How was the bar lowered for Turkey’s national income goals?

How was the bar lowered for Turkey’s national income goals?

Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek’s recent tweet on the size of Turkey’s economy blatantly “trolls” those who are closest to him. Following his tweet, which referred to the country’s purchasing power parity (PPP), Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım joined the chorus of those proclaiming that “we have attained our 2023 goals.”

“[We are] the fifth largest economy in Europe according to the IMF. We have passed Spain in terms of PPP. [Turkey is] the third [largest economy] in the Mediterranean and the largest in the Middle East. Gross national product [GNP] has exceeded $2 trillion. That was one of our four goals for 2023,” Yıldırım said after his recent visit to Vietnam. 

“We have reached $25,000 in national income [per capita]. That was our second goal. Now we have the goals of $500 billion in annual exports and becoming one of the top 10 world economies ahead of us. We have six more years. We will work hard to achieve both of those goals,” he added.

This not a joke. Prime Minister Yıldırım is claiming that Turkey has achieved the government’s 2023 objectives. Days have passed since he made this statement but it has still not yet been corrected. In reality, we are a long way from the 2023 goals as originally set. Indeed, we would barely have reached halfway toward these goals if it had not been for the revisions made to economic calculations at the end of 2016.

Whenever Turkey slips in national income numbers, the government moves its revisions to an earlier date. If that is not enough, it has quietly stopped calculating gross national income, instead opting for PPP, which is a much higher number and more attractive for citizens who don’t know the difference between nominal and PPP values. Now, by lowering the bar the government is apparently trying to convince the public that it has already reached Turkey’s 2023 goals.  

According to PPP, Turkey has a national income of $2 trillion and national income per capita of $25,000, putting it in 13th place globally. The 2023 goals, however, were set for gross national income, which was still just $857 billion in 2016. National income per capita, meanwhile, remains $10,743. In terms of global rankings for gross national income, Turkey is in 17th place globally and for national income per capita it is in 64th place. 

So when it is claimed that “we have reached our goals,” we must honestly answer: “No, prime minister, this was not the bar of success that you promised in 2011.”

The 2023 vision that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan set, back when he was prime minister, included economic goals for gross national income, not PPP. The goals included reaching $25,000 in national income per capita and becoming a top 10 world economy. We are still a long way from those goals.

In a speech before the 2011 general election, in which he declared the 2023 objectives, Erdoğan noted that Turkey’s national income was $230 billion when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) first came to power. He said they had increased this amount to $742 billion in 2008 and praised the Turkish economy for remaining resilient in the face of the global financial crisis. 

“God willing, our goal for 2014 is reaching gross domestic product [GDP] of $1 trillion. In 2023, we want to see Turkey’s national income reach the level of $2 billion. That is our goal. We are working for this. And we are going to make our national income per capita $25,000 for a population of 82 million. 

Unfortunately, while we haven’t even reached halfway toward the goal that was set. Let alone reaching $25,000, we may even once again fall below $10,000 in national income per capita - despite the extreme revisions that the government has been making.

Moreover, the predictions in the IMF data, which Deputy Prime Minister Şimşek referred to, indicate that in 2022 - one year before 2023 - our national income will barely exceed $1 trillion. It will thus be only half of the goal set for 2023. In addition, Turkey’s place in the global rankings will not change and it will remain the world’s 17th largest economy, while our national income per capita will fall from 64th to 73rd place.

If you want to please yourself with slogans, without making a significant improvement in the economy, you can celebrate the forecast that Turkey will climb a single place to 12th in the global PPP rankings in 2022, while climbing three places to 54th in national income per capita according to PPP.