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North’s budget debate continues at ‘parliament’s’ plenary session

north parliament
The 'parliament' in the north

Discussions continued regarding the north’s 2024 ‘state’ budget at ‘parliament’s’ plenary session on Tuesday.

The discussions form the latest episode of the north’s budget ‘marathon’, which, is set to come to an end in the latter half of December after first being discussed the ‘parliamentary’ finance committee at the beginning of November.

Opposition party CTP Leader Tufan Erhurman began his intervention by speaking about the 15-year procurement contract the ‘government’ signed with Turkish energy company Aksa back in July.

He said that there were ‘government ministers’ who were not aware the contract had been signed until it weas made public.

In addition, he criticised the purchasing of fuel to power the north’s power stations without a tender, saying “I am fed up with this frivolity”.

Also speaking on the matter of energy was fellow CTP ‘MP’ Salahi Sahiner, who said that electricity authority Kib-Tek could make investments in its own infrastructure instead of effectively paying rent to Aksa.

He added, “if the [electricity cable connecting the north and Turkey] is not completed within five years, the Aksa contract will be terminated. However, with this contract, even if the cable does not arrive after five years, Aksa will produce electricity with fuel oil at an exorbitant price and sell it to Kib-Tek, and on to the Turkish Cypriot people.”

“It is the Turkish Cypriot people who will have to pay for it,” he said.

‘Energy minister’ Olgun Amcaoglu moved to assure ‘parliament’ that the matters had been dealt with in a memorandum of understanding signed with Turkey.

Moving on from the matter of energy, Erhurman also spoke about property sales to third country nationals, a hot topic of late, and said the ‘government’s’ current stated policy, to ensure that all sales to third country nationals go through the land registry, is tantamount to telling people; “make sales under official contracts as much as you can”.

There was also a discussion regarding the north’s lack of recognition pertaining to sporting events.

In his speech, CTP ‘MP’ Sami Ozuslu asked why Turkish sports teams do not play matches against Turkish Cypriot sports teams.

‘Transport minister’ Erhan Arikli replied, saying there is a European football governing body Uefa rule that teams from its member states, including Turkey, cannot play against teams which are non-members of the organisation.

In response, Ozuslu said “if Turkey recognises us, it should play official matches with our teams. Turkey is imposing an embargo on the TRNC.”

Ozuslu also spoke on the matter of crossing points, saying that ‘prime minister’ Unal Ustel had “promised to solve problems at the crossing points when he took office” in April 2022, but that “nothing has been done yet”.

He also criticised the hiring of 157 temporary employees by the ‘prime minister’s office’, asking “what are these people doing in the prime minister’s office? On what basis, with what criteria did you choose them?”

He did, however, congratulate the ‘government’ for the hiring of the first disabled public sector workers in the north since 2006 at the start of the month.

Fellow CTP ‘MP’, and son of former Turkish Cypriot Leader Mehmet Ali Talat, Ongun Talat went further in his criticism, saying Unal Ustel “is not a legitimate prime minister”.

He added, “I do not see Unal Ustel as a successful or competent prime minister. No good can come to a society from a prime minister who was in charge of a scandal like the jet scandal”, in reference to a private jet with “special permission” which landed at the north’s Ercan (Tymbou) airport in the midst of the pandemic in 2020, with its passengers allowed to disembark without having taken any precautions against or tests for Covid-19.

Additionally, Talat said CTP members had been “systematically threatened and told to leave their party” by those supporting the ‘government’.

He also criticised Ustel for what he called a “low attendance rate” at ‘parliament’ and for “not responding to criticism”.

There was also an amusing moment as ‘finance minister’ Ozdemir Berova told Talat “you resemble your father when you speak.”

The comment provoked laughter around the chamber, with Talat’s retort that “maybe there is a genetic similarity” increasing the laughter further.

He added, “the government wants to be inclusive by announcing the 13th salary. How nice. Although, if you want to hug Ozdemir … due to his size …” with more laughter erupting in the chamber.

UBP ‘MP’ Oguzhan Hasipoglu took to the podium to defend the ‘government’s’ record, speaking about how “high-level meetings” had been held between Turkish Cypriot Leader Ersin Tatar and the Presidents of Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan.

He said the CTP “never appreciate” such meetings and “define us as separatists”.

“They cannot even tolerate the acceptance of our sovereignty,” he added.

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