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“There is crisis; there also is remedy”
Producing Turkey Platform launched a communication campaign with the title "There is crisis, there also is remedy". Producing Turkey Platform is led by Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB). Besides TOBB, many trade unions including Hak-İş, Türk-İş, TESK, TİSK, Kamu-Sen as well as Turkish Industrialists' and Businessmen's Association (TUSIAD), Independent Industrialists' and Businessmen's Association (MUSIAD) and Assembly of Turkish Exporters (TİM) are involved in the platform. TOBB President Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu specifically emphasized that anyone willing to join the platform can do so. Saying "There is crisis; there is remedy", platform made a statement putting special emphasis on the importance of the domestic market. Targeting consumers, it said "Don't lock yourselves in the house, go out for shopping". During the proceeding phases of the campaign, messages to other sectors of the society will also be announced.
Domestic market oriented point of view seems quite appropriate in the course of the current crisis. Today, let us locate the "There is crisis, there also is remedy" campaign into a framework. I believe that the campaign is an opportunity to initiate a discussion that should have been initiated long ago. I believe that those disapproving and criticizing the campaign directly contribute to its success. Let me explain why.
In crisis milieus, discussions must focus on exit strategies. However, as seen, Turkey still fails to proceed on a discussion period oriented in a exit strategy. What we see is a high school moot discussing between the ideas "there exists a crisis" and "the crisis is not at all that serious". Or, the issue is addressed as a preference between "signing an agreement with the IMF" and "move on without the IMF". Why is that so? Why cannot we carry out a full-fledged proper economic policy discussion? Is there a particular defect specific to this region? No. Until now, Turkey did not have the right milieu to discuss the crisis. Therefore, a campaign that began to be designed months ago was not launched until recently. Why was that so? It is quite simple; elections were on the way. Biggest damage caused by the 2009 elections was that it delayed the discussions on economic exit strategy; just as it delayed the IMF agreement.
Last week, President of Brazil, Lula, was in Turkey. In our consideration, his most remarkable statement was the following: "Get money from the IMF, but do not let them interfere into your business". But, do we know what to do whether or not we let IMF interfere in our business? I do not believe we do. Is there a deep discussion apart from the "We want IMF money" and "We do not want IMF money" arguments? No, there is not. What do we discuss? We discuss credit guarantee fund, spending coupons, and loan restructuring. And all of those items are in fact an output of the studies carried out at the very beginning of the campaign we are talking about. Unfortunately however, there never happened a discussion on a comprehensive economic program.
How, there exists a more convenient milieu to initiate this discussion; for three reasons. First, the elections are now over. It is possible that the discussion goes beyond the "we want IMF" versus "we do not want IMF" distinction and intensifies. Second, with the change in the cabinet; there is a new administration and a political milieu tending to become more moderate. Third, there is an optimism wind that begun to spread around in the markets following the beginning of the new season. Now, we need an economic policy discussion environment that will get all of the factors together. We need an awareness campaign that will make economics top agenda item. Producing Turkey Platform will succeed to the extent this can be accomplished. This is the first point.
The second contribution to the economic policy discussion in Turkey was made by the subtitle of the campaign for the first week. First message was conveyed to consumers. It read "Don't lock yourselves in the house, go out for shopping". How did some respond this subtitle? They responded "we do not have the money to do shopping". In that case, this is how we should think: First is strong domestic market is an advantage for Turkey. Second, this advantage must certainly be utilized within the strategy to tackle the crisis. Third, different sectors have different purchasing powers. The crisis, while limiting the purchasing power of some sectors, leads to an increase in that of other sectors. Fourth, one-time income transfer toward those sectors that lost purchasing power should definitely be considered as a policy measure. Fifth, IMF agreement should step in when doing this, to not disturb public finance balances. Sixth, the task of strengthening the domestic market assigns a role to everyone. Seventh, the contribution each people can make to the strategy to tackle the crisis is not identical. Eighth, that contribution works just like the "some gives money, some gives prayers" case. Ninth, the role to be assumed by the government will be much bigger than anyone else which is quite natural. Tenth, prices go down almost to bargain prices in most sectors and such environment provides affordable opportunities for those who have the money. In this context, any recommendation on how to strengthen the domestic market is of great importance and contributes to the campaign. Turkey has eventually in a milieu convenient to make decisions regarding the remedy. This milieu must be made good use of. This is the second point.
Timing of the "There is crisis; there is remedy" campaign launched "Make Turkey happy" is highly appropriate not only politically but also as the period in the calendar year. Seasons have been beginning one after another and beginnings of seasons are full of hope. Now, everyone was to make a contribution toward the target in line with their capability. Here, the most important role must be assumed by the government. And this is the third point.
Kindly submitted to whom this might concern
This commentary was published in Referans daily on 26.05.2009