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Turkey: Reforms under Özal
Country Study > Chapter 3 > The Economy > Growth and Structure of the Economy > Reforms under Özal


In January 1980, the government of Prime Minister Süleyman Demirel (who had served as prime minister 1965-71, 1975-78, and 1979-80) began implementing a far-reaching reform program designed by then Deputy Prime Minister Turgut Özal to shift Turkey's economy toward export-led growth.

The Özal strategy called for import-substitution policies to be replaced with policies designed to encourage exports that could finance imports, giving Turkey a chance to break out of the postwar pattern of alternating periods of rapid growth and deflation. With this strategy, planners hoped Turkey could experience export-led growth over the long run. The government pursued these goals by means of a comprehensive package: devaluation of the Turkish lira and institution of flexible exchange rates, maintenance of positive real interest rates and tight control of the money supply and credit, elimination of most subsidies and the freeing of prices charged by state enterprises, reform of the tax system, and encouragement of foreign investment. In July 1982, when Özal left office, many of his reforms were placed on hold. Starting in November 1983, however, when he again became prime minister, he was able to extend the liberalization program.

The liberalization program overcame the balance of payments crisis, reestablished Turkey's ability to borrow in international capital markets, and led to renewed economic growth. Merchandise exports grew from US$2.3 billion in 1979 to US$8.3 billion in 1985. Merchandise import growth in the same period -- from US$4.8 billion to US$11.2 billion -- did not keep pace with export growth and proportionately narrowed the trade deficit, although the deficit level stabilized at around US$2.5 billion. Özal's policies had a particularly positive impact on the services account of the current account. Despite a jump in interest payments, from US$200 million in 1979 to US$1.4 billion in 1985, the services account accumulated a growing surplus during this period. Expanding tourist receipts and pipeline fees from Iraq were the main reasons for this improvement. Stabilizing the current account helped restore creditworthiness on international capital markets. Foreign investment, which had been negligible in the 1970s, now started to grow, although it remained modest in the mid-1980s. Also, Turkey was able to borrow on the international market, whereas in the late 1970s it could only seek assistance from the IMF and other official creditors.

The reduction in public expenditures, which was at the heart of the stabilization program, slowed the economy sharply in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Real gross national product (GNP -- see Glossary) declined 1.5 percent in 1979 and 1.3 percent in 1980. The manufacturing and services sectors felt much of the impact of this drop in income, with the manufacturing sector operating at close to 50 percent of total capacity. As the external-payments constraint eased, the economy bounced back sharply. Between 1981 and 1985, real GNP grew 3 percent per year, led by growth in the manufacturing sector. With tight controls on workers' earnings and activities, the industrial sector began drawing on unused industrial capacity and raised output by an average rate of 9.1 percent per year between 1981 and 1985. The devaluation of the lira also helped make Turkey more economically competitive. As a result, exports of manufactures increased by an average rate of 45 percent per annum during this period.

The rapid resurgence of growth and the improvement in the balance of payments were insufficient to overcome unemployment and inflation, which remained serious problems. The official jobless rate fell from 15 percent in 1979 to 11 percent in 1980, but, partly because of the rapid growth of the labor force, unemployment rose again, to 13 percent in 1985. Inflation fell to about 25 percent in the 1981-82 period, but it climbed again, to more than 30 percent in 1983 and more than 40 percent in 1984. Although inflation eased somewhat in 1985 and 1986, it remained one of the primary problems facing economic policy makers.

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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