In these times of economic hardship, Turkey is dismissing any possibility of borrowing from the IMF. The reason is obviously the IFI’s negative connotation with the public. Yet amid the coronavirus epidemic, the conditions for borrowing from IMF differ from its “stand-by” agreements. Still, because public debates are no longer possible in Turkey, the policy option of borrowing what is in fact unconditional and cheap money is categorically dismissed.
Having signed 19 programs between 1948 and 2005, Turkey has a longstanding relationship with the IMF. This relationship was especially strengthened in the 1980s, and the size of the programs reached its peak in 1999 when a $15 billion program was signed. It is possible to say that over the past 10 years, Turkey has contributed to the notoriety of the IMF. Nowadays, the possibility of making a deal with the IMF once again came to light with the coronavirus crisis. According to the IMF, so far, 102 countries have applied to emergency financing facilities such as the Rapid Credit Facility (RCF) and Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI). In addition, the IMF also approved debt service relief programs for 25 countries as a response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Considering the fact that the Turkish economy was not performing well even prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the option to work with the IMF is now on the table. In light of this, we wanted to get an understanding of public opinion vis-à-vis the IMF.
Upon asking whether or not Turkey should borrow from the IMF in order to alleviate the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis, only 30.8% of participants agreed, while the remaining 69.2% disagreed. These results demonstrate that there has been no public debate on the conditions of borrowing from the Rapid Financing Instrument of the IMF, which differs greatly from its Stand-by program. The fact remains that the IMF is still negatively connoted amongst Turkish people. An examination of the political view breakdown of the answers given to this question shows that AKP and MHP voters are more open to the idea of borrowing from the IMF than CHP voters.
In order to get a more detailed understanding of public opinion vis-à-vis the IMF, we presented our survey participants with five statements about the IMF and asked them to state whether or not they agreed with them. Overall results showed that 56% of the participants do not trust the IMF. This is one of the contributing factors as to why a majority of participants believe Turkey should not borrow from the institution. Another contributing factor are the costs associated with borrowing from the IMF. To be more specific, 43% of participants believe that it will be costly to borrow from the IMF. A further contributing factor is the concern of relinquishing national sovereignty to the IMF, as 26% of participants agree with the statement “With debt, I think the IMF would have control over Turkey.” Overall, one can say that the dominating opinion of not borrowing from the IMF seems to stem from financial concerns rather than losing national sovereignty.
An examination of the last two statements shows that a majority of participants are not interested in the conditions offered by the IMF, as only 16.8% of participants agree with the statement “The decision to borrow from the IMF should be made depending on the conditions offered by the IMF.” It is interesting to note here that a good communication with the public of the conditions of borrowing from the IMF could affect the level of concern associated with the costs of borrowing. On the other hand, the participants also believe that there are other solutions aside from borrowing from the IMF. 84.3% of participants disagree with the statement “The only possible solution for the government is to borrow from the IMF.”
An analysis of the data based on a breakdown of the participants’ political views and age breakdown yields compelling results. The topic of borrowing from the IMF shows parallels between the ruling and opposition parties. HDP and MHP voters harbor the least trust towards the IMF. Additionally, around 51% of both CHP and AKP voters stated that they do not trust the IMF. The age breakdown for the statement “I generally do not trust the IMF” showed that the 18-24 age group has less trust in the IMF than other older age groups. This is an interesting result in that participants in this age group are too young to have lived through the early 2000s. While AKP, MHP and CHP voters share similar concerns regarding the costs associated with borrowing from the IMF, only İYİ Party voters are more concerned about foregoing national sovereignty than the cost of borrowing.