Qatar comes to Turkey’s ‘rescue’ amid public outcry

Qatar comes to Turkey’s ‘rescue’ amid public outcry
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Ankara, Turkey, November 26, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 27 November 2020

Qatar comes to Turkey’s ‘rescue’ amid public outcry

Qatar comes to Turkey’s ‘rescue’ amid public outcry
  • The bilateral ties have sparked a public outcry, with people criticizing the sale of strategic assets to the Gulf nation
  • Turkey transferred 10 percent of shares in the Istanbul stock exchange to the Qatar Investment Authority

ANKARA: Turkey and Qatar on Thursday signed investment deals worth millions of dollars, as part of the developing relationship between the two countries.
The external funding will help to alleviate Turkey’s currency crisis, which has seen the lira lose about 40 percent of its value this year due to depleted foreign reserves.
But the bilateral ties have sparked a public outcry, with people criticizing the sale of strategic assets to the Gulf nation. 
Turkey transferred 10 percent of shares in the Istanbul stock exchange to the Qatar Investment Authority, and the Turkish Wealth Fund’s stake in the stock exchange dropped to 80.6 percent as a result.
Qatar, having already poured $15 billion into currency swap deals, has also bought the transfer of 42 percent of shares in one of Turkey’s biggest shopping malls, Istinye Park on Qatar Street in Istanbul, for $1 billion. It has also pledged to invest in the Istanbul Golden Horn marina project.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, criticized the government for signing the deals with Qatar, saying that even the sale of the presidential palace to the Gulf country would come as no surprise.
“Where does your love for Qatar come from? Everything is being sold,” he said during a TV program on Friday.
Critics see the Qatari investment money as an alarming trend for the Turkish economy, dubbing the agreements as the “best Black Friday deal.”
According to Hakan Kara, an economics professor at Bilkent University in Ankara and former chief economist at the Central Bank of Turkey, concentrated funding from a single source mostly driven by personal relationships was at odds with the Turkish government’s previous emphasis on “the need to reduce the dependence on foreign capital.”
“History shows that such reliance on personal ties may bring compromises in many other areas,” he told Arab News.
The agreements will bring $300 million of capital flows to Turkey. Total investments from Qatar to Turkey have reached $22 billion.
Dr. Robert C. Mogielnicki, a resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington D.C., said while Qatari economic support for Turkey had been forthcoming in recent years, there were also political dimensions to these initiatives.
“A substantial increase in Qatari equity capital in Turkey has offset declining Saudi and Emirati investments over the years,” he told Arab News. “Qatari investments into Turkey spiked from 2015-2016, suggesting that the strengthening of this economic partnership preceded the 2017 Gulf rift and likely had its roots in the earlier 2014 regional dispute.”
Although securing new investment deals with Qatar is important for coping with the difficult economic times that Turkey is experiencing, experts have noted the need for economic diversification.
“Turkey still needs to expand and deepen its economic ties with other countries. Qatari-Turkish ties are but one of many linkages needed to support Turkey’s massive economy. A big risk for Turkey is that the politicization of its trade and investment deals today limits future opportunities,” Mogielnicki added.
According to Timothy Ash, a London-based senior emerging markets strategist at Bluebay Asset Management, the recent deals are part of the long-running strong ties between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration and Qatar.
“Although Qatar has proved to be an active and dynamic investor in Turkey, I think that the $15 billion in financing is not a game changer,” he told Arab News. “They are useful but still pale into insignificance compared to Turkey’s annual $200 billion external financing needs. Doha pledged $15 billion in support to Turkey in 2018. That was supposed to comprise $5 billion in swaps, $5 billion in loans and $5 billion in investments. In the end, the loans were converted to a total of $10 billion in swaps and I think what we are seeing this week is the investment angle rolled out. I don’t think this is new money.”


Lebanese protesters break lockdown: ‘Death by COVID-19 is better than starvation’

Lebanese protesters break lockdown: ‘Death by COVID-19 is better than starvation’
Updated 26 January 2021

Lebanese protesters break lockdown: ‘Death by COVID-19 is better than starvation’

Lebanese protesters break lockdown: ‘Death by COVID-19 is better than starvation’
  • Hundreds of people took to the streets in Tripoli, Sidon, and Beirut to denounce the suspension of the economy

BEIRUT: The closure and curfew period in Lebanon has been extended for two more weeks to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), prompting people in Tripoli, Beirut, and Sidon to take to the streets.

The protests were spontaneous, considering that the neighborhoods from which they started are poor, where the residents work for daily wages.

The Minister of Social Affairs and Tourism in the caretaker government Ramzi Musharrafieh said on Tuesday that “230,000 families in Lebanon benefit from aid and have been receiving 400,000 Lebanese pounds ($263) per month since the beginning of the crisis.” He added that “25 percent of the Lebanese people do not need aid.”

Hundreds of people took to the streets in Tripoli, Sidon, and Beirut to denounce the suspension of the economy and the failure to provide people with alternatives.

One of the protesters said: “Contracting COVID-19 and dying of it is easier than having my family and myself starve to death.”

Protesters in Tripoli took to Al-Nour Square on Monday after days of expressing their impatience and protesting outside the houses of the city’s officials.

One of the protesters said: “COVID-19 does not scare us. We cannot tolerate this life of humiliation anymore. The officials in power have starved and robbed us.”

The protesters clashed with the security forces — the army and the Internal Security Forces — hurling stones and water bottles at them. 

Their chants demanded financial compensation for the poorest families, who have not been able to work for two weeks and must wait a further two weeks before they can return to their jobs, resulting in a whole month without any financial income.

The protests spiralled out of control and turned into riots that ended with dozens of arrests. Several army personnel were deployed to control the situation in Al-Nour Square and its vicinity. Riot police used tear gas to disperse the protesters.

The Lebanese Red Cross said it brought in six ambulances as 41 people were injured during the protests. The organization transferred 12 people to hospitals, while 29 were treated at the scene.

In support of the Tripoli protests, dozens gathered at the Ring Bridge in central Beirut.

Activists gathered in Sidon’s Elia Square for a vigil, amid security measures. The protesters chanted slogans denouncing the political authority’s arbitrary decisions, which they argue worsened the economic collapse. 

Some protesters said that 60 percent of the poor people in Lebanon are suffering because of these decisions, which were not accompanied with support for people who were laid off due to lockdown measures.

The protests extended to Taalbaya in the Bekaa and the coastal town of Jiyeh. The protesters moved from the poor neighborhoods of Beirut to Corniche el Mazraa and blocked the road, but the riot police reopened it.

Bechara Al-Asmar, head of the General Labor Union, told Arab News: “Things are heading toward chaos, and the authorities’ decisions are ill-considered. When forcing people to stop working, it is important to give them incentives and compensation. There are 120,000 daily workers impacted by the closure, which has come amid a severe economic crisis.”

He added: “They must exempt the factories that suspended production so that they can survive and not lay off their workers if the closure results in stopping operation. 

“What can the factories that have agreements with clients abroad do to deliver their products? This is the only sector that is bringing Lebanon fresh money and giving people jobs.”

Al-Asmar said that aid provided by the government “covers 47,000 families, and a further 8,000 taxi drivers have been added to them. This is a small percentage compared to the need among the general population.”

He continued: “Employees are now receiving half a salary or a very meager salary if they don’t lose their jobs as employers prefer shutting down their businesses to continuous losses.”

Bechara added: “We are facing a major social crisis. The daily workers are complaining of their inability to put bread on the table, while the state is unable to hold coordination meetings, so how can it provide compensation for those affected?”