Leading by example

Prime Minister of Turkey

R.T.Erdogan ©M.Azakir/Reuters

Turkey’s efforts in the struggle against poverty and income inequality have met with much success. Today, the country stands out as a model in the region and beyond. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan discusses these achievements and the country’s role in international co-operation. 

It has become ever clearer that poverty and income inequality present serious risks today to global peace, security and stability. It is impossible to deny the fact that the source of the security problems and instability in geographies ranging from Afghanistan to Yemen and Somalia is underlined by poverty.

We should therefore see the struggle against poverty and income inequality not just as a social and economic issue, but a strategic one.

Resolution of these challenges of a global nature will only be possible through co-operation at the global level. Although currently there are some efforts internationally in this direction, the fact is these efforts have only been partially successful.

The precondition for an effective and result-oriented struggle against poverty and income inequality is to have strong political determination. The efforts in this struggle should not be viewed as charity work or a show of mercy. On the contrary, facing these issues head on is as much an urgent need in order to preserve global peace and stability as to assuage—albeit partially—the feelings of injustice of millions of people who desperately try to hang onto their lives by living off a single dollar a day.

It is also natural that, within our global environment that has turned into a global village, the injustices, inequalities, deviations and polarisations have become clearer to see. The global financial crisis stands as a probing signal of these risks. The hysteria of ambitions for unlimited profits and conspicuous consumption and the growing rift between the rich and the poor have led to a result that has shaken the economies of all countries. If we cannot draw the right lessons from the current global financial crisis and do not analyse it correctly, the damage by the ensuing tremor will be much greater.

The task incumbent on us—as leaders—is to show as much sensitivity and discretion to rid inequalities among the countries and nations as we do in the face of problems in our respective countries. A special duty falls on the more advanced countries in this area.

I do believe that Turkey presents an exemplary success story with the firm policies it has implemented in the fight against poverty and inequality both at home and in the international arena.

Global development and growth will only be possible through a participatory process, securing North-South, South-South and public-private sector co-operation schemes and bilateral, regional and multilateral aid. Sustainable, rapid and inclusive growth will require building economic fundamentals and infrastructure and raising production capacity within the less developed countries.

Turkey sets its own mission to be the voice for those countries that cannot make their voices heard globally. We are trying to reach out to those who feel that they are in need by pushing our capabilities to the limit, mobilising the resources of our government and involving the civil society organizations regardless of their geography, race, language and faith.

With its official development assistance programme, Turkey is at the top of the emerging donors list based on OECD statistics. Turkey is executing active development diplomacy with projects and aid programmes in a large number of countries. The main objective of our efforts is to address the immediate concerns of those who are in need. Our aid efforts are driven by our focus on winning the hearts and minds of people rather than by trade and economic interests.

Turkey hosted the UN Conference on Least Developed Countries in 2011 and we are determined to follow up on the implementation of the Istanbul Action Plan. Currently we have substantial work under way in order to activate the economic and technical co-operation programme we announced during the conference. We are planning to provide around US$200 million annually to these countries in a wide ranging area from trade and education to agriculture and energy. Our objective is to increase our foreign direct investment in those countries to $5 billion by 2015 and $12 billion by 2020.

As Turkey is trying to lead the charge through international efforts in overcoming inequality, we also set an example with the ground covered at home. We will continue the social restoration process initiated through very firm social policies in the fight against poverty at home. We are supporting projects that will generate income and diversify economic activity for the poor segments of society, as we are also encouraging entrepreneurship in rural and less developed regions.

In particular, reforms in favour of low income groups in the fields of education, health and employment have played a significant role in reducing income inequality.

While 136,000 people in Turkey used to live off less than $30 a month, by 2009 there was no one left behind with a monthly income below $30 a month. The population of 2 million previously living off less than $65 a month fell to 159,000 by 2009. We were able to reduce the number of people who lived with a monthly income of $129 from 20 million in 2002 to 3 million by 2009. We are planning to lift those who are left below the $65 a month income level by 2015 and to eradicate absolute poverty by 2023. In achieving these goals, we will have registered important progress and accumulated significant experience in the struggle against poverty.

Poverty and the imbalances in income distribution are being gradually reduced through policies for sustainable growth, employment, labour, education and health. We are making sure that certain groups, such as women, that are vulnerable to social isolation are incorporated into economic and social life and that their living standards are raised.

The structural transformation our government has brought to the economy and reforms it has implemented have strengthened our economy. The global crisis has been a test in this vein, one which our economy has successfully resisted. Turkey has played an active role in all decisions of the G20 process. With the consistent and firm policies it has put into action, Turkey is praised and held up by the global economic and finance circles as an example. Through well placed and reasonable measures, we have managed to overcome the impact of the global crisis on the Turkish economy. Turkey was one of the few economies that recovered very quickly after 2009 and registered an 8.9% growth in GDP in 2010, as it recorded the highest growth rate among the OECD countries.

As a result of the firm policies by our government that has wide social support, and through its economic performance, dynamism, rich human resources and productivity, Turkey stands out as an example at the global level on the issue of reducing poverty and income inequality. In light of the current global social and economic volatilities, Turkey’s achievements look even more attractive.

To ensure that this progress is sustainable, we are determined to press on with our efforts in the period ahead. In conclusion, I would like to emphasise that the success story of Turkey, our efforts to ensure an honourable living for all and reducing income inequality, is as much a source of pride for our people as it is a source of inspiration for peoples outside our borders.

Presidency of the Republic of Turkey

©OECD Yearbook 2012

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