now asks them to do his job as well.
None of the local NGO’s seem to be interested in the issue. People silently fill in the forms after an extended wait-in-a-line and start waiting again for the inspectors to visit their houses to determine their net worth. Political agenda fills daily life so fervently in Turkey, economic issues that torment daily lives of the people hardly makes the headlines.
As Turkish people once more press on their belts that was tight enough before that law went into effect the first day of 2012, politicians, opinion leaders, unionists and intellectuals alike go on blowing their own horns.
If that is what most call fate for Turkish people, it has to be broken once and for all, and pretty soon.