Georgi Dimov: The trends in Turkey’s economy are frightening27 September 2016 | 15:13 | Radio FOCUS
FOCUS: International agency Moody’s lowered Turkey’s credit rating. The reasons pointed out by the agency were the increased risks related to delayed reforms in the country, weaker economic growth, need of external financing, and unfavorable investment climate. This already happened with Standart & Poor’s credit rating of the country as well in July. Out of all large ratings agencies, only Fitch retained Turkey’s credit level at above junk status. We are also going to discuss the political problems in Turkey now with our guest Georgi Dimov, former consul general of Bulgaria in Edirne.
My first question towards you Mr. Dimov is this, has Turkey been sending mixed signals amid the worsened economic condition and unstable political environment in the country, and will it retain its friendly relations with major “players” on the geo-political map? I also refer to the US and everything which President Erdogan has recently been stating regarding the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, which Turkey did not want to be delayed any longer, and regarding eventual support to the US in an operation against the Islamic State. Turkey has been sending very mixed signals, don’t you think?
Georgi Dimov: Yes, I could not disagree with everything you just said, and at the same time I could not disagree with how you formulated the question and the topics you highlight. Namely – Turkey as a key player, and in particular its open ambitions to become one. Because, in diplomacy and in international policy, the exact formulations are something more than a medical diagnosis. The attempts are more like accompanying symptoms. I am immediately reminded of the arguments around the world, and mostly in Bulgaria, on whether our southeast neighbour is a regional power, or has it turned into a world power. And we, somehow, missed it. And this is a good time to give a modest recommendation regarding Turkey’s attempts to become a world power – just forget about them, especially after what happened on 15 July, and what followed and continues to heat up and develop in both internally and internationally. It will come to light even more very soon. In regards to Turkey’s regional claims – things do not seem very bright. Unfortunately for Ankara, they are not explicit and one-way. Could we, for example, disregard the position and role in the region of Iran, Egypt, and Israel? You know that, during the events in Syria the last few days, they somewhat in passing reminded us once again of the Jewish country’s nuclear potential. But let us define the two current directions amid those geo-political attempts – Turkey’s economy and the situation in Syria in the context of the Kurdish problem. These are the exact two aspects which show the contradicting signals sent by Turkey to its partners. For the economy: we could indeed not disregard Turkey’s lowered credit rating in addition to the frightening signals and reports of unemployment and poverty of the population. You mentioned Moody’s lowering Turkey’s credit rating to junk status. I must apologize immediately, as in Bulgarian, the word “junk” has a different meaning and sounds vulgar. I would never use it in this context. Otherwise, Moody’s sees the serious risks faced by Turkey, including the increased need of external financing. The political turbulence after 15 July is also noted, what happened then strongly frighten foreign investors. Practically, what happened and continues to happen in Turkey is stopping and slowing down economic reforms.
FOCUS: And would the worsened economic condition lead to such insecurity inside the country itself that we might witness an uprising against President Erdogan’s policies? You said that there was unemployment. Information is coming out that the difference between the rich and the poor in Turkey is growing rapidly. Would this become a reason for a social uprising inside the country?
Georgi Dimov: This is exactly what I was about to talk about next – the unemployment and poverty of Turkish citizens. In this regard, the statements of the deputy general chairman of the Nationalistic Movement Party from a few days ago are particularly indicative. He alerted that there were increasing risks of social uprising as result of the high levels of unemployment. There is hardly any reason to doubt the Turkish nationalists of treachery. I simply base my information on some numbers mentioned by them. Currently, unemployment in Turkey is the highest for the past 70 months, and only in the last 12 months the number of people requesting to receive unemployment benefits has gone up by 50%. The official data is for over 10%, and the real one – for nearly 17% unemployed, or about 6 million people. By the end of July, over 2 million Turks could not pay their credit card obligations, and another 2 million are unable to pay for different individual goods and credits. Such is the situation. What is more important for us, if you ask me, is where we stand and what would follow. The angles are many, but since our topic today is the same, let us take the economy and happenings in Syria as a basis. A short summary of our southeast neighbour’s economy: the signals and trends are indeed frightening and are happening exactly here, right in front of us. One should not be very surprised if suddenly not only foreign economic migrants are a threat to us but also, for example, not foreign but ethnic Turkish ones. What follows is the geo politics, the geo strategy, and regional attempts among the happenings in Syria. Sadly, we do not know yet what agreements there are between Russia and the US, and what place has Turkey been assigned, what they haggled for. But we could guess based on certain statements, either made accidentally or not completely.
FOCUS: How is Turkey going to play the Kurdish card, why does the Kurds’ fate seem like the most unsolvable question for the major and not so major powers with interest towards the Middle East?
Georgi Dimov: Exactly. See, I purposely do not speak of neither an independent country, nor an autonomy, nor some other half-state, barely legal structure. This is the time to pay attention to Turkey’s ambitions and its growing appetite. Let us specify that we are talking about the territories west of the river Euphrates. It is no surprise that it is exactly there that the Turkish armed forces are undertaking the Euphrates Shield operation, which is sanctioned more or less by Washington, and the frowning look of Moscow. The information is from yesterday, who knows what would happen tomorrow. Let us not forget that the Russian frontline bomber Su-24 was taken down at the end of last year exactly in this region, on the Turkey – Syria border. Here is a historical reference – the region in question is directly in front of the Hatay province. This is old Syrian territory, given to Turkey by France in the eve of the Second World War in 1939. And the territory of the Turkish province Hatay is about 5,500 km2, the population is about a million and a half people. From the other side of the current border with Syria, there live the so-called Syrian Turks. Their number varies between 1 and 3.5 million people, and the territory that they occupy is about 5,000 km2.
FOCUS: Mister Dimov, what you are telling us is very interesting, but we only have a minute left. Could you please give us your brief prognosis of what will happen in Syria with the Kurds, and how will the Turks act against them?
Georgi Dimov: The Turks will continue to act in the region, it is no coincidence that I went back to history with that thought – if it is possible for them to secure a second Hatay with the help of the great powers. Whether that happens, I find it difficult to guess.
FOCUS: Who is more likely to support them – USA or Russia?
Georgi Dimov: Neither the first, nor the second at the end. That is what I think.
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