Buy less cellular phones, help curb trade gap, Turkish minister advises

Buy less cellular phones, help curb trade gap, Turkish minister advises

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Buy less cellular phones, help curb trade gap, Turkish minister advises

Shoppers come out of a mall in the southern province of Antalya. Zafer Çağlayan says imported phones are widening the trade gap. DHA photo

Turks should cut down high spending on imported products such as cell phones to help curb the booming trade deficit, Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan advised citizens yesterday.

Also suggesting a bunch of measures for industries, the minister said the government’s efforts to balance foreign trade might turn out useless if consumers continue to spend recklessly.

“Is Turkey that rich to change their cell phones every 11 months?” Çağlayan asked during the Evaluation of Turkish Imports in 2011 meeting in Istanbul.

Çağlayan said Turkey imported a total of 14.3 million cell phones at a cost of nearly $1.74 billion last year.

“I am not telling people not to buy cell phones, but I am just thinking out loud: Does spending this much on imported phones indicate Turkey is a rich country?”

Turkish consumers and businessmen should play certain roles and bare responsibilities to support the government’s bid to stop the chronic trade deficit, which peaked at $105.87 billion in 2011, according to Çağlayan, who also revealed a new strategy to fine tune imports.

Turkey’s 2011 exports hit an all-time record, rising to $134.9 billion with an 18.5 percent increase
from a year earlier, according to official data. However, this was a record-breaking year for imports also as Turkey bought goods and raw materials worth $240.83 in 2011, which marked a 29.8 percent rise from 2010.

Advising producers to import raw materials and intermediate goods when possible, Çağlayan also criticized Turkey’s growth model. “Some criticize us of booming imports and they are right,” said Çağlayan, noting that the government would not ban businessmen from importing goods. “I cannot bar citizens from imports as long as they are not unhappy with it,” he said.

‘Domestic car necessary’
Turkey’s foreign dependency on motor vehicles stood at 51 percent as of last year, Çağlayan noted, which he said justified Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s push on local businesses to build a domestic car brand.

“Unfortunately, there is still a widespread misbelief among the public that imported goods are high quality,” said Çağlayan.

Turkish companies should invest more in research and development and creating successful brands across the world, he said.

Turkey is not the only country that has a higher import increase than export increase, according to the minister, who pointed at China, Chile and Japan. “We are not comparing Turkey to find excuses for the current position but to show that Turkey is not the only country posting trade deficit,” he said.

The minister said mainly booming domestic demand and rising commodity prices last year paved the way for the hike in imports. Çağlayan also said energy-dependent Turkey’s oil and gas imports rose by 40.5 percent to $54.1 billion last year from $38.5 billion in 2010 due to rising energy prices.

“Has Turkey’s gas and oil consumption rose that much? Certainly no,” Çağlayan said, adding Turkey’s crude oil imports rose by 7 percent by volume to 18.4 million tons last year from 16.8 million tons in 2010.

Some 42 percent of Turkey’s imports consist of raw materials that are not produced in Turkey and another 42 percent goes to rare goods or intermediate goods, he said.
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