Turkish growth at 6 pct, above forecasts

ANKARA (AFP) – The Turkish economy was stronger than expected last year, growing by 6 percent instead of the 5 percent previously forecast, the Turkish statistics institute said yesterday. Fourth-quarter growth was only 4.6 percent but a robust expansion of 7.5 percent in the first half of 2006 made up the difference, allowing the government to exceed its target, the institute added. Turkey’s economy is one of the strongest in the region, having grown by 5.9 percent in 2003, 9.9 percent in 2004 and 7.6 percent in 2005. «The Turkish economy has set a new record by growing uninterruptedly over the past 20 quarters,» the Anatolia news agency quoted Economy Minister Ali Babacan as saying. «This is not just a temporary growth of one or two years,» he said. «Turkey has become a country with a sustainable growth trend.» Babacan stressed that «the private sector is the main driving force of the growth… which constitutes a guarantee of growth in the coming period.» In February 2005, Ankara successfully terminated for the first time an economic restructuring program sponsored by the International Monetary Fund, ending a string of 17 failed attempts. The IMF had granted Turkey $16 billion in financial assistance after a financial crisis in 2001 that sent the economy into one of its worst depressions. A second, three-year standby agreement for $10 billion signed in 2005 aims to complete and consolidate economic reconstruction. Despite the progress, this government has failed to contain a widening current account deficit and missed its inflation target last year for the first time since it came to power in 2002.

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