Turkey tries to streamline government and invigorate economy
Reform is high on Turgut Ozal's list of priorities as he settles in as Turkey's new civilian leader. On Monday Prime Minister Ozal outlined his program to Parliament. Major steps include:
* Centralizing and streamlining the government by merging several ministries and reducing the number of Cabinet members.
* Raising interest rates in an effort to bring down inflation, which he hopes to reduce from 40 to 25 percent. Mr. Ozal is known for having reduced inflation from 100 to 40 percent when he was deputy prime minister in the early 1980s.
* Introducing other economic measures based on the free-market system to encourage investment, boost exports, and gradually reduce Turkey's 20 percent unemployment. These will include limiting the money supply, reducing the budget deficit, gradually liberalizing foreign trade, and lifting foreign-currency restrictions.
Ozal promised major reforms for the state-owned enterprises, some of which will be handed over to the private sector. He also pledged to give up state subsidies to banks and companies going bankrupt.
The question is whether Ozal will be able to carry out reforms without antagonizing the various sectors of society. The decision to raise interest rates has already provoked angry reaction in business circles. But the middle class, burdened by high inflation, generally welcomed it.
Ozal faces similar difficulties on political matters. He has promised to lift martial law ''gradually'' and consider a ''partial amnesty'' of political prisoners. At the same time, he stressed that preserving law and order is a top priority. He promised local elections ''as soon as possible'' (probably next spring) with the participation of the two major political parties that were barred by the ruling generals from the recent parliamentary elections.
Although the National Security Council - the military body that governed Turkey for the last three years - has been dissolved, there is no doubt that Ozal has to take the military into account. The four top generals who formed the NSC are now in civilian clothes as members of the ''advisory council'' to President Kenan Evren. Their influence will still be felt, but mainly on matters of law and order, national security, and basic principles such as preserving secularism and banning communism.
Ozal is known as a shrewd, tactful, and pragmatic politician. He is expected to accommodate his electorate and the Army. Observers do not foresee any major conflict between Ozal and President Evren, at least in the near future.
The new government has inherited responsibility for three important decisions made by the military in the waning days of its rule: endorsement of the Turkish Cypriots' unilateral declaration of independence, granting of certain facilities at the Incirlik air base to the United States peacekeeping force in Lebanon, and the signing of an agreement to purchase 160 F-16s from the US.
Ozal says he respects these commitments. He also stresses his desire to develop ties with the Islamic world. As a practicing Muslim, Ozal certainly sympathizes with Islam, but he is not expected to mix religious feelings with national interests.