How Turkey revitalized its lagging export trade

Glassware in San Francisco boutiques, engine components in Cairo car-part shops, and split-phase motors in Frankfurt warehouses have a common element - all are marked ''made in Turkey.''

These are some of the products of Turkey's remarkable two-year-old export program, which has brought the beginning of prosperity to one segment of the country's economy.

Faced in 1980 with high inflation, limited exports, and an almost unserviceable trade deficit along with shortages of needed consumer goods, the government turned for guidance to the International Monetary Fund. Officials of that agency, impressed with the proposed program of Turgut Ozal, deputy prime minister for economic affairs (who was retained from the Suleyman Demirel government even after the military takeover) supported the turnabout plan.

Since 1980, tight fiscal policies and free-floating internal interest rates have been key factors in the change.

But the real story of Turkey's new economic attitude lies in the export sector. In 1981, under the new stimulation, exports increased almost 30 percent over the previous year; and the 1982 estimates are expected to increase the figure another 50 percent to $7 billion (US). All this has been achieved by a specialized government formula which was geared specifically to encourage exports - with tax rebates, duty-free imports of needed raw materials, and low-rate interest on loans.

Turkey has always been an important world exporter, but mostly in agriculture: cotton, tobacco, many fruits, nuts, and livestock products. And textiles have been high on its ship-out list. But the Ozal plan was aimed, for one thing, at energizing a dormant sector of Turkey's economy - small and medium-size industry. Today more than half of Turkey's exports come from machinery shops, foundries, fabrication assembly lines, and small industrial plants.

Other recent export development has made new use of Turkey's wide range of natural resources including coal, chromite, boron, and copper.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.