Gradual approach to Turk welfare reforms

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s long-delayed social security reform package will be implemented in stages, Labor and Social Security Minister Faruk Celik said yesterday. «Some parts of it may take effect in the third month of 2008, some in the fifth month and some others in the eighth month,» Celik told a televised news conference. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which has said it would pass the controversial bill by January 1, 2008, submitted the reform package to parliament last week. The International Monetary Fund has for years demanded the reforms but the former president vetoed the package. Turkey has a young and growing population but has posted social security deficits near 4 percent of the gross national product due to mismanagement and numerous early retirements. The reform package will raise the retirement age gradually and simplify the welfare system to establish a more effective and transparent system of transfers. «Everything that could be said on social security under this sky has been said,» the minister said, emphasizing the necessity of the reform for Turkey’s state finances. Celik said the government cannot be blamed for the delay of the reform package. «The year 2007 was a lost one for Turkey. We all know how it was wasted with political wrangling, and internal disputes over presidential elections,» Celik said. Economy Minister Mehmet Simsek said last month that the new social security reform would be «more aggressive, more comprehensive» than the one passed by parliament last year, but the government since then has backtracked after criticism from trade unions and the opposition. Celik said a full schedule for implementation of the reform would be decided later in a parliament commission.