Turk growth seen steady at 5 percent

ISTANBUL (AP) – Turkey’s economy is expected to grow annually by 5 percent for the next three years as the country presses forward with economic reforms critical to its EU bid, including measures to curb inflation, economy minister Ali Babacan said yesterday. Babacan was speaking as top finance officials gathered for the annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank. Babacan stressed that Turkey is committed to expanding political and economic reforms that are crucial if the country is realize its dream of entering the European Union. The 25-member EU in December agreed to accession talks with Turkey after Turkey enacted a series of political and economic reforms. «We just completed the critical mass to be eligible to start the process,» Babacan said. «The political reforms will continue to deepen.» There are growing reservations in many EU countries about accepting a large, poor and overwhelmingly Muslim country, but Babacan stressed that admitting Turkey would diversify the EU. He also said that, for Turkey, the accession process will bring «guaranteed long-term stability.» Turkey suffered one of its worse financial crises in 2001 but has gradually been recovering. In the coming three years, economic growth is projected to be 5 percent annually, growth that Babacan said was largely due to private sector activity. Inflation has fallen from an average of 70.4 percent between 1993 and 2002 to a projected 8 percent this year, which Babacan said should be attainable despite high oil prices. Babacan said Turkey was committed to structural reforms and tight fiscal policies aimed at sustaining the economic stability. «We believe that Turkey will be the growth engine of Europe,» he said.