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    Ertugrul Ozkok: The term of deteriorating autonomous institutions in Turkey

    Hürriyet Haber
    17 Ekim 2008 - 11:02Son Güncelleme : 17 Ekim 2008 - 12:51

    I have always followed the economic pages of newspaper closely, even before the global financial crisis.

    These days I read these reports even more carefully and assert even greater effort on reading between the lines.

     

    This is how I was able to spot the recent warning sent by Turkey's Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan.

     

    Unakitan sent banks the warning, "I do hope you do not call in your loans."

     

    Without doubt this statement brings to mind private banks in Turkey; as some of them face difficulties due to their foreign partners.

     

    While the remainder of banks do not want to carry this credit risk in a shrinking economy.

     

    But, more importantly, the biggest problem is emanating from state-run banks.

     

    A major state-run bank, I will not name it, has not been lending for months.

     

    This bank’s response in regard to this situation is also very interesting.

     

    "Unfortunately we exceeded our credit limit, Turkey's Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) warned us," it said.

     

    In other words, the BDDK has concerns about the credit and the lending transactions of this state-run bank.

     

    But, how is it possible for this bank to reach its limit?

     

    Is it because of loans awarded to small tradesmen or Small and Medium size Enterprise (SME)? No... It is because of a loan awarded to a businessman with a close relationship to the government.

     

    If you remember, the BDDK was established seven years ago as a mechanism to control bank lending at a time when bad credit losses totaled $50 billion. Where do we stand at this point in time?

     

    The BDDK remained silent on loans that threaten to deteriorate this state-run bank’s balance.

     

    Those whose businesses face difficulties due to the crisis are also affected by this.

     

    ***

     

    Turkey is hugely disadvantaged as it faces what is possibly the biggest economic crisis in history.

     

    The "autonomy" of the country’s autonomous institutions is of vital importance during these periods of conjecture.

     

    But we see that at least some of these autonomous institutions have become more politically oriented and more controlled by government during the past five years.

     

    One example is the Capital Markets Board's (SPK) criminal complaint against the Dogan Family.

     

    This is not a new charge; the same fabrication was used against the Uzan Family. A total of eighteen written communications were exchanged between the SPK and Dogan Holding over seven years. At the end of this period a criminal complaint was filed with the prosecutor’s office the other day. 

     

    The timing of a regulation posted by the Energy Market Regulatory Agency (EPDK) on its website is very interesting. The markets assessed the timing as a decision against Dogan Holding.

     

    In addition, the state-run Anatolian News Agency ran the headline " POAS (Petrol Ofisi) not to be awarded Ceyhan refinery license," citing experts.

     

    I might consider this was just a coincidence and ignore it, but a line in the report drew my attention; a statement by the SPK saying that "the price difference is some 30 percent..."

     

    This is the first time I have ever encountered such an unclear expression in the formal exchange of letters. It is also unclear which article of the Securities Exchange Act the Dogan Family overstepped.

     

    At this point I see this move as a way of providing material to media organs contravening Dogan media, rather than a serious claim. I hope I am wrong.

     

    * * *

     

    I think Turkey is undergoing a period of deterioration.

     

    The institutions responsible for controlling and balancing the system are starting to become part of the problem.

     

    On the heels of the BDDK and SPK, our intelligence shield is now collapsing.

     

    I heard that Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan yesterday offered his support to the Turkish army.

     

    A timely reaction, but is it sufficient?

     

    The prime minister is both responsible for Turkey's General Staff and the National Intelligence Agency (MIT).

     

    Has he questioned the role of the foreign secret services in this situation?

     

    * * *

     

    I remember a terror summit chaired by the president of the time, Turgut Ozal, on April 6, 1990, during my very first year as editor-in-chief.

     

    All the conditions and necessary measures regarding the struggle with terror were discussed in detail at that meeting.

     

    Eighteen years have passed and I do not think it is necessary for similar summit to be held again.

     

    As most branches of the media know their responsibility in the struggle against terrorism.

     

    The media fulfilled its apprenticeship during the bloodiest days of terrorism.

     

    I hope our politicians will do the same.

     

     

     

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