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Cablegate: The Changing Face of Poverty in Turkey

VZCZCXRO3666
RR RUEHDA
DE RUEHAK #7513/01 3561056
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 221056Z DEC 05
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2131
INFO RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 9379
RUEHDA/AMCONSUL ADANA 0148
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 007513

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TREASURY FOR PLANTIER

SENSITIVE
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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID SOCI PHUM KWMN TU
SUBJECT: THE CHANGING FACE OF POVERTY IN TURKEY


1. (SBU) Summary: While the incidence of extreme poverty is
very low, nearly 25 percent of Turks live below the World
Bank's international poverty line, with poor people
increasingly concentrated in large cities. Despite an
improving economy, regional disparities in income, together
with internal migration to urban areas, perpetuate the
problem, which continues to disproportionately affect women
and pose problems for Turkey's EU accession. Breaking with
its previous ambivalence in addressing the issue, the GOT
recently endorsed a survey on internally displaced persons
(IDPs) and economic migration, and is funding a study that
will make policy recommendations for combating poverty in
the Southeast. End summary.

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SNAPSHOT OF TURKISH POVERTY
----------------------------

2. (SBU) The GOT prides itself on the fact that less than 1
percent of the population lives in extreme poverty (defined
as those living on less than 1USD per day); however, the
United Nations estimates that 24 percent of the population
lives on less than 4.3USD per day. With a purchasing power
parity per capita GDP of about 7000 USD, Turkey is
classified as a middle-income country; however, it ranks
94th out of 177 countries in the UN Human Development Index
(HDI), well behind fellow EU accession countries Croatia
(45th), Bulgaria (55th) and Romania (64th), and regional
neighbors that Turks generally considered less advanced than
Turkey, such as Kazakhstan (80th), Armenia (83rd), and
Jordan (90th).

3. (SBU) Sarah Poole, the United Nations Development
Program (UNDP) Deputy Resident Representative, told us that
regional and gender disparities are key factors in Turkey's
low HDI ranking, citing them as Turkey's biggest development
challenge. She noted that while per capita GDP has
increased since the 2001 economic crisis, income growth has
not trickled down to the poor. Poole's point is echoed in a
recent World Bank report, which states that without
reductions in inequality, gains from growth could fail to
significantly reduce poverty. In addition, Turkey's UN
Millennium Development Goals (MDG) report cites lack of
effective cooperation among institutions responsible for
alleviating poverty, along with a lack of norms and
standards in the programs they implement, as key challenges
in reducing the country's poverty rate.

--------------------------------------------- -
INTERNAL MIGRATION CHANGES THE FACE OF POVERTY
--------------------------------------------- -

4. (U) Poverty has traditionally been concentrated in
heavily ethnically-Kurdish Eastern and Southeastern
Anatolia. In recent years, however, internal migration has
changed the regional profile of Turkish poverty, and
weakened extended family support networks. Poole told us
that strong family, social, and community networks in rural
areas had kept the incidence of extreme poverty very low.
However, as people migrate from rural areas to large cities,
these structures are disrupted, leading to more intractable,
longer-term poverty. Poole noted that because of a lack of
marketable skills, internal migrants stay just as poor even
when they move to larger urban centers. The majority work
as unskilled laborers, selling food and goods on the
streets. Urban centers such as Ankara and Istanbul are
overwhelmed with internal migrants and are unable to absorb
them, resulting in rapidly growing, densely populated poor
neighborhoods, often consisting principally of illegal
ramshackle houses built without formal land title.

--------------------------------
WOMEN DISPROPORTIONATELY AFFECTED
--------------------------------

5. (U) Although Turkey prides itself as a leader in women's
rights among Muslim-majority countries, women bear the brunt
of Turkey's economic underdevelopment. According to UN
statistics, the poverty rate among women actually increased
between 2002 and 2003, from 27.2 percent to 28.3 percent,
despite strong growth in the overall economy. This poverty
adversely affects the achievement of other goals, such as
universal education and reduction in infant and maternal
mortality rates. Turkey's maternal mortality ratio (deaths
per 100,000 live births) is 70, whereas EU accession peer
Romania's ratio is 49. Poole told us that every 12 hours
one Turkish woman dies of childbearing-related
complications, a rate on par with sub-Saharan Africa. In

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the eastern provinces, skilled health personnel attend only
41.7 percent of births, whereas in the west the rate is 95.3
percent. In rural areas, over 60 percent of 11-14 year old
females are not enrolled in school. The UN rates Turkey
76th out of 80 countries (behind Pakistan, 71st, and Iran,
75th) in its Gender Empowerment Measure, which gauges
inequality in political participation and decision-making
power, economic participation, and power over economic
resources. It is these gender-oriented health and education
criteria that pull down Turkey's overall ranking in the UN
Human Development index, as opposed to the purely economic
indicators.

----------------------------
GOT BEGINNING TO TAKE NOTICE
----------------------------

6. (SBU) The GOT has not traditionally spent much time or
resources on examining the poverty issue. According to
Poole, UNDP had been encouraging the GOT to do a qualitative
survey on IDPs and internal migrants since 2003. (Comment:
Though by definition hard to calculate, the number of IDPs
is estimated at between 300,000 -- the GOT's unrealistically
low estimate -- to 4 million -- a wildly inflated estimate
by pro-Kurdish groups. These estimates are influenced by
politics and often fail to distinguish between those
displaced for economic reasons and those displaced due to
ongoing violence in the Southeast. According to Poole, 4
million is Human Rights Watch's figure and is very
unrealistic. End comment.) With UNDP's cooperation, the
GOT teamed with Hacettepe University to do a survey on IDPs
which is expected for release in February 2006. Poole
acknowledged that distinguishing between economic migrants
and IDPs is quite difficult, but told econoffs that UNDP
hopes this survey will provide a more accurate picture of
internal migration.

7. (SBU) In another promising step, the Prime Minister's
office requested and funded a six-month study on economic
opportunities in the Southeast. The study, currently being
conducted jointly by the NGO Turkish Economic and ocial
Research Foundation (TESEV), UNDP, and Aerican NGO Open
Society Initiative (OSI), wil review data on poverty in the
region and proide policy recommendations to alleviate the
situation. Results of the study are expected in the spring.
In addition, the GAP (Southeastern Anatolia Project)
Administration is organizing an event on poverty and
economic growth in the Southeast in May. According to
Poole, the GAP has not paid enough attention to social and
local development issues.

-------
COMMENT
-------

8. (SBU) Comment: In spite of Turkey's strong GDP growth
since the 2001 crisis, income inequalities remain stark. As
officials from Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party
(AKP), including PM Erdogan, have recognized, the end of
endemic high inflation since the 2001 financial crisis has
increased ordinary Turks' purchasing power. However, the
growth of the economy has not yet reduced the large
percentage of population living in poverty. Not only do
regional and gender-based disparities persist but migration
to the cities seems to have worsened the problem by breaking
down extended family support networks. Only a concerted,
cross-sectoral focus on development, including projects
targeting health and education and women in particular, is
likely to improve Turkey's abysmal Human Development Index
ranking. However, ongoing PKK violence in the Southeast will
hinder GOT efforts.


WILSON

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