All signs point to a strong economic recovery for Turkey

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Turkish coffee is back for the first time since 1978 - in Turkish homes, offices, shops, and coffee houses.

Its return is highly symbolic for Turks. Indeed, it is front-page news in most newspapers.

The reason is simple. This ''luxury'' -- actually imported mainly from Brazil - has acted as a barometer of the nation's economy. And the economy is showing every sign of making a strong recovery from its very shaky condition of the past few years.

Recommended: Think you know Turkey? Take our country quiz.

In fact, when the government announced last month that the ban on coffee imports was being lifted, Deputy Premier Turgut Ozal, who is regarded as Turkey's ''economic wizard,'' commented that ''we can now import coffee because our economy has recovered. We can now show the world that we have money to buy coffee from abroad.''

Where four years ago Turks spent hours in long lines to buy a variety of essentials from groceries to gasoline, today the lines have evaporated.

Where four years ago the country had come to the brink of bankruptcy, with billions of dollars of foreign debts it was unable to pay, with huge trade deficits, with soaring inflation exceeding 100 percent and unemployment at 20 percent, today the overall outlook is optimistic.

The so-called economic stabilization program launched by Turgut Ozal in January 1980 has transformed the Turkish economy from the centralized, closed model of the past to an outward-looking system based on the free play of market forces.

The stabilization program provides among other things for a tight monetary system, high interest rates, and incentives for exports. It has cut inflation down to nearly one-third of the previous level (40 percent in 1981), increased exports by 65 percent (an all-time high of $4.7 billion), and rebuilt the country's reserves (now $1.7 billion).

Many serious problems remain. Unemployment is high. Output in the state sector has lagged. And private businessmen have been adversely affected by the tight monetary and high interest policies.

In addition, Turkey still depends largely on foreign economic assistance, mainly from its Western allies. But when some European countries recently moved to block or suspend aid because of Turkey's military regime, Ozal said angrily that this country could do now even without such help.

Overall, many foreign analysts agree, Turkey's economic performance in the last two years has exceeded expectations. Ozal's ''success story'' is offered as an example to other developing nations.

The Ozal predictions for the current year are even more optimistic. He foresees a continuing boom in exports (to $5.6 billion) and a further drop in inflation (to 25 percent). And he sees Turkey advancing toward the goal of a free market economy, which he expects will promote more private and foreign investments.

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