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Turkey: Economic Development
Country Study > Chapter 3 > The Economy > Growth and Structure of the Economy > Economic Development


At the birth of the republic, Turkey's industrial base was weak because Ottoman industries had been undermined by the capitulations. World War I and the War of Independence (1919-22) also had extensively disrupted the Turkish economy. The loss of Ottoman territories, for example, cut off Anatolia from traditional markets. Agricultural output -- the source of income for most of the population -- had dropped sharply as peasants went to war. Even the production of wheat, Turkey's main crop, was insufficient to meet domestic demand. In addition, massacres and the emigration of Greeks, Armenians, and Jews, who had dominated urban economic life, caused a shortage of skilled laborers and entrepreneurs.

Turkey's economy recovered remarkably once hostilities ceased. From 1923 to 1926, agricultural output rose by 87 percent, as agricultural production returned to prewar levels. Industry and services grew at more than 9 percent per year from 1923 to 1929; however, their share of the economy remained quite low at the end of the decade. By 1930, as a result of the world depression, external markets for Turkish agricultural exports had collapsed, causing a sharp decline in national income. The government stepped in during the early 1930s to promote economic recovery, following a doctrine known as etatism. Growth slowed during the worst years of the depression but between 1935 and 1939 reached 6 percent per year. During the 1940s, the economy stagnated, in large part because maintaining armed neutrality during World War II increased the country's military expenditures while almost entirely curtailing foreign trade.

After 1950 the country suffered economic disruptions about once a decade; the most serious crisis occurred in the late 1970s. In each case, an industry-led period of rapid expansion, marked by a sharp increase in exports, resulted in a balance of payments crisis. Devaluations of the Turkish lira and austerity programs designed to dampen domestic demand for foreign goods were implemented in accordance with International Monetary Fund (IMF -- see Glossary) guidelines. These measures usually led to sufficient improvement in the country's external accounts to make possible the resumption of loans to Turkey by foreign creditors. Although the military interventions of 1960 and 1971 were prompted in part by economic difficulties, after each intervention Turkish politicians boosted government spending, causing the economy to overheat. In the absence of serious structural reforms, Turkey ran chronic current account deficits usually financed by external borrowing that made the country's external debt rise from decade to decade, reaching by 1980 about US$16.2 billion, or more than one-quarter of annual gross domestic product (GDP -- see Glossary). Debt-servicing costs in that year equaled 33 percent of exports of goods and services.

By the late 1970s, Turkey's economy had perhaps reached its worst crisis since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Turkish authorities had failed to take sufficient measures to adjust to the effects of the sharp increase in world oil prices in 1973-74 and had financed the resulting deficits with short-term loans from foreign lenders. By 1979 inflation had reached triple-digit levels, unemployment had risen to about 15 percent, industry was using only half its capacity, and the government was unable to pay even the interest on foreign loans. It seemed that Turkey would be able to sustain crisis-free development only if major changes were made in the government's import-substitution approach to development. Many observers doubted the ability of Turkish politicians to carry out the needed reforms.

Data as of January 1995

Last Updated: January 1995

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Turkey was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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