Sep 14 2018

Pro-government columnist calls for counter strikes on capital in Turkey

Turkey should respond to “economic terrorism” - a reference to U.S. sanctions that have exacerbated a pre-existing downturn - with an economic counter strike against those using the crisis to oppose the ruling party, columnist İbrahim Karagül said in pro-government Yeni Şafak newspaper on Friday.

The Turkish lira has fallen some 40 percent this year over investor concerns that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has cemented his grip on the economy and central bank, is ideologically opposed to increasing interest rates to tackle rising inflation. Investor confidence was further undermined when the United States imposed sanctions on Turkey in August over the detention of American citizens that President Donald Trump said are being held as hostages.

But Turkish leaders have sought to paint the economic crisis, which has resulted in higher prices for basic goods and rising unemployment, as an attack by enemies seeking to weaken Turkey.

Karagül, a staunch backer of Erdoğan, said what he called the economic attacks were another attempt to undermine Turkey, following the failure of a military coup in 2016. 

To understand the meaning of what he said was “economic terrorism”, he said one should reflect on global power struggles and the shaping of the new world order. Turkey has been punished for preferring independence to dependence on the West, he said.

“This is not an intervention that can be overcome only by economic measures. Therefore, it is obligatory to be merciless against those opportunists who want to exploit this attack, those who serve as its domestic leg, those who want to form a base for opposition and intervention using this attack,” Karagül said. 

“Nobody should have any suspicion, a serious counter strike will happen. The most important cleansing will take place in economy, in capital, in the economic bureaucracy,” Karagül said. 

There would “be sweeping changes in the economy, serious changes of ownership in the structure of capital,” he said. Business groups creating an environment for this economic intervention against Turkey would be weakened and Turkey would enter a period of nationalisation.

While Erdogan’s administration has given lucrative contracts, particularly in construction, to businesses sympathetic to its Islamist views since his party came to power in 2002, several decades-old large conglomerates still make up substantial parts of the economy, many in partnership with Western companies. 

Turkey has used nationalist economic measures before, most famously the “varlık vergisi”, or wealth tax, imposed on non-Muslims between 1942 and 1944 that also served as a tool for the “Turkification” of capital.