By Ovunc Kutlu and Michael Hernandez
Turkey needs to find ways for its economy to grow 5 - 6 percent annually, Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek said Thursday.
”You would be surprised [that] between 2010 and 2016, the average GDP growth rate was 6.7 percent [in Turkey]," Simsek said at the IMF and World Bank’s Spring Meetings in Washington.
"For us, 3 percent growth was mediocre. We have to find 5 to 6 percent growth. We believe we can do that," he said.
With a downturn in global economy, a failed coup attempt last July and geopolitical turmoil in the Middle East, the Turkish economy expanded 2.9 percent last year, after growing 6.1 percent in 2015.
"The worst is behind us.” Simsek said. ”Things do not look as bad as they look.
“Turkey had more than its fair share of challenges. We had some regional geopolitical tensions. Last year was a very difficult year. But, now that we have this referendum too, we set the stage for stability in the medium- and long-run. It gives us the opportunity to now deliver structural reforms," he said.
A Turkish referendum Sunday ensured President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would have executive powers. With that in the rear view mirror, Turkey now can focus on reforms, according to Simsek.
"In the short-run, referendum should help. We prioritize education, infrastructure, research and development. It's working out," he said.
One of the most significant infrastructure projects Turkey has undertaken is the construction of a new airport in Istanbul that has received €10 billon in investments.
”We need to come up with bankable projects and a predictable framework. Turkey has been extremely successful in projects. We are building the world's largest airport in Istanbul, [in which], private sector initially invested 10 billion euros," he said.
Regarding relations with the European Union, Simsek said Turkey has made a number of proposals.
"There is plenty of noise between Turkey and the EU. Actually, we proposed the EU to upgrade the Customs Union to include services, agriculture and public procurement," he said.
Simsek argued that Turkey's strong agricultural productivity could benefit to the EU's framework.
"We have the largest agriculture economy in the Europe. If you include agriculture services and public procurement, trade with the EU, easily, will increase from $250 billion to $300 billion in a decade," he said.
Although there are "unfavorable politics of enlargement" within the EU, Simsek said Turkey and the EU should "focus on [a] positive agenda."
In an address at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce later in the day, Simsek said the referendum outcome greatly improved Turkey's prospects for political stability.
The new presidential system will allow governments to last about five years, he said, which, when combined with structural reforms, "should generate high prosperity".
"My government is committed to deliver reforms, maintain a progressive platform. That has not changed" he said. "What has changed is we've suffered from unexpected, massive shocks.
"Any other country would have been in deep recession, any other country would have gone through a systemic crisis. Turkey is still there, still delivering, and is a good partner. That has not changed."