Europe’s only Islamic nation spent the nineties agonising whether to join the European Union; the failure of this long-term goal, due to a European refusal to countenance its membership on little more than religious grounds, today looks like a clear case of serendipity, given the European economic crisis, and has resulted in nothing short of a boom for Turkey, whose increasingly eastwards outlook reaps dividends that are expected to multiply.
The victory of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the 2003 general elections — and the winning of two additional terms in 2007 and 2011 — has revolutionised Turkey’s economy and paved the way for solid growth. GDP, which stood at $230 billion in 2002, more than trebled to $770 billion in 2011.
Turkey’s economy grew the second-fastest in the world in 2011 at 8.5 per cent, and is expected to grow almost six per cent to $817 billion this year. OECD data shown that the Turkish economy will be the bloc’s fastest growing member in 2011-17, with average annual growth of 5.7 per cent. GDP per capita is set to rise from under $11,000 today to over $14,500 by 2016.
While these numbers do not come close to matching GCC metrics, they are quiet cause for satisfaction in Ankara. Inflation is the only blemish on this record, and is high today at 8.6 per cent.
With a growing population now at 75 million, and a labour force of 27 million, Turkey needs to increase headline GDP and diversify its economy further. The Turkish government has set a series of targets to be met by 2023, the anniversary of Kemal Ataturk’s historic step.
“Turkey aims to be one of the top 10 economies in the world (currently, it ranks at 16), to achieve a gross domestic product of $2 trillion, increase annual Turkish exports to $500 billion and achieve a foreign trade volume of $1 trillion,” says Tim Reid, HSBC’s regional head of commercial banking MENA, speaking at a Turkey-MENA seminar in Dubai. “Turkey is aiming high, but its goals are attainable.”
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