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Tangent or bull’s-eye?

The word "tangent" comes from the Latin "tangere," meaning, "to touch."

Wikipedia explains that in geometry, the tangent line (or, simply, the tangent) to a curve at a given point is the straight line that "just touches" the curve at that point. As it passes through the point of tangency, the tangent line is "going in the same direction" as the curve, and, in this sense, it is the best straight-line approximation to the curve at that point. A "bulls-eye," on the other hand, means the "focal point" or "center point" of a target.

Now, the question: Did the global economic crisis pass Turkey tangentially, or did it hit Turkey on the bulls-eye?

Unemployment figures are bizarre! According to official statistics, which for obvious reasons take into account only the "registered economy," almost one in five Turks is unemployed. The situation for youth is even more dreadful - one in every three is unemployed. If the unregistered economy, women (particularly in rural areas) and those who have given up hope of employment and no longer are seeking jobs are added to this bleak picture, it could be concluded that Turkey has never been in such a terrible situation.

Even the statistics of the 1940s, when Turkey was rationing bread during World War II, though it successfully managed to stay out of that calamity, show that the country’s economy was performing far better than it is today. Regarding capacity utilization, again according to official figures, the best-performing industries that managed to remain open in spite of the crisis are producing almost at half capacity. The Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges, or TOBB, reported the closure of thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises over just the past few months. Yet the government is still claiming that the global economic crisis has passed Turkey tangentially.

Record negative growth

If, by the time this article reaches readers, the Turkish Statistical Institute, or TürkStat, does not recall its report and issue a new one with improved figures, the first-quarter performance of the Turkish economy underscores the reality that annual growth of up to 8 percent will probably be replaced this year with a record negative growth.

International agencies, as well as the World Bank, have already forecasted negative growth of more than 6 percent for Turkey in 2009. I am afraid the situation will be far worse than that.

According to the data released by TürkStat yesterday, in the first quarter of 2009, the Turkish economy shrunk as though the country was in a state of war, or perhaps worse. The data released by the government agency - which has, unfortunately, established a notorious reputation with "updates" to its own published reports that portray the government as "more successful" than it actually has been - showed that Turkey’s gross national product in the first quarter of this year shrunk by an unprecedented 13.8 percent, much higher than the anticipated negative 12 percent growth.

Compared to the last quarter of 2008, when Turkish GNP shrunk by 6.2 percent, the 13.8 percent negative growth of the Turkish economy demonstrated clearly that the global crisis indeed did not pass tangentially; coupled with the domestic crisis, it has instead hit the country on the bulls-eye.

Originally the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government forecasted a growth of 4 percent for the Turkish economy in 2009. Later, that figure was revised to a negative 3.6 percent growth. It is now becoming apparent that not only the government’s negative 3.6 percent growth target, but also the World Bank’s anticipated negative 6 percent growth rate will have to be revised with some more realistic and bitter figures, underscoring the incredible negative successes of the AKP government on the economy this year.

Yet, rather than discussing the dreadful state of affairs of the Turkish economy, the country is wasting time debating the authenticity of an alleged "military" photocopy-plan said to be aimed at stopping the AKP and the Islamist Fethullah Gülen brotherhood organization. To me, this appears to be nothing more than the latest bullet fired at the credibility of the Turkish Armed Forces in a bid to clear the way for the Islamist advance in the country.