Turkey will not bow down to the IMF program - Erdoğan

Turkey “will not bow down to the IMF program, or any imposition that would indebt our country,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in his address to the nation after the cabinet meeting on Monday.

Donations to the National Solidarity Campaign, which Erdoğan personally announced and donations from public employees were collected under an opt-out system, have surpassed 1.612 billion liras (~$240 million), the president announced, adding that private banks “did not do well in this test.”

The "We are enough for each other" campaign, to which Erdoğan donated seven months of his presidential salary, "is a voluntary campaign,” he said. 

Erdoğan also announced a new weekend curfew between midnight April 17 and midnight April 19, and said weekend curfews could continue if deemed necessary. “Our goal was to protect millions of our people from the danger of the virus,” Erdoğan said. “The negative events of Friday night, even though it was clearly stated that the curfew would only cover Saturday and Sunday, do not annul this fact.”

Turkey has “close to 50” ICU beds per 100,000 population, while the European average lags behind at 12, and Germany, with the highest number, has fewer than 30, Erdoğan said. 

Efforts continue for two 1,000-bed hospitals in Yeşilköy and Sancaktepe airport grounds, and construction will begin for new hospitals in Istanbul with a total of 350-bed capacity, he added.

The city hospital in Başakşehir, a conservative suburban district in Istanbul, will be partially opened on April 20, and will be fully operational by May 15, Erdoğan said, with 456 ICU beds to be made available.

Turkey has sent medical equipment and support to 34 countries, he added, and will continue to “share what we have with all our friends.”

More than 32 million people have received codes for free masks they can redeem at pharmacies, seven million more will receive codes until Thursday, Erdoğan said. Daily testing has reached 34,406, placing Turkey high in global rankings. More than 410,000 tests have been conducted to date.

International organisations and the WHO have pointed to Turkey as an example in the fight against the coronavirus, Erdoğan said, adding that Turkey tries to respond to the needs of "all countries that ask for our support, not just our own citizens."

“If you can feel pain, you are alive. If you can feel others’ pain, you are human. We share what we have with all our friends, as per this motto. We have delivered medical equipment to 34 countries to date. We also thank our friends who supported our country for medicine, raw materials for medicine, and medical equipment," he continued.

Turkey updates pandemic measures constantly, in light of assessments by the scientific committee and public institutions, Erdoğan said.

"We will take necessary precautions to avoid a repeat of the unnecessary chaos experienced in the first hours the curfew was announced. Our goal was to protect from the danger of the virus millions of our people who would, falling for the lure of the good weather, fill up streets, parks, picnic grounds and beaches over the weekend. The negative events of Friday night, even though it was clearly stated that the curfew would only cover Saturday and Sunday, do not annul this fact."

Erdogan also addressed his rejection of the resignation of the Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu on Sunday;

 

"We appreciated the sensibility of our interior minister in taking responsibility for the matter. But we have not accepted his resignation, and asked him to continue with his duties. Our minister, whose success in the fight against terrorism, efforts after natural disasters, and most recently keeping the public order during the coronavirus pandemic I have witnessed closely, continues with his duties."

Erdoğan also thanked Devlet Bahçeli, the president of the National Movement Party (MHP) which is part of the governing Cumhur alliance, for his support during this critical time that the country is going through.

Erdoğan said the cabinet, in Monday's meeting, had decided to continue with weekend curfews when necessary, as part of the fight against the pandemic. "I would like to announce to all our citizens now that there will be a curfew in place from midnight on April 17 until midnight on April 19," he said.

Erdoğan also slammed the media for critical coverage of the government's handling of the coronavirus spread: 

"Certain media institutions have used this incident and pandemic measures in general as an excuse, and virtually declared war on their own country with their articles and columnists, like they have always done. Instead of contributing to our country’s fight in this critical time, they have all constantly spewed hate with lies or wrongful information, which is a sign of a more dire disease than the coronavirus."

Erdoğan stated that there were few countries in the world that had been as transparent as Turkey regarding both the level of contagion and what measures had been taken. "Those trying to disrupt this transparency with questions like, 'Are the decisions being made in councils that do not have authority?' aim not to seek the truth, but to stir trouble," he said.

Some Turkish medical experts who shared critical opinions on the government’s response to the outbreak or urged stricter isolation measures have faced arrest and were forced to apologise.

The Turkish Medical Association has warned that the number of cases is significantly higher than those announced by the Health Ministry, and that Turkish authorities still refuse to reveal the locations of infections or deaths, while detaining journalists who attempt to do so.

More than 300 people in Turkey have been detained for social media posts related to coronavirus.

Erdoğan continued;

"This delirium by those who try to confuse our people and to darken their hearts with publications that are a product of their dark and sullied minds would not be tolerated for a single day in other countries, rest assured.

Democracy, pluralism, and the presence of many voices are not an issue in Turkey. The issue in Turkey is the abuse of democracy, ideological bigotry blinding people, and the endless tolerance to ugly voices.

Those who work night and day to demoralise our people, with their terrorist organisations, media, and political enterprises, will one day drown in their own pits of hate and division."

“Those who thought they were the only owners of the country” have been behind “every coup, every chaos,” Erdoğan said.

“What you’ve done for years is not journalism, it’s doom-mongering. That time is gone now. Our country will be rid of not just the coronavirus, but these media and politics viruses as well, God willing.”

Erdoğan accused main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu of mythomania, saying he has no knowledge of what was happening “in the world, the country or his own municipalities.”

Turkey is taking precautions to protect employment, support pensioners and those who have lost their incomes, keeping small businesses and artisans afloat, and to support production, Erdoğan said.

According to the president, some 4.5 million citizens have received direct payments, and workers who were not eligible for the short-term work benefits would start to receive a monthly salary of 1,170 liras ($175). Erdoğan announced developments in the form of monetary support as follows:

The loans allocated to small businesses and artisans have reached 4.1 billion liras ($603.3 million), and an additional 1.5 billion liras were offered to small business owners through a bank card system. The Credit Guarantee Fund-backed continued employment financing has received more than 66,000 applications, and close to 30 billion liras have been allocated to some 35,000 companies whose applications have finished processing.

Debts for public banks and finance institutions, some 21 billion liras ($26.3 billion), have been postponed. Car loans, mortgages and credit card payments, worth some 41 billion liras, have also been postponed. Halkbank has postponed collection of 3.5 billion liras ($4.30 billion) in loan payments for small businesses. Farmers, livestock breeders and food manufacturers will receive support as well, with the government working to make available for agriculture some land that belongs to the Treasury.

"The public has put forth all resources to support all industries, but the private banks have not done well at all during these trying times. We expect private banks to do what falls on their shoulders in these difficult times our country and nation are going through," Erdoğan said.

“We are a country that has the necessary economic infrastructure to overcome this tumultuous time, glory to God,” Erdoğan said. “We will not bow down to the IMF program or any imposition that would indebt our country.”

With the steps we have taken and will take, we are determined to not let anybody uncared for, and to share the burden in a just manner.

Turkish people have shown a noble attitude with their support to the government’s national solidarity campaign, similar to when they sacrificed in compliance with the severe measures implemented during Turkey’s war of independence, Erdoğan said.