A Generous Host—Twice

By Caroline Atkinson

Many of the world’s policymakers are now on their way to Turkey to attend the Annual Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank, where they are expected to make further progress toward addressing the global financial crisis. 

And, equally importantly, the Meetings are a chance for Turkey to showcase its role as an important player in the global economy. 

At a packed press conference on September 30, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Ali Babacan said that Turkey’s hosting of “such strategically important meetings is a very important event…It is a new occasion to enhance the visibility of not only Turkey but also Istanbul.”   

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Ali Babacan: "A new occasion to enhance the visibility of not only Turkey but also Istanbul” (photo: Stephen Jaffe/IMF)

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Ali Babacan: "A new occasion to enhance the visibility of not only Turkey but also Istanbul” (photo: Stephen Jaffe/IMF)

Turkey certainly has a lot to highlight. The Turkish economy is the world’s 17th largest, with a per capita GDP in PPP terms of about $13,100 at end-2008. The IMF is also fortunate to have many talented Turkish economists on its staff, some of whom have been featured in recent Fund videos

Before the global economic crisis hit, foreign direct investment in Turkey surged from an annual average of $1.1 billion during1993-2002 to $20 billion during 2006-08, suggesting investors are well aware of the country’s potential. And let’s not forget that Turkey is a member of the Group of Twenty (G-20) industrialized and emerging market economies, whose leaders have just wrapped up their third summit in Pittsburgh

Ship shape 

Turkey became a full member of the IMF in 1947, and in 1955, Istanbul hosted the Annual Meetings of the World Bank and the IMF. This makes Turkey the only country, apart from the United States (where the IMF and the World Bank are headquartered), to have hosted the Meetings twice. 

Back in 1955, there wasn’t a global economic crisis to deal with, only a local shortage of hotel rooms. The problem was solved by housing the secretariat of the Meetings on a ship called the S.S. Adana, which was moored in the harbor. The Governors were housed in two newly built hotels, and the Meetings were held at the University of Istanbul. 

Today, there are plenty of hotel rooms in Istanbul to accommodate the more than 13,000 delegates expected to attend the various events, most of which will take place in the new $215 million Istanbul Conference Center in the European section of the city. The people of Istanbul will have to be patient with the traffic snags and delays (something I apologized for in advance in my recent broadcast interview with CNBC Europe!). 

Dynamic shifts 

Turkey and the IMF have worked closely to make the upcoming Meetings, being attended by 1,300 journalists, a success. This cooperation has been particularly intense this year as we have jointly prepared for what is expected to be a crucial international gathering of policymakers, who will plan for the recovery phase of the crisis and how to avoid a repeat. 

“The international community—more than ever—needs to get together more frequently because we are faced with massive global challenges. In particular, the current global financial crisis requires global policy coordination,” now Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek told us back in April. He also hoped that the Istanbul Meetings would be an important part of the process of reforming the international financial institutions, as well as enhancing the current policy response to the global crisis. 

Indications are that he may see at least part of his wish come true. Important progress was made on both these fronts last week, when the G-20 leaders wrapped up the Pittsburgh Summit. There, the leaders supported a shift in country representation at the IMF of at least 5 percent toward dynamic emerging market and developing countries. Emerging market countries, including Turkey, have been pushing in recent years for improved voice and representation at the IMF. 

On our website (www.imf.org), we are reporting live events from Istanbul. My next blog will be about the impact of the financial crisis on young people, based on a discussion between IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn and students at Bilgi University.

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