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The BBC's Chris Morris
"Tens of thousands of protestors took to the streets again"
 real 56k

Yildirim Koc, Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions
"[This] will lead to... more widespread and more effective demonstrations all over the country"
 real 28k

Hazhir Temorourian, Turkish analyst
"The government is the main problem for Turkey"
 real 56k

Saturday, 14 April, 2001, 16:39 GMT 17:39 UK
Thousands in Turkish economy protests
Turkish riot police
The police were out in force
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Istanbul and other Turkish cities on Saturday to protest at the government's handling of an economic crisis that has cost hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Amid a strong police presence, demonstrators brandished placards reading "No to the International Monetary Fund," "We want job security," or "Save workers and public sector employees - not bankrupt banks."

We will all have to tighten our belts

Economy Minister Kemal Dervis
There were also demands for the government to resign - a step it has ruled out - but there were none of the violent incidents seen earlier in the week.

The demonstrations, called by an alliance of trade unions, coincided with the unveiling of a new economic recovery programme designed to attract loans and calm public anger.

Shrinking economy

Economy Minister Kemal Dervis, who promised stabilisation, but at the cost of everyone having to tighten their belts, came in for special abuse from the crowd.

Mr Dervis, a former IMF vice-president, cautioned that "growth is a long term process", adding that Turkey's economy would shrink by 3% this year before achieving a 5% growth in 2002.

Economy Minister Kemal Dervis
Dervis: Growth is a long term process

The rate of inflation would reach 57% before dropping to below 20% next year, he said.

The minister said foreign loans were still being discussed. Mr Dervis estimates that Turkey needs up to $12bn in foreign support.

The country's new economic package includes public spending cuts, an overhaul of the weak banking system and accelerated privatization.

The country's economic crisis has led to about 500,000 layoffs, rocketing prices and rising interest rates which are crippling businesses.

Daily protests

The BBC's Chris Morris in Ankara says the minister's warning that there is no quick fix is unlikely to go down well with protesters who have already been hit hard by the crisis.

For more than two weeks, protests against the economic crisis shaking the country have become a daily occurrence.

I can't earn enough to feed my children because the value of the Turkish lira has dropped

City Hall employee

On Wednesday, some 70,000 protesters rallying in central Ankara clashed with security forces injuring more than 200 and leading to 100 arrests.

As a result of the violence, demonstrations were banned in some cities, including the capital Ankara.

The trouble began in February after a public row about corruption investigations between Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and President Ahmet Necdet Sezer.

Money market panic

The argument prompted fears of prolonged political instability and triggered panic on the money markets.

As a result, the government was forced to abandon exchange-rate controls, and the anti-inflation programme it had agreed with the IMF collapsed.

Now, international lenders say Turkey will only get the assistance it wants if the government shows it is serious about reform.

The government in Ankara is resisting any kind of reshuffle and it has ruled out resignation. But observers say there is a growing demand for change.

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See also:

11 Apr 01 | Europe
Hundreds hurt in Turkish clashes
11 Apr 01 | Europe
In pictures: Turkish protests
03 Apr 01 | Business
Turkey's inflation surprise
30 Mar 01 | Business
Turkey's economic plan suffers blow
19 Mar 01 | Business
Turkey seals new IMF deal
15 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Turkey
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