Top Turkish business group urges government to respect fundamental rights, freedoms

The Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD) has called on the government to take a more liberal line on fundamental rights and freedoms to boost Turkey’s economy.

"The rule of law and a reliable judicial system that works quickly and fairly will pave the way for permanent and sustainable growth, ensuring the flow of investment capital into the country," TÜSİAD Chairman Simone Kaslowski told an advisory meeting on Dec. 3. Footage from the meeting was published on TÜSİAD’s official website.

"As long as an environment of trust, predictability and freedom is fully provided, we believe in our human resources, above-ground natural resources, and the growth potential of SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises) that provide jobs and food opportunities to 74 percent of the working population and our capacity to be creative and different in all areas," he said.

The lira has lost about a quarter of its value this year as Turkish deposit holders purchased foreign currency to protect their savings and foreign investors pulled capital out of the country. It hit an all-time low of 8.58 per dollar on Nov. 6 and has traded as high as 7.5 per dollar since.

The central bank has spent tens of billions of dollars of its foreign currency reserves defending the lira  as it kept interest rates at below annual inflation to back a government economic stimulus. As a result, its net reserves, minus liabilities, stood at a negative $47.9 billion at the end of October.

Tuncay Özilhan, the head of TÜSİAD’s High Advisory Council, said that transparency and accountability would enhance the trust of investors.

“For all economic units to make healthy analysis and long-term predictions and planning, there is a need for information which is correct and is on world standards, and this information needs to be shared in a transparent way,” he said.

Özilhan said that the Turkish authorities were likely to make fewer mistakes in an environment that allowed “ideas and criticisms to be expressed in a free manner and has pluralistic and freedom media”.

Özilhan said that judicial reform was necessary for Turkey.

“We believe that we are at a point where can finally expand freedoms, leaving security concerns behind,” he said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan promised a slate of judicial and economic reforms last month, rallying investors and leading to expectations of the possible release of Turkey’s political dissidents including politicians, human rights advocates and journalists in prison.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arınç tested the waters last week by suggesting that businessman Osman Kavala and Selahattin Demirtaş, former leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), should be released from prison.

Erdoğan rebuked Arınç’s remarks, leading to the deputy minister’s resignation from the Presidential Advisory Board shortly after.

Arınç was among the latest to leave the government last month. Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, Erdoğan’s son-in-law, resigned and has been replaced by Lütfi Elvan, a former deputy prime minister and head of parliament's budget committee.

A day before Albayrak announced his resignation, Erdoğan sacked the governor of the central bank, Murat Uysal, after reportedly being told about the sharp erosion of the bank's foreign exchange reserves. The president later brought in Naci Ağbal, a former finance minister and his chief adviser on budgetary affairs.

Following Erdoğan’s announcement of market-friendly economic reforms, foreign investors rallied around the Turkish lira, pushing it 12 percent higher, according to Reuters. The boost was partially reversed by local investors who have yet to be persuaded that the reforms will follow through, the news agency said.

Analysts cited by Reuters said locals could warm to the lira if deposit rates, which Ağbal hiked to 15 percent after his appointment, are pulled higher by further monetary tightening.