How will Turkey’s natural gas discovery affect its economy, politics? - ŞAHAP KAVCIOĞLU

How will Turkey’s natural gas discovery affect its economy, politics?

Turkey’s long-ongoing natural gas explorations in the East Mediterranean have always been a bone of international contention. Turkey’s drillship Fatih, which carried out the country’s first national deep-sea drill in the Black Sea, last week discovered a 320-billion-cubic-meter natural gas reserve in the Tuna-1 well located in the Sakarya Gas Field. Thus, Turkey dicovered the biggest natural gas reserve in the Black Sea in its history. This development inevitably turned all eyes worldwide to Turkey once more.

Let us evaluate what economic and political impacts this first step, which has been taken to overcome Turkey’s dependency on foreign energy, may have. Considering the economic effects of the natural gas find:

As a country that imports about 92 percent of its oil and 98 percent of its gas, almost $40 billion of the current trade deficit in Turkey results from energy. Naturally, if our country is able to produce its own energy, it will find a critical opportunity to close the current deficit within this process. By meeting a large portion of the natural gas it imports with its own resources, especially during the 5-10-year period to come, Turkey will largely reduce its dependency on foreign energy. Of course, a significant investment is necessary to drill the reserve that is found, push it to the shore, and render it operable.

Once Turkey’s current deficit financing is eliminated, its need to borrow from abroad will also be further reduced in the long run. Thus, inflation and interest will also be balanced in the long-term. The Turkish lira will stabilize as well.

New energy discoveries will further strengthen the resistance of Turkey’s economy. The resources remaining in our country as a result of the drop in energy imports will turn into investments. Employment opportunities that will be developed along with this will boost recruitment.

The drilling of this gas will not materialize until 2023, however, its economic fruits may be reaped much sooner. If certified by international institutions in particular, it will have a more positive reflection on other energy deals.

Energy costs are the most important reason why Turkey is unable to be more competitive in export despite increasing its market share every year, despite its pursuit of alternative markets and it breaking one record after another. Once it reduces costs with its own domestic energy, it will become a much more serious rival country to production centers like China.

In terms of its political affects:

Though we politically and strategically diversify the countries we export natural gas from, we are still dependent on Russia, Iran, and Azerbaijan. Thus, depending on these countries for energy weakens Turkey in its relations. Now, by means of this discovery, Turkey will assume the role it deserves among the league of energy-producing countries rather than remaining an energy corridor.

Additionally, if this find can be conveyed well in terms of diplomacy, many burning questions will be answered. It will be a good response, especially to the groups within the country that question what we are doing in the East Mediterranean and why we need to make such great expenses. It will strengthen the confidence in Turkey’s East Mediterranean cause. From now on, explorations in both the Black Sea and East Mediterranean will continue in a more determined manner.

Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statement that Turkey’s goal is to drill the gas by 2023 put an end to the political snap election rumors. This can be interpreted as a re-confirmation that elections will be held in 2023.

Beyond all this, the gas discovery boosted our nation’s morale. It brought us glad tidings especially after the recent demoralization due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, we see that the opposition, which is not pleased with even this, is increasingly struggling.

Finally, this discovery has shown us how crucial it is to take domestic initiatives regarding certain matters. Turkey, which has started to write its domestic energy history, continues to raise the Turkish flag high and will continue to do so in our seas, primarily the East Mediterranean, with its three drilling ships and two seismic exploration vessels to boost its power in the energy market and advance towards independence in the energy field.

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