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Friday, 2 March, 2001, 17:28 GMT
World Bank man to Turkish 'rescue'
kemal dervis, turkey's economy minister
Kemal Dervis, the new Turkish economy minister
Turkey has appointed a World Bank official as its new economy minister to try to bail the country out of its latest economic crisis.

Kemal Dervis, the World Bank's vice-president for poverty reduction and economic management, is to become the new Turkish economy minister.


I have to get used to quadrillions, it's not easy


Kemal Dervis

"Mr Dervis has rich knowledge and extensive experience on economic issues and international economic relations," prime-minister Bulent Ecevit said, announcing the appointment, with Dervis standing by his side.

"I believe he will be successful in his work in Turkey," he added.

And in another promotion, central bank deputy governor Sureyya Serdengecti has been named as governor of the bank after the resignation of Gazi Ercel.

It had been thought that this job would go to Mr Dervis but he reportedly was concerned he would not have enough influence there.

Superminister?

It is the new economy minister's World Bank credentials that have sparked international interest.

In the Turkish press he has been hailed as the saviour of the country's economy, which has been lurching from crisis to crisis since the lira was devalued just over a week ago.

But the man himself has modestly been downplaying any such suggestion: "One person can't do everything," he has said.

Until now based in Washington, Mr Dervis openly admits he has difficulty getting his head around the maths in a country where the lira has been trading at around 910,000 to the dollar.

"I have to get used to quadrillions," he said, "it's not easy".

A plunging currency

Turkey floated the lira on 22 February, with the currency plunging as much as 36% in the two days afterwards.

It has since cut this loss and is now only some 25% lower.

With the price of fuel up 10% and the price of some produce rocketing by 150-200%, the country now faces an inflation rate of 10-15% in March alone. Previously this was the target for the year.

And despite a plea from the Turkish prime-minister Bulent Ecevit for a multi-billion dollar loan to help the country tackle the crisis, aid from the IMF and other international lenders has not so far been forthcoming.

Curriculum vitae

Mr Dervis has impressive credentials for the job. An economist and a former advisor to Prime-Minister Bulent Ecevit in the 1970s, he has been with the World Bank since 1978, working across a range of departments.

He speaks English, French and German, as well as Turkish, and his wife is American.

Whether his international kudos and experience is enough to help Turkey on the road to economic recovery, only time will tell. But commentators are urging caution.

"He's not going to save the country or anything but the market really likes a person of that much credibility," said Hakan Azci, strategist at Global Securities in Istanbul.

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See also:

22 Feb 01 | Business
Turkey currency plunge
28 Feb 01 | Business
Turkey hopes for $25bn loan
27 Feb 01 | Business
Turkey re-works economic plan
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