Government proposes further stimulus in Turkey .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} ISTANBUL - The Turkish government is planning further measures to help the weakening economy, including ways to help the struggling automotive industry, said Finance Minister Kemal Unakıtan.

"The global economic crisis has changed everything," said Unakıtan. "It is a dynamic structure. It shifts its image everyday," he added. "Unless there is an improvement in the global turmoil, it will be impossible to make any improvements to Turkey’s economy.

"Within this year we will hit rock bottomÉ And then slowly we will climb back up again. I expect improvements to start by the second half of the year," said Unakıtan. The Turkish government is constantly holding meetings to discuss the global turmoil’s impact on the country as well as discussing measures to be taken in order to lessen the effects of the crisis, he said. The Turkish economy, which has seen several years of strong economic growth, has been battered by the current global economic crisis, and liquidity in the emerging markets destination has also dried up, further hurting businesses.

"Turkey’s exports narrowed due to a decline in demand, which hit the automotive industry the worst, as 90 percent of exports in the industry have been directed to European countries," said Unakıtan.

Some measures will be taken to improve the status of the automotive industry, a key export industry that has already begun to shed a large amount of jobs. "We are focusing on several issues. I cannot give any further information before the issue is discussed at the Economy Coordination Council. I assume we will reveal measures within this month."

Unakıtan said apart from the automotive industry, the government also planned to help stem rising unemployment and to provide incentives to encourage mergers between companies.

As a result of discussions handled at the Economy Coordination Council, instead of enabling insurance premium discounts for companies, we have decided to provide them with "unemployment help" to retain workers, not to fire them. The help will be provided in the form of cash, not credit, Unakıtan said. No further details were provided of government plans. Unakıtan urged companies to seek alternative markets as well as focusing further on innovation projects. Benefiting from incentives, increasing quality and competitiveness are also quite important, he added.

An International Monetary Fund mission is currently in Ankara for talks on a loan agreement with Turkey to help it weather the financial crisis. Government sources told Reuters in December that Turkey wanted loans totaling around $25 billion. A previous $10 billion standby agreement with the fund expired in May, but until recently the government was reluctant to opt for another loan program.

Turkish economic growth in the third quarter was at its lowest level since 2002, at 0.5 percent, and the government has taken steps to ease the burden on borrowers, boost access to credit and stimulate economic activity.