In just a few days, Türkiye will commemorate the first anniversary of the worst earthquake-caused catastrophe to strike the country in nearly a century. The massive twin earthquakes of February 6, 2023, followed by thousands of aftershocks, exacted an enormous toll of human life, physical destruction and economic damage.
A year on, reconstruction and recovery work is in full swing. I was able to see this firsthand in Antakya and Nurdağı during my visit last November. I was particularly inspired by the resilience of the people I met—those who had lost loved ones or whose homes or places of work were damaged or destroyed. Although it will be many years before a full recovery is made, given the scale of destruction, fast and effective action to restore housing, essential services, livelihoods and businesses, will accelerate economic revival and give hope to those who have suffered.
Türkiye’s exceptionally high vulnerability to earthquakes is being compounded by heightened risks from natural disasters caused by climate change. The increased frequency, intensity and impacts of extreme weather events, including wildfires, heatwaves, drought and flood hazard have significant implications for the safety and health of the country’s people, its infrastructure and public services, agricultural productivity, rural incomes and employment, and food security.
It is imperative then that the post-earthquake recovery ensures protection against natural and climate-induced disasters as well as resilience against the resulting economic shocks.
I am encouraged by the resolve of the Government of Türkiye to address the recent macro-financial instability and set the national economy on stronger footing. Recent policy developments to tackle high levels of inflation that have eroded incomes of Turkish households, as well as fiscal revenue measures to curtail the deficit and other policy actions are all steps in the right direction. Markets are reacting somewhat positively and all three major rating agencies have recently upgraded their outlook from negative to stable. Nevertheless, imbalances persist, and I hope the authorities will persevere with their efforts, underpinned by structural reforms, that can strengthen the foundations for long-term growth and prosperity.
Türkiye’s resolve to address the challenges of and from climate change and curb carbon emissions is equally encouraging. The country’s ratification of the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2021 has been quickly followed by a number of promising commitments to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2053, including a doubling of renewable energy generation by 2035 and mobilizing $20 billion for energy efficiency programs.
These are all necessary steps to protect Türkiye’s people and economy. As a key player in global trade, Türkiye is exposed to risks from the global low carbon transition, which will result in a drop in demand for goods produced through emissions-intensive processes. The expected impact of the European Union’s Green Deal is of particular significance for Türkiye given that nearly 50% of country’s exports of goods go to the EU. Recent regional geopolitical tensions and resulting energy supply disruptions also highlight risks for countries like Türkiye that rely on fossil fuel imports. In Türkiye’s case, imports account for 99% of its gas and 93% of oil.
These and myriad other challenges that can derail a country’s march towards prosperity, underscore the urgency of action in support of a resilient post-earthquake recovery.
The World Bank Group is a development partner that Türkiye can count on. Our partnership, which began nearly 75 years ago, has been growing in strength over time and we are committed to supporting Türkiye now and over the coming years.
One example of our commitment to Türkiye has been in the immediate aftermath of the devastating earthquakes. At record pace, the World Bank provided an estimate of the physical damage wreaked by the earthquakes and subsequent approval of two operations worth $1.45 billion that will help rebuild damaged or collapsed infrastructure, provide health services, reconstruct rural housing for 7,000 people, and support small businesses recover. Both operations are being implemented also at record pace, with financial lifelines extended to nearly 9,000 small businesses, damaged health facilities refurbished and re-equipped, and foundations laid for rural housing.
This is bolstered by a $600 million operation by the Bank’s International Finance Corporation, that will channel resources through the financial sector to improve access to credit for the private sector, and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, which is providing guarantees for the construction of a hospital in Gaziantep with a capacity to serve 9,000 patients a day.
We are also working on the preparation of new operations for the earthquake-affected areas to help rebuild schools and to support the agriculture sector. We have a large program in Türkiye, of about $17 billion. We anticipate this to double over the next three years, reflecting the excellent partnership between Türkiye and our institution.
February 6, 2024 will be a sobering reminder of the catastrophe that struck Türkiye a year ago. However, actions taken today and in the coming years could help minimize the risk and impacts of future shocks.