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Turkey: Escape artist or fall guy?

The Turkish economy has made great strides forward since the financial meltdown of 2001. But has it changed enough to survive the global economic slump? Guy Norton reports from Istanbul.

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NO COUNTRY IN emerging Europe does economic crises quite like Turkey. Having spent the best part of the post-World War II period trapped in a series of seemingly interminable boom-bust cycles, the country suffered a spectacular meltdown in 2001, just as the rest of so-called New Europe was entering what with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight looked like a golden era of high liquidity and rapid economic growth.

"The 2001 crisis was the result of arguably four decades of economic distortions and mismanagement," says Serhan Cevik, senior emerging market economist at Nomura International in London. "Those factors brought Turkey to the brink of collapse." He maintains that on the back of the politico-economic reforms implemented since 2001 Turkey is much better positioned to face the undoubted economic challenges that lie ahead. "Turkey’s a much different place now compared with 2001. That doesn’t mean it’s invulnerable, it’s just that there is not the type of systemic risk that there used to be."

Although nobody in Turkey would argue that the prospect of an economic collapse is out of the question, there is universal accord that – so far at least – the economic effects of the past 12 months pale in comparison with those of 2001.

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