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Turkey in a week, October 1st 2018

President Erdoğan’s visit to Germany and Mckinsey&Company’s new appointment to oversee Turkey’s public accounts were the main headlines last week in Turkey.

New Economic Plan made clear that Erdoğan administration has no plan to face the economic crisis other than hoping to attract foreign investors into the country and to narrow external deficit itself thanks to depreciated Turkish Lira. The second one is apparently happening already as the latest trade data show. Turkey’s foreign trade deficit saw an annual fall of 59 percent in August, Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) announced on Sept. 28. Turkey’s imports decreased by 22.7 percent year-on-year to $14.8 billion in August while exports also fell 6.5 percent to $12.4 billion. However, Turkey’s economy is dependent on imports for its production activities and 36% decline in imports for capital goods is a sign that the production activities will narrow big in the third quarter.

The hardest part is the first one given the international economic conditions the developing world faces and Turkey’s new regime’s economic, political and institutional problems. Erdoğan administration has been working hard to rebalance the relationship with the US and improve the relations with the EU, the biggest trade partner of Turkey. These efforts are complete turnaround for Erdoğan’s narrative of “economic war” declared against Turkey by the foreign powers. Last week President Erdoğan was in the USA for United Nations’ Assembly. The Minister of Finance and Treasury and Erdoğan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak was also accompanying him to have parallel meetings with investors and apparently he was more “productive” than Erdoğan as the statements revealed from both the Turkish and American parts indicated. There have been reports arguing that Turkey will release Pastor Brunson on October 12th and the press was trying to see the signs of this claim from both sides. However, Secretary of State of the USA Pompeo spoke on the matter at a press conference and said “I’m sure there will be some conversations this week. But make no mistake, there would be nothing that we would share with them here that we have not already shared with them already about President Trump’s demands”. However, those conversations Pompeo hinted did not occur and Erdoğan did not take Pompeo’s remarks well and repeated the narrative that the USA lays threats upon Turkey before leaving the USA for Germany by saying “Some circles in the current administration suppose they would solve the differences of opinion between us by threats, pressure and blackmail”.

During the peak of political crisis with the USA, President Erdoğan said that Turkey would turn its face to other partners. Even though the relations with the EU and particularly Germany had also gone bad last year, Turkey knows that the EU countries need Turkey as a gatekeeper due to the risk of immigration flows from Syria. The refugee deal Turkey made with the EU is still on even if Turkey repeatedly complained that the EU have not met all the promises the deal requires and time to time threatened the EU to “open up the doors”. To create a road to improve the relations with the Germany Turkey released a German journalist Deniz Yücel in February this year. Germany is particularly important since Chancellor Merkel supported Turkey when President Trump used trade means to punish Turkey. What Turkey hoped from Germany mainly was to improve the relations and convince Germany to continue the economic relations as it has been and even invest more in Turkey. If Germany lifts its warning for German citizens to visit Turkey this will help Turkey big deal as tourism revenues became very critical now to reduce external deficit. Both Merkel and Erdoğan were very positive and constructive in the joint press conference. Erdoğan asked the support from Germany to update the Custom’s Union Agreement, but Merkel did not talk about this in her speech. Erdoğan was the kindest during his visit to Germany. Before the elections, he repeatedly said the EU supports terrorists. This time he only said that Turkey and Germany have their differences about their views on terrorism. The subject caused a crisis during the visit was about the Turkey’s demands about the returning the members of FETO terror organisation living in Germany and journalist Can Dündar.

As we said at the beginning of the piece, Berat Albayrak was more “productive” in the USA. He revealed that Turkey will hire consultant company Mckinsey to oversee public accounts of 16 ministries. This step was taken as a step to gain confidence of foreign investors without having an IMF deal. Erdoğan and its ministers always make a big deal that they managed to pay Turkey’s debt to IMF in a short time after 2001 crisis, even now Turkey lends money to IMF. “Being national” was one of the main test for new Turkey from persons to companies. Having a deal with IMF would mean to hand economic affairs to foreign hands and it would not be “national” or “native”. Hence, now in the midst of its economic troubles Erdoğan management does not want to show so openly to its voters how badly Turkey need foreign investors back in the country. Erdoğan’s son-in-law seems to find a solution to this handicap to have an American company to oversee the Turkey’s public accounts, an IMF deal without IMF and its money, as the company is expected to ask for increasing public savings and tight expenditure programme as IMF would do. However, the opposition is not happy about the news and the comments on that range from “treason” to have Ottoman public debt administration “Düyun-u Umumiye” back in the country like the final days of the Ottoman Empire.

Another hot topic was (Republican People’s Party, CHP)’s MP Enis Berberoğlu’s release from prison. 27th circuit of the Court of Appeals approved the decision of 5 years and 10 months of imrisonment for the crime of “revealing secret documents” on the case CHP’s İstanbul MP, Enis Berberoğlu has been on trial for delivering the images of the National Intelligence Organization’s trailor trucks retained at the border to the Cumhuriyet newspaper’s chief editor, Can Dündar. Berberoğlu, although being reelected for the parliament by the June 24 elections has been illicitly kept detained for three more months in prison. His release also reminded that MPs do not have immunity for their actions in the Parliament in Turkey. As Cengiz Aldemir reports in halagazeteciyiz with the waiver of the lagislative immunities, the rulings against the politicians continue to be a matter of debate. In case the decision of the Supreme Court of Appeals on Berberoğlu case establishes a binding prejudication precedent, there will be no hold-up against the continuation of the judicial procedures regarding 20 MPs from the HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party, HDP) and nearly 30 MPs from the CHP. This repercussion of the decision for the waiver of the legislative immunities is alarming for nearly 45 to 50 MPs who will be serving for the 27th term of the assembly.

While Turkey is approaching one of its biggest economic crisis, another data revealed rather sociological problem of the country. Three thousand 69 people lost their lives as a result of suicide in Turkey in 2017. The total number of suicides that ended in death reached 44 thousand 277 in the last 15 years. Ayça Onuralmış talked to experts about the reasons for the high rates and the ways of preventing suicides for halagazeteciyiz. Experts said that the reasons behind the high suicide rates are distrust to the system due to lacking of democracy, civic rights and peace in the society, economic troubles and women’s lack of trust and weakness in the society.

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