Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A very enlightening TV program

I am not a big fan of of the endless Turkish panel discussion TV programs that go on ever day until the wee hours of the morning, but when I got an SMS urging me to watch TUSIAD President Umit Boyner on NTV, I wanted to give it a try, especially since I had a slight cold and wanted to play couch potato for the night.

Anyway, here's my take from the one-hour program, which was mostly the presenter reading excerpts from recent op-eds about TUSIAD and asking Boyner's comments on them:

First of all, I added SuleymanYasar, Economics columnist at daily Sabah, to the list of economists I would like to take to Pandora to feed to Toruk. He follows in the footsteps of distinguished economists Yigit Bulut and Cemil Ertem.

Mr. Yasar's argument that TUSIAD had been favoring a Stand-by with the IMF because they were after the IMF funds and had sided against the government when the arrangement fell through borders between obscurity and insanity.

But although this was not probably in his mind, there could be a case for his logic: If the IMF agreement went through, the funds would have been used to decrease the Treasury's borrowing requirement, mitigating crowding out and making more funds available to the real sector. But who in the real sector? The giants of Turkish industry did not see access to credit decline, it was the more moderate firms and SMEs that saw credit lines dry up. So the IMF Arrangement would have probably helped SMEs the most.

Incidentally, Mr Yasar also accuses TUSIAD of trying to destroy competition coming from the so-called Anatolian tigers. Never mind the fact that quite a few of those tigers are members of TUSIAD, the smaller ones who are not would have benefited the most from the IMF agreement.

However, TUSIAD President Umit Boyner did not choose this line of defense, arguing instead that the reasons for pushing for a Stand-by at the time were purely economical and that TUSIAD and SMEs were working together against global competition. Bear in mind that many economists, like your friendly neighborhood economists, were also arguing for a Stand-by at the time, and so it was not that TUSIAD was playing the lone ranger. But irrespective of your position on the Stand-by, you should agree that taking the markets and the Fund for a fool was not gentlemanly at all.

Boyner also made the point that SMEs were vital for creating employment in Turkey, but a loyal reader recently notified me of a recent paper that questions that well-presumed relationship for the US. We had found similar results working with Turkish data back in 2006, but we did not make much of those results at the time, as our main goal was completely something else. So I am now frantically trying to locate that paper, which was a background for the World Bank Investment Climate Assessment project, if I do not misremember...

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