'Turkey, Balkans trade volume rises over past 15 years'

                By Muhammed Ali Gurtas and Talha Ozturk</p>    <p>SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (AA) - The trade volume between Turkey and the Balkan countries has significantly increased over the past 15 years, head of Turkey's Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) said on Wednesday. </p>    <p>Speaking at the 10th Sarajevo Business Forum (SBF), Rifat Hisarciklioglu said the trade volume rose to some $20 billion from around $3 billion despite the global economic crises.</p>    <p>&quot;The Balkans is geographically Turkey's entrance into the European continent,&quot; he said. &quot;In the same way, Turkey is a doorway to the markets of Asia and the Middle East.&quot;</p>    <p>Hisarciklioglu noted that there were over 100 Turkish companies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, mainly doing business in the fields of banking, agriculture, manufacturing, construction and tourism.</p>    <p>&quot;These companies' investments in Bosnia totaled more than €600 million [around $678 million] as they employ some 4,000 people.</p>    <p>&quot;The free trade agreement between Turkey and Bosnia boosted the trade volume from $71 million in 2003 to the current levels of around $700 million,&quot; he said.</p>    <p>Hisarciklioglu said the two countries aim to increase the trade volume to at least $1 billion. </p>    <p>Commenting about the business forum, he noted that TOBB would continue to support the SBF in the coming years.</p>    <p>&quot;This forum has been regularly held over the last decade and it has now become a global brand by attracting investors from all over the world,&quot; he said.</p>    <p>Anadolu Agency is the global communication partner for the three-day business conference in Bosnia and Herzegovina, dubbed the ‘Balkan Davos’, where Turkey plays a prominent role. </p>    <p>The forum, which has been held since 2010, is organized this year under the slogan of &quot;one region-one economy&quot;. </p>  <p> 

Turkey continues to back Bosnia in every field: VP

              By Muhammed Ali Gurtas and Talha Ozturk</p>    <p>SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (AA) - Turkey will continue to support Bosnia and Herzegovina in every field, especially for integration with the European and Atlantic institutions, Turkey's vice president said on Wednesday. </p>    <p>Speaking at the 10th Sarajevo Business Forum, Fuat Oktay said Bosnia and Herzegovina left behind the sad days and became a center of attraction in Southeast Europe.</p>    <p>”The country has also recorded a significant process towards becoming a brand for investors,&quot; he said. &quot;It is time to make Sarajevo a focal point for economic and financial projects.&quot;</p>    <p>Anadolu Agency is the global communication partner for the three-day business conference in Bosnia and Herzegovina, dubbed the ‘Balkan Davos’, where Turkey plays a prominent role. </p>    <p>The forum, which has been held since 2010, is organized this year under the slogan of &quot;one region-one economy&quot;.</p>    <p>Oktay noted that Bosnia and Herzegovina has great resources and potential with its unique geographical location.</p>    <p>&quot;We should work together to benefit from this potential.</p>    <p>&quot;The main elements that the country needs today are unity, solidarity, and more investment,&quot; he said.</p>    <p>The Turkish vice president stressed that investments will ensure employment opportunities, sustainable economic growth and development. </p>    <p>&quot;Economic development is vital for living together and peace in the region,&quot; he said. &quot;Likewise, political stability and superiority of law are the prerequisites for economic development.&quot;</p>    <p>To preserve regional peace and stability, Oktay said there is a need for strong dialogue in the political sphere.</p>    <p>&quot;We should also create more economic interdependence, and promote the socio-cultural interaction between our peoples,&quot; he said. </p>    <p>Pointing out the common interests and values, Oktay said Turkey's wish is to ensure that all actors in the region act together to solve the problems.</p>    <p>&quot;We are aware that this can be achieved by boosting regional cooperation,&quot; he said, adding: &quot;In this context, Turkey will continue to show its best efforts in both bilateral and multilateral platforms.&quot; 

UPDATE – Turkey: Unemployment stands at 14.7% in January

UPDATES WITH MORE DETAILS

By Gokhan Ergocun

ISTANBUL (AA) – The unemployment rate in Turkey was 14.7% in January 2019, the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) announced on Monday.

"The unemployment rate occurred as 14.7% with 3.9 percentage point increase," TurkStat said in a statement.

The number of jobless — aged 15 and over — in the country reached 4.67 million, up 1.26 million from January 2018.

The number of employed persons were 27.16 million people in the month, according to official figures.

The number of people employed fell 872,000 on a yearly basis, taking the employment rate to 44.5%, a 1.4 percentage point annual decline, TurkStat said.

"According to the distribution of employment by sector, 17.0% was employed in agriculture, 19.9% was in industry, 5.4% was in construction and 57.7% was in services," it said.

Climbing 387,000 year-on-year, Turkey's labour force totaled 31.8 million people as of January, while the labor force participation rate (LFPR) was 52.2%.

In the same month, the LFPR for males was 71.1, while it was 33.6% for females.

The institute also said the rate of unregistered employment — people working without social security related to their principal occupation — was 33.1% in January, rising 0.6 percentage points year-on-year.

Last year, the unemployment rate hovered between 9.6% and 13.5%. Over the past five years, the highest figure was seen in January this year, while the lowest was in May 2014 with 8.8%.

The institute will release its next report on the subject on May 15.

*Writing and contributions by Muhammed Ali Gurtas from Ankara

Turkey produces 1.6B units hen egg in February

By Muhammed Ali Gurtas

ANKARA (AA) – Hen egg production in Turkey totaled 1.6 billion units in February, the country's statistical authority announced Friday.

TurkStat said hen egg production surged 2.6% year-on-year, while the figure dropped 6.7% on a monthly basis.

Last year, Turkey produced 19.6 billion hen eggs with an annual hike of nearly 2%.

The official poultry production report also revealed that the number of slaughtered chickens and turkeys was around 91.5 million units in February.

The institute said chicken meat production amounted to some 158,411 tons in the same month, while turkey meat production was some 4,291 tons.

In 2018, Turkey's chicken meat production totaled 2.16 million tons. Throughout the year, the country also produced over 69,500 tons of turkey meat and 134 tons of quail meat.

The statistical authority will release its next poultry production report on May 13.

N.Korea: Kim defies sanctions, vows self-sustainability

By Riyaz ul Khaliq

ANKARA (AA) – As the deadlock over talks for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula lingers, North Korean leader has vowed to intensify efforts to make his country's economy more self-reliant in the face of crippling sanctions, local media reported Thursday.

In his remarks carried by South Korean news agency Yonhap, Kim Jong-un said a self-supporting national economy was needed in order "to deal a telling blow to the hostile forces who go with bloodshot eyes miscalculating that sanctions can bring the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] to its knees."

Kim was addressing members of his party's Central Committee during a plenary session on Wednesday.

His remarks come as South Korean President Moon Jae-in was in the U.S. for talks with President Donald Trump which are expected to focus on ways to bring North Korea back to the negotiation table.

"Self-reliance and self-supporting national economy are the bedrock of the existence of our own style socialism, the motive power of its advance and development and the eternal lifeline essential to the destiny of our revolution," Yonhap quoted Kim as telling party members.

U.S. and North Korean leaders held two summit meetings on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula without any major breakthrough.

Their last summit was in Hanoi, Vietnam late February.

European Central Bank keeps interest rates constant

              By Muhammed Ali Gurtas</p>    <p>ANKARA (AA) - The European Central Bank (ECB) on Wednesday decided to keep key interest rates constant.</p>    <p>The interest rate on the main refinancing operations was kept at 0.00%, according to a statement from the ECB's Governing Council.</p>    <p>The bank's interest rates on the marginal lending facility and the deposit facility continue to stand at 0.25% and minus 0.40%, respectively.</p>    <p>Speaking at a news conference in Frankfurt, the bank's head Mario Draghi said: &quot;We continue to expect them to remain at their present levels at least through the end of 2019.&quot;</p>    <p>&quot;[... ] And in any case for as long as necessary to ensure the continued sustained convergence of inflation to levels that are below, but close to, 2% over the medium term,&quot; he said.</p>    <p>Draghi said the ECB's Governing Council stands ready to adjust all of its instruments, as appropriate, to ensure that inflation continues to move towards the council’s inflation aim in a sustained manner.</p>    <p>In February, the EU's annual inflation rose to 1.6%, up from 1.5% in January -- falling in seven member states, remained stable in one, and rose in 19, compared to January.</p>    <p>Since 2008, the lowest annual inflation rate in the EU was in January 2015 at minus 0.5% -- when prices were in fact dropping -- and the highest was seen in July 2008, at 4.4%.</p>  <p> </p>  <p>Pointing at continuing slower growth momentum, he said: &quot;While there are signs that some of the idiosyncratic domestic factors dampening growth are fading, global headwinds continue to weigh on euro area growth developments.&quot;</p>    <p>The 28-member bloc's GDP growth performance slowed down in 2018 compared to the previous year, as the annual growth rate was 1.9% last year versus 2.4% in 2017.</p>    <p>&quot;The persistence of uncertainties, related to geopolitical factors, the threat of protectionism and vulnerabilities in emerging markets, is leaving marks on economic sentiment.</p>        <p>&quot;At the same time, further employment gains and rising wages continue to underpin the resilience of the domestic economy and gradually rising inflation pressures,&quot; Draghi said.

UPDATE 2 – Turkey to focus on structural reform: Treasury minister

             UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS BY TREASURY MINISTER; ADDS DETAILS; REVISED DECK, EDITS THROUGHOUT</p>  <p>By Muhammed Ali Gurtas and Tuba Sahin</p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) - Turkey will focus on structural reforms to achieve the target of a greater and more powerful economy, the treasury and finance minister said Wednesday.</p>  <p>&quot;This transformation and reform process will decisively continue in a four-and-a-half-year period without elections,&quot; said Berat Albayrak.</p>  <p>Speaking at a news conference to announce the government's action plan, Albayrak said the financial sector prioritized a new set of structural reforms for 2019.</p>  <p>&quot;Strengthening state-run lenders' capital structure will be our first step,&quot; he said, adding that the Treasury will issue 28 billion Turkish lira worth (around $5 billion) of government debt securities to make state banks' balance sheets robust.</p>  <p>Albayrak said efforts in coordination with the banking watchdog and banking association are continuing to support private lenders' capital structure.</p>  <p>A new individual pension system according to citizens' income level will be determined in the days to come, he said.</p>  <p>&quot;We prioritize creating an effective and healthy saving system, starting from the state to individuals, to eliminate fragilities in the economy.</p>  <p>&quot;In the next five years, funds accumulated in the new retirement system will exceed 10% of the country's gross domestic product,&quot; Albayrak said.</p>  <p>He added that Turkey will also take steps in the real sector to ensure the healthy working of the financial sector.</p>  <p> </p>  <p>- Banks and agriculture</p>  <p>As of February a total of 50 state/private/foreign lenders -- including deposit banks, participation banks, and development and investment banks -- are active in Turkey.</p>  <p>Measuring the health of loans, the ratio of non-performing loans to total cash loans -- the lower the better -- was 4.11% in February, versus 2.92% in the same month last year.</p>  <p>Touching on consumer prices, Albayrak said the National Unity in Agriculture project will be most important reform to combat food inflation.</p>  <p>&quot;In May, this comprehensive strategy will be unveiled by the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry,&quot; he said.</p>  <p>As of March, Turkey's annual inflation rate was 19.71%, up slightly from 19.67% in February. </p>  <p>Over the last decade, annual inflation saw its lowest level at 3.99% in March 2011, while it peaked at 25.24% in October 2018.</p>  <p>Under Turkey's new economic program announced last September, the country's inflation rate target is 15.9% this year, 9.8% next year, and 6.0% in 2021.</p>  <p>Albayrak also said a greenhouse corporation will be established to work as a balance element in the fresh fruits and vegetables sector.</p>  <p>&quot;At a first stage, a technological greenhouse will be built on some 2,000 hectares by this corporation in 2019,&quot; he said, aiming to meet 25% of the country's total greenhouse production in the long-run.</p>  <p>Meanwhile, red meat price stability will be supported by “a sheep and goat farming move,” Albayrak said.</p>  <p>&quot;Turkey's stock of sheep and goats will reach 100 million within four years thanks to government incentives.”</p>  <p>According to official figures, the number of ovine animals surged 4.1% to 46.1 million heads last year.</p>  <p> </p>  <p>- Taxes</p>  <p>The treasury minister also said a new tax system will be introduced this year.</p>  <p>&quot;Turkey will gradually reduce tax exemptions and cut corporate income taxes in the new system,&quot; </p>  <p>He pledged to cut indirect taxes to boost the share of direct taxes and ensure a fairer system.</p>  <p>Touting Turkey's geographical location, Albayrak said the Turkiye Wealth Fund and relevant institutions are working on a logistics master plan to make the country a regional hub for international trade.</p>  <p>The fund, established in 2016, holds all or part of the shares of several Turkish companies such as flag carrier Turkish Airlines, telecommunications giant Turk Telekom, state lenders Ziraat Bankasi and Halkbank, oil company Turkish Petroleum, and stock market Borsa Istanbul.</p>  <p>Albayrak said the government will announce a master plan in September at the latest to boost the country's tourism revenues and attract more visitors.</p>  <p>With this plan, Turkey will hit $70 billions in income while welcoming 70 million tourists over the next four years, he added. </p>  <p>The country's tourism revenues in 2018 totaled $29.5 billion, up 12.3% year-on-year, according to official figures.</p>  <p>Turkey welcomed 45.6 million visitors last year -- 85.4% foreign and 14.6% representing Turkish citizens living abroad.</p>  <p> </p>  <p> 

UPDATE – Turkey to focus on structural reform: Treasury minister

             UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS BY TREASURY MINISTER; ADDS DETAILS</p>    <p>By Muhammed Ali Gurtas and Tuba Sahin</p>    <p>ANKARA (AA) - Turkey will focus on structural reforms to achieve the target of becoming greater and more powerful economy, the treasury and finance minister said Wednesday.</p>    <p>&quot;This transformation and reform process will decisively continue in a four-and-a-half-year period with no election,&quot; Berat Albayrak said. </p>    <p>Speaking at a news conference to announce the government's action plan, Albayrak said the financial sector prioritized a new set of structural reforms for 2019.</p>    <p>&quot;Strengthening state-run lenders' capital structure will be our first step,&quot; he said, adding that the Treasury will issue 28-billion Turkish lira worth (around $5 billion) government debt securities to make state banks' balance sheets robust.</p>    <p>Albayrak said studies in coordination with the banking watchdog and banking association are continuing to support private lenders' capital structure.</p>    <p>The minister noted that a new individual pension system according to citizens' income level will be determined in the upcoming period.</p>    <p>&quot;We give priority to create an effective and healthy saving system, starting from state to individuals, to eliminate fragilities in economy.</p>    <p>&quot;In the next five years, funds accumulated in the new retirement system will exceed 10% of the country's gross domestic product,&quot; Albayrak said.</p>    <p>He added that Turkey will also take steps in real sector to ensure healthy working of financial sector.</p>  <p> A total of 50 state/private/foreign lenders -- including deposit banks, participation banks, and development and investment banks -- conducted banking activities in Turkey as of February.</p>    <p>Measuring the health of loans, the ratio of non-performing loans to total cash loans -- the lower the better -- was 4.11% in February, versus 2.92% in the same month last year.</p>    <p>Also touching on consumer prices, Albayrak said the National Unity in Agriculture project will be most important reform to combat food inflation.</p>    <p>&quot;In May, this comprehensive strategy will be unveiled by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry,&quot; he said.</p>  <p>As of March, Turkey's annual inflation rate was 19.71%, slightly up from 19.67% in February. </p>  <p>Over the last decade, annual inflation saw its lowest level at 3.99% in March 2011, while it peaked at 25.24% in October 2018.</p>    <p>Under Turkey's new economic program announced last September, the country's inflation rate target is 15.9% this year, 9.8% next year, and 6.0% in 2021.</p>    <p>Albayrak also said a greenhouse corporation will be established to work as a balance element in fresh vegetables and fruits market. </p>    <p>&quot;At the first stage, a technologic greenhouse will be built on some 2,000 hectares by this corporation in 2019,&quot; he said, aiming to meet 25% of the country's total greenhouse production in the long-run.</p>    <p>Meanwhile, red meat price stability will be supported by “sheep and goat farming move,” Albayrak said.</p>    <p>&quot;Turkey's stock of sheep and goats will reach 100 million within four years thanks to the government incentives.”</p>    <p>According to the official figures, the number of ovine animals surged 4.1% to 46.1 million heads last year.

Turkey to focus structural reforms: Treasury minister

By Muhammed Ali Gurtas and Tuba Sahin

ANKARA (AA) – Turkey will focus on structural reforms to achieve the target of becoming greater and more powerful, the treasury and finance minister said Wednesday.

"This transformation and reform process will decisively continue in a 4.5-year period with no election," Berat Albayrak said.

Speaking at a news conference to announce the government's action plan, Albayrak said the financial sector prioritized a new set of structural reforms for 2019.

"Strengthening state-run lenders' capital structure will be our first step," he said, noting the Treasury will issue 28-billion Turkish lira worth (around $5 billion) government debt securities to make state banks' balance sheets robust.

Albayrak said studies in coordination with the banking watchdog and banking association are continuing to support private lenders' capital structure.

The minister noted that a new individual pension system according to citizens' income level will be determined in the coming period.

"We give priority to create an effective and healthy saving system, starting from state to individuals, to eliminate fragilities in economy.

"In the next five years, funds accumulated in the new retirement system will exceed 10% of the country's gross domestic product," Albayrak said.

He added that Turkey will also take steps in real sector to ensure healthy working of financial sector.

Bolivian leader touts national social movements

             <p>By Beyza Binnur Donmez</p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) - Bolivia’s ruling party is the result of various native social movements coming together, said the nation’s president on Monday.</p>  <p>&quot;It's time to defend multiplicity, peace and international justice. We came to a time where the imperialist shares ended,&quot; Evo Morales told a news conference in the Turkish capital Ankara, where he is paying an official visit.</p>  <p>Morales stressed that since the establishment of the Republic of Bolivia, nearly 200 years ago, the social movements &quot;became the savior like Simon Bolivar,&quot; the legendary 19th century revolutionary leader.</p>  <p>He said that through social programs, they reduced extreme deprivation in the country, raised GDP from $900 in 2005 to more than $4,000, and propelled 3 million Bolivians into the middle class.</p>    <p>While approaching its 2025 bicentennial, Bolivia has a 100-year economic plan, said Morales, covering areas such as agriculture, mining, energy, and fuel. </p>  <p>Morales said that Bolivia is opening up to trading with big markets like Turkey, China and Russia with agricultural exports and bilateral agreements.</p>  <p>After his speech, Morales received a certificate of friendship from Ankara University, delivered by its rector, Erkan Ibis.</p>  <p>Later today, Morales and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will hold a joint news conference. </p>