Turkey Economy Overview


In the 1930s, the state became one of the largest investors in the country’s industrialization. Much of the economic resources remained in the hands of the state for a long time, but in the 1970s and 1980s the government gave increasing importance to private investment in this sector.

Agriculture and Livestock

Agriculture is responsible for twenty percent of the gross domestic product and employs almost half of the labor force. Turkey is a major producer of cereals, mainly wheat, barley and corn. Cotton and tobacco are the main export products. Other important crops are beets, potatoes and grapes. The coastal lands of the west and south are used intensively, with artificial irrigation, for the production of fruits and vegetables, also destined for export. Sheep and, to a lesser extent, cattle and goats are of considerable economic importance.

Energy and mining

Limited oil reserves, which only meet one-sixth of national needs, compel Turkey to spend a large part of its foreign currency on importing the product. Two thirds of the electricity consumed is generated by thermoelectric plants and one third by hydroelectric plants. There are reserves of coal, lignite, iron, chromium, antimony, asbestos, copper, mercury, manganese, sulfur, lead, zinc, barite, boron ores, magnesite, etc.


Ten percent of Turkish labor is employed in industry, a sector responsible for a fifth of gross domestic product. The production of wool and cotton made the textile industry the sector of greatest industrial growth during the 1960s and 1970s, despite low productivity. The petrochemical industry, as well as mechanics, expanded rapidly in the 1980s, and Turkey became the largest steel producer in the Middle East. Tourism, coming mainly from Western Europe, has acquired a great development around the historic cities and on the beaches of the Aegean and the Mediterranean.

Transport and communication

Maritime traffic of passengers and goods between coastal cities is intense in Turkey. Rail transport is in charge of the State Railway of the Republic of Turkey. The country’s main rail and road junction is Ankara. The railways serve the largest Turkish ports: Istanbul, on the Bosphorus; Smyrna, in the Aegean Sea; Mersin and Iskenderun (Alexandria), in the Mediterranean; and, in the Black Sea, Zonguldak, Samsun and Trebizonda, which communicate with the interior. Ankara airport concentrates domestic flights, while Istanbul airport concentrates international traffic.

Political institutions

According to Homeagerly, Turkey is a multiparty republic. The 1982 constitution establishes a parliamentary system of government, with a unicameral National Assembly, elected by universal suffrage for a five-year term. The Assembly elects the President of the Republic for a seven-year non-renewable term. The president appoints the prime minister and the cabinet, who control government affairs.

The main political parties in Turkey are the center-right Party of the Fatherland, the center-right Party of the Just Way, and the center-left Social Democratic Party.


When the Turkish republic was instituted in 1923, it was estimated that only ten percent of the population was literate. Ataturk’s government program emphasized teaching, and by the end of the 20th century, the literacy rate had already reached 76%. The public education system offers free and compulsory primary education for five years. Secondary education spans six years. Religious education, which was banned in the early years of the republic, was later permitted in primary and religious training schools. The country has about twenty university institutions.

The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare maintains many hospitals and care centers, which provide free medical care to the poor. The Ministry of Labor and several private organizations maintain health centers. The main health problems are infant mortality and that caused by infectious diseases.

The low level of income, the sharp demographic increase and the intense rural exodus contribute to the maintenance of a high housing deficit. The main cities, although they have constantly expanding middle class neighborhoods, are surrounded by great poverty belts, lacking essential services, such as water and sewage.


The Arab and Persian civilizations joined the Byzantine to outline the main cultural features of the Ottoman empire. From the 19th century onwards, the cultural influence of the West became increasingly greater and pervaded educated minorities, who created the new Turkish state after the first world war. Since then, Turkish culture has taken on a strong nationalist streak, aimed mainly at Arab influence. Kemal Ataturk imposed the use of the Latin alphabet and adopted the Gregorian calendar. Artists and writers clearly defended nationalism and cultural Westernism, to the detriment of Islamic tradition.

Official institutions encourage traditional Turkish cultural events. At the Ankara Opera House, founded in 1940, and at the Istanbul Opera House in 1950, classical works from the West are staged. Several institutions promote the arts and sciences, including three music conservatories in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir; the Academy of Fine Arts, Istanbul; and the National Folklore Institute, in Ankara.

Millennia of civilization have made Turkey a country rich in archaeological sites and important architectural works, among which the main one is the grandiose Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, built in the 6th century and later transformed into a mosque and museum. There are archaeological museums in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir.

Turkey Economy Overview