ANKARA (Reuters) – The Turkish government will apply a series of reforms in the first quarter of 2008 to stimulate economic growth after recent data showed a sharp slowdown in the economy, Economy Minister Mehmet Simsek said yesterday. Gross national product grew a mere 2 percent in 2007’s third quarter, after annual growth rates of more than 7 percent in the last four years. The Justice and Development Party government, which was taken by surprise by the low growth figures, has been criticized by the business community for failing to speed up crucial economic reforms after winning a landslide parliamentary election in July. «We will implement reforms starting in the first quarter of 2008 to raise Turkey’s potential growth,» Simsek told a televised interview on CNN Turk TV. The government will pass a law for more flexible labor markets and also a research and development law to back innovation in an effort to raise growth rates, Simsek said. He said Turkey’s economic growth would be below a potential 6.5 percent growth rate in the near future but this would rise in the medium and longer term.