Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1151, 6 - 12 June 2013
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1151, 6 - 12 June 2013

Ahram Weekly

Once upon a time: Without going into debt

Text of an interview conducted by the Egyptian magazine Koll She’ Wel Donya (Everything and The World) with Turkey’s prime minister Mustafa Ismet Inunu, published on 11 March 1929

Seven years ago, when the Greek army was still in Izmir and Istanbul was still in the hands of the Allied Powers, the achievement of our national programme was a distant dream. People who were unaware of the true power of Turkey thought that we were insane to even have this dream. But thanks to the military genius of Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) and his comrades, Turkey was able to keep its land and its sovereignty intact. What was a utopian dream seven years ago has turned into reality.
Now that Turkey has achieved its goals, will it start thinking of conquests, war or revenge?
After the achievement of our national programme we opted for peace. So I tell you, in all confidence, that the world peace will not be disturbed by us.
As a result of the achievement of our national goals, we have improved our relations with our neighbours. Greece was once our mortal enemy, but thanks to the Treaty of Lausanne, we have exchanged minorities, so that the number of Greeks in Turkey and the number of Turks in Greece has decreased. The exchange has involved great sacrifices, but it saved us from the prospect of continued hostility with Greek. I am confident that Greece has abandoned its earlier scheme — the scheme of expansion and of reviving the Byzantine Empire — it was a scheme that brought it nothing but grief.
As for us, we are satisfied with our current borders in the Balkans. I don’t think that any nation covets our land. We, on our part, intend with good faith to maintain the peace. We have a major economic programme and we know that war would bankrupt us and undermine this programme. There are still hundreds of thousands of Turks in Yugoslavia who are less than satisfied with their situation, and there are 800,000 Turks in Bulgaria, but we managed to keep good relations with both these countries, and also with Romania. There are no outstanding issues that need to be settled with these countries, aside from the transfer of people who wish to live in Turkey.
Our relations with Russia are also satisfactory. Both countries have signed an agreement calling for mutual respect of each country’s political institutions. Some members of the communist movement still dwell in Turkey, just as they do in other countries. But this is no cause for worry, for communist doctrines have no support among Turkish peasants and workers.
Our relations with Western nations are cordial and friendly. This doesn’t only go for countries such as Germany, Spain and the USA, with which we were never in war. It also goes for Italy, with whom we have a friendship agreement. And for France, which has since 1921 opened for us doors of understanding and friendship. We only wish to settle the differences between us regarding our rights in the province adjacent to the Syrian borders. The same goes for Great Britain, with which we settled the question of Mosul and other issues.
Our political and diplomatic position is, some argue, sickly. But no one can say the same about our economic and financial situation. Our country is fertile, and yet the Anatolian plateau is subject to harsh weather and the land is hard to cultivate. We hope to increase crop production through improving the means of irrigation and cultivation. To do so, we will need money.
Obviously, we can borrow from other countries, but this is not what we intend to do. We do not wish to add to our budget the burden of servicing foreign debts. We prefer, instead, to carry out reforms that pay for their own costs. This is a slow method, for it postpones profit and delays the increase in income. But it is better for us to endure poverty and privation than to place the burden of debts on future generations and thus imperil the future of our country. We must keep history in mind, for foreign debts have always been used to subjugate us, politically and economically.
Balancing the budget is hard work. The servicing of debts takes up two million pounds of our budget, or almost 10 per cent of the total. Then the army takes up 37 per cent — an army of 150,000 men.
Some may say that these figures are high for a country with only 14 million. But we must understand that we need a strong army to keep order in the country and protect the borders. We cannot leave our country unprotected. Also, the money we spend on the army is spent inside the country and so it serves to stimulate commerce and industry.
There is also the question of industry. Our nation is mostly made up of peasants, and we need to turn it into something of an industrial nation. The improvement of agriculture and the growth of industry will both have a good impact on our trade with foreign nations.
Slowly but surely we will be able to support ourselves. President Mustafa Kemal expects Turkey to become, in 25 years, a nation of 25 million people. This is the size of population that our land can support. We can generally say that the living standards are rising among the Turks and that we have no jobless among us.
Our position on resident non-Turks is a cordial one, and we wish that this cordiality be reciprocated. In general, we may say that we wish to have strong relations with other countries while maintaining our public morality and our political and economic sovereignty intact.
We are now free people living in the Turkish part of the former Turkish Sultanate (Ottoman Empire). And we are eager — more so than any other nation — to maintain peace. Our only goal is to raise the living standards of the population.
We have accomplished a lot, but there is a lot more to accomplish. This is why we wish above all to have peace. Peace with dignity is better than the glory of wars.

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