Turkey: Thousands Protest IMF

ANKARA – Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in cities across Turkey on Saturday to protest at economic reforms backed by the International Monetary Fund. Shouting "IMF go home,"’ they gathered mainly in downtown Ankara and in Istanbul amid a heavy police presence.

ANKARA – Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in cities across Turkey on Saturday to protest at economic reforms backed by the International Monetary Fund. Shouting "IMF go home,"’ they gathered mainly in downtown Ankara and in Istanbul amid a heavy police presence.

The protests came as the government met union leaders and employers in a bid to muster broad public support for a new economic program after a devastating financial crisis.

A senior economic official said the government would call for sacrifices from all sides at a Social Council meeting, including restraint in upcoming collective wage negotiations.

Economy Minister Kemal Dervis is working on a program of major structural reforms that he says are essential to win support from international lenders and the markets.

Dervis, a former senior World Banker, was brought in to take over the reins of the economy at the start of March after a crisis that ripped apart an $11 billion IMF program.

"The policies of the IMF and the World Bank do not aim to help Turkey but to assure that Turkey can pay its debts on time and in full," said Bayram Meral, president of Turkey’s largest union confederation Turk-Is, in the text of a speech prepared before the meeting with the government.

Major unions under the umbrella of the Labor Platform say a new IMF-backed economic program based on the principles of the Fund will be unacceptable and that protests and stoppages will be the response. They want wage rises to match real inflation rather than price targets which have been missed in the past.

"In the program that is being prepared there should be a remedy for poverty because as in all economic crises the price of this crisis is paid most heavily by the workers," said Recay Baskan,
head of the Hak-Is union confederation.

Author: Orhan Coskun

News Service: Reuters

URL: http://news.lycos.com/headlines/World/article.asp?docid=RTINTERNATIONAL-ECONOMY-TURKEY-DC&date=20010331