Focus/Spotlight

Sri Lanka and the Turkish experience

Turkey, like Sri Lanka, is a leading tourist destination in the world. However, the country’s tourism sector took a hit following a failed military coup and threats from ISIS.

The country is also accused of committing human rights abuses during a two-year state of emergency. The state of emergency was declared after the July 2016 attempted military coup, yet the country took several strides to rise up, boost tourism, improve the economy, and move forward.

This is an example Sri Lanka can learn from Turkey following the deadly 21 April suicide attacks which badly hit Sri Lanka’s tourism sector, the economy, and the country as a whole.

Turkey has already offered assistance to Sri Lanka during political consultations held between Turkey and Sri Lanka under the co-chairmanship of Foreign Affairs Ministry of Turkey Deputy Minister Ambassador Sedat Önal and Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha in Colombo on Thursday (9).

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said that during the consultations, bilateral relations, regional, and international issues as well as cooperation in the international organisations were discussed.

The Turkish coup and after

The 2016 Turkish coup saw over 300 people being killed and more than 2,100 sustaining injuries. Several government buildings, including the Turkish Parliament and the Presidential Palace, were bombed.

Turkish troops attempted to remove the Government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The move was, however, condemned by the Turkish Opposition as well as the international community.

SETA Foundation for Political, Economic, and Social Research Director of Foreign Policy Studies Prof. Muhittin Ataman said that Turkey’s democracy has historically suffered from continuous coup attempts which were aimed directly at overthrowing the elected governments of the time.

At least four successful coups have occurred in a period of 50 years, and in 15 July 2016, the latest attempt was executed. However, unlike the previous coups, the plotters failed to achieve their goals on the night of 15 July, resulting in a triumph for Turkish unity and democracy.

SETA noted that exactly one year after the coup attempt, economic growth momentum was quickly restored in Turkey and growth figures reached levels well above the EU and G20 averages.

Institutions responsible for macroeconomic governance – including the ministries, the Central Bank, and bureaucratic agencies – displayed prudence in crisis management, and as a result of which, the investment climate was relatively well preserved.

Turkish media reported how, soon after the failed coup, the way people reacted was of great significance. In the face of the volatility in the currency rates, President Erdoğan had called on people to sell foreign currencies they held. Following the President’s call, people sold foreign currencies worth $ 20 billion in the space of three months.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Exporters’ Assembly (TİM) struggled to explain to the world that everything was normal in the Turkish economy, and the wheels of industry and production kept on turning.

However, TIM did not cancel a planned visit to Panama and Guatemala scheduled for the same month the coup took place. They also sent out letters to their partners across the globe informing that Turkey kept exporting at full steam. TIM also visited a number of countries together with the Economy Minister and other ministers, chairs of NGOs, lawmakers from all political parties, and business leaders.

The Istanbul Chamber of Industry (İSO) said the private industry sector’s dynamic and crisis-resilient structure as well as the decisions the Government swiftly executed, played an important role in the strong economic growth that followed the contraction in the third quarter of 2016.

The Government supported both production and employment through a number of incentive packages it announced in the wake of the coup attempt. It mobilised resources to create jobs and the State provided various incentives to the companies that created new jobs. The tax reductions introduced in several industries helped consumption continue. Measures such as land allocations and tax breaks were introduced, which helped larger investors, besides SMEs, undertake new investments.

Turkish tourism

In January this year, Turkey unveiled a new tourism package to host millions of tourists with a high spending power to meet its 2023 vision for the tourism sector.

Turkish Minister of Culture and Tourism Mehmet Nuri Ersoy announced the “70 Million tourists with $ 70 billion revenue” programme to meet the 2023 target.

The Ministry launched new regulations and strategies to increase the visitor number and revenue from tourism of Turkey.

Ersoy said the Ministry was working to end the “season” concept in tourism. Vocational schools for the tourism and hospitality sector will be active and effective year around. The concept of “seasonal tourism” was ending; employees will work year around, he noted.

Ministry of Tourism and Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TURSAB) board member Ibrahim Halil Kalay told TRT World that Turkey hosted almost 40 million tourists in 2018, an increase of 22% compared to 2017.

National unity

The Brookings Institution noted that Turkish democracy survived a major test and that Turkey turned from the edge of a precipice. The credit for the coup’s defeat goes to the Turkish people who heeded President Erdoğan’s call to resist this intervention “by any means possible and necessary” and filled the squares.

TV reports were filled with eye-to-eye, tense, and agitated confrontations between civilians and armed soldiers on the two bridges that connect the Asian and European sides of Istanbul.

Public restraint and sobriety helped prevent escalation of violence.
Sri Lanka, on its part, is also trying to stay united following the Easter Sunday attacks, although a handful of groups are keen to scuttle that unity. Religious leaders from all sides have called on Sri Lanka to maintain peace and take the nation forward without leaving room for it to fall.