Turkey’s ruling AKP reins in targets for 2023

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has issued a new development plan, slashing the ambitious targets it had set itself for the centenary of the Turkish Republic’s founding in 2023, independent Turkish news site T24 has reported.

The original goals for 2023 were written in 2011, the heyday of AKP rule, when Turkey’s economy was booming with double digit growth and its government widely praised internationally.

Targets included raising the gross domestic product to $2 trillion and raising per capita income to $25,000, as well as raising the value of exports to $500 million and reducing unemployment to 5 percent.

The intervening years have been difficult for Turkey, making those ambitious goals impossible to attain. Eight years since the targets were set, GDP remains at $784 billion, per capita income at under $10,000, and exports at $168 million.

The 2011 Arab uprisings, presenting the first of many significant challenges as the Middle East region, became wracked with conflicts and millions of migrants settled in the country.

The AKP government has also experienced a series of political shocks, starting with nationwide Gezi protests in 2013 and a failed coup attempt in 2016. The political troubles have been accompanied by an increasingly strained economy, which went through a recession in the final quarter of 2018.

A currency crisis added to Turkey's woes last year, with the lira falling 28 percent against the dollar over the course of the year and dropping to a record low of over 7 against the dollar after the United States placed sanctions over a diplomatic row in the summer.

Most observers blame structural issues for Turkey’s economic problems, which include high inflation at around 15 percent and unemployment at nearly 13 percent. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his son-in-law, Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, say the country’s economy has been attacked by foreign powers and “speculators”.

With the 2011 targets out of reach, the AKP cut its GDP target to $1.08 billion, its per capita income target to $12,484, its exports target to $226.6 billion and its targeted unemployment rate to 9.9 percent – slashing the original targets by around half. 

Berlin School of Economics and Law associate professor Ümit Akçay noted in a tweet that the per capita income target set out in the new plan was equal to the actual figure for per capita income in 2013. “Meaning they’re promising ten years of depression”, Akçay said.