Turkey’s new reform plan

WASHINGTON – Turkey still has several steps to take before the end of the month to obtain International Monetary Fund approval for $10 billion worth of loans, Economy Minister Kemal Dervis said yesterday. Dervis, speaking at a news conference in Washington, said Turkey’s letter of intent outlining the country’s reform plans would be signed in the US capital today, but he said Ankara still had some work to do before the IMF executive board can meet to approve the loan package. The minister said among the measures was the final approval of laws passed by Parliament by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer. Lawmakers last week approved a bill that injects $5 billion into Turkey’s ailing banking system. Opponents of the law have urged Sezer to veto the law, arguing that it compensated corrupt or incompetent bank owners with public money. He also said measures to increase transparency for investments and to deal with heavily indebted state banks also had to be taken. He refused to give details of what measures were necessary. «There are certain steps of our economic program that have to be put in place before the end of the month. If these can be completed, the (IMF) executive board is expected to meet early February,» Dervis said. Thomas Dawson, director of external relations at the IMF, said yesterday that Turkey was on track to get the new funds by early February at the latest. «The reports that I’ve heard in the last few days indicate that progress on a number of the structural reforms has been faster than anticipated,» Dawson said. «So I do not believe there is any hangup.» The IMF has already backed Turkey’s economic program with $19 billion in loans. Turkey is slowly emerging from a serious economic crisis that saw its currency, the lira, lose more than 50 percent of its value against the dollar, interest rates and inflation soar, and more than one million people lose their jobs. During the news conference, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit also thanked the United States for supporting Turkey and the IMF loans. «Large amounts of money have come to Turkey from the IMF and the World Bank, and the role of the United States in securing this cannot be ignored,» he said. Ecevit is on a five-day visit to the United States. Turkey had «used the international funds in a very responsible way» to create a «new economic model,» Ecevit said, adding that IMF officials were aware that an economic recovery would not be swift. IMF Chairman Horst Kohler «told me that it couldn’t be hurried, that it should be like a marathon,» Ecevit said of their meeting Tuesday. «I told him we know how to run a marathon (at a pace of) 100 meters,» Ecevit continued, noting the speed with which Parliament, «working day and night,» had passed key structural reforms.

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