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Talking Turkey

Who is out there to help Turkey cope with its ongoing currency crisis?

February 28, 2001

Who is out there to help Turkey cope with its ongoing currency crisis?

As Turkey fights its latest economic crisis tooth and nail, visits by IMF representatives seem like an almost everyday occurrence for a country trying to stave off a devastating financial crisis. The Globalist takes a look at some of the country’s basic facts, figures and comments on the crisis by Turkish people from all walks of life.

Just how important is the Turkish economy?

As of 1998, Turkey with a GNP of $200 billion had the world’s 22nd largest economy. It also had NATO’s second largest army, at a troop strength of 820,000. (World Bank and Economist)

How does Turkey’s current economic crisis look from an economist’s point of view?

“We are trying to cool off a fireball.” (Gazi Ercel, former Turkish Central Bank Chief, December 2000)

What fireball?

Between 1994 and 1999, Turkey’s annual average inflation rate was over 80%. In comparison, Brazil’s — the previous “world champion of inflation” — rate averaged less than 20%. As of January 2001, Turkey’s inflation rate stood at 36%. (Economist)

How has the crisis affected the average person in the street?

“You become poorer and poorer after every crisis. You work and work for 20 or 30 years, you still can’t make ends meet, you still wear the same clothes every year.” (Ergun Duran, a businessman in Istanbul, February 2001)

How successful have outside interventions been?

Since 1947, IMF programs have a record of 17 failures in Turkey. (Washington Post)

What do Turkish people think about this record of economic crisis followed by unsuccessful bailout?

“We’re accustomed to it. We know that if we’re unsuccessful, there will eventually be an 18th, 19th and 20th IMF plan.” (Nuri Colakoglu, a top official with the independent NTV television news network, February 2001)

What’s the problem with Turkey’s leaders?

“We always try to find someone else on whom to stack all the blame.” (Sakip Sabanci, chairman of Sabanci Holding, February 2001)

What might be the government’s ultimate solution to the country’s problems?

“I have proposed to the government that we move Turkey somewhere else.” (Turkish government official, expressing frustration about political obstacles hindering access to new energy sources in the Middle East, October 1997)

How much of a stake does the rest of Europe have in saving Turkey from this crisis?

If Turkey — with a population of 65 million people — were to become an EU member, it would be the second most populous member of the EU, after Germany. (German Foreign Office)

Only 3% of Turkey’s land area are part of the European continent. The other 97% are part of Asia. (Rheinischer Merkur)

And finally, can anybody fix it?

“Where is an Atatürk when Turkey, again, really needs one?” (Stephen S. Rosenfeld, former editorial page editor of the Washington Post, February 2001)