Dr Jim Yong Kim, President, World Bank Group, on the development lessons Turkey can share with the world: Viewpoint

Dr Jim Yong Kim, President, World Bank Group

The founding father of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, said, “Economic development forms the backbone of the ideal of Turkey, which is free, independent, ever stronger and more prosperous”. Turkey has made great strides in the realisation of this ideal, thanks to a solid track record of macroeconomic management and structural reforms. It is thus fitting that the government, led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo ğan, has set ambitious targets for 2023, the centennial of the foundation of the Republic.

At the World Bank, we are also setting some ambitious goals: to end extreme poverty by 2030 and boost shared prosperity for the bottom 40% in developing countries. We will therefore need the support of all member countries of the World Bank, as well as the private sector, civil society and private foundations.

Turkey, given the significant progress it has made in its own development, will play a key role. The country’s economic achievements are an inspiration to many developing nations. Indeed, we have started a project with the government to share its development lessons with policymakers throughout the world. Already, our teams are bringing delegations from various countries to Turkey for knowledge exchanges: Malaysia and Kosovo were interested in the health sector; Iraq in the social security system; and Mauritania in the use of information technology. Let me share just three of the many lessons Turkey can offer the development community.

First, an example that is particularly close to my heart, as someone who has worked in public health for many years, is that Turkey took less than a decade to achieve universal health coverage. The introduction of the Health Transformation Programme in 2003 initiated a root and branch reform of the health system. Since 1990, infant mortality has fallen by two-thirds and maternal mortality by 80%, while average life expectancy has risen by 10 years.

Countries can learn much from Turkey’s policies, as well as the sequencing of reforms to create quick wins for the population and overcome the resistance of vested interests. In our flagship training course on health reform, we highlight the country as a case study of success in achieving universal health coverage.

Second, Turkey’s energy sector stands out among many emerging market economies for the strength of its regulatory framework, as well as its ability to attract significant private investment. It is also notable for its focus on renewable energy as a key element of a greener growth path. The country has largely eliminated energy subsidies, which are fiscally costly and discourage much-needed investments in energy efficiency. As a result, energy prices reflect market costs.

Third, lessons have been learnt from the devastating effects of the 1999 Marmara Earthquake and an improved capacity to anticipate, mitigate and respond to the risks of natural disasters. The Istanbul Seismic Risk Mitigation and Emergency Preparedness Project is a great example of a city-wide effort to improve resilience to shocks that are likely to strike along the North Anatolian fault line. In our “2014 World Development Report: Risk and Opportunity – Managing Risk for Development”, Turkey is featured prominently for its work in this area. I could also mention progress in the country’s banking system and fiscal consolidation.

Of course, Turkey’s own development agenda is not complete. Many challenges remain: from boosting the participation of women in the labour force to increasing the skill levels of a young and growing labour pool; from raising domestic savings to attracting more foreign direct investment to make growth less dependent on short-term capital from abroad.

In addition, we have seen around the world how important it is for citizens to feel they have a voice and a stake in their country’s development. To be sustainable, economic prosperity has to provide opportunities for all. This is an objective I know we share with Turkey’s citizens and policymakers.

The World Bank is grateful for our partnership with Turkey because it is based on mutual learning and on a shared quest for the best development solutions.

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Dr Jim Yong Kim

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