“Turkey is debt free” says Hamza Yusuf. Really?

I was sent the above video today. It features the well known Muslim speaker Hamza Yusuf speaking at a meeting of the Islamic Society of North America back in 2013 where he made the following remarks:

“The reality of Turkey is that Turkey has only recently paid off completely their IMF debt. Turkey is one of the only debt free countries on this planet. And why isn’t that on the news?”

I have heard similar claims from a number of other people, but are they true? Well, this article from 2013, from the Turkish publication, Hurriyet, backs up part of the claim. It confirms that Turkey did indeed pay off its debt to the IMF in 2013. However, it also points out that the IMF debt was only a very small portion of Turkey’s external debt. As of 2013, Turkey’s total foreign debt stood at 340 billion dollars, 43% of its national income.

And that debt has only gotten worse since 2013. Turkey’s own Finance Ministry now puts Turkey’s external debt in 2017 at 49.1% of its national income.

The lesson? As the motto of the UK’s leading scientific academy, the Royal Society, says: “Nullius in verba” – Take No One’s Word For It. Even if that someone is as famous as Hamza Yusuf. Study for yourself.

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3 Responses to “Turkey is debt free” says Hamza Yusuf. Really?

  1. He has said imf debt, not all forms of debt. It’s impossible to eradicate all debt since external debt includes receipts for goods for trade, the issuing of bonds, deals between governments on things like defence etc.

    No matter how wealthy a country is, it’ll always have debt. UK and USA have debt far higher than 50% of GDP, they are in fact the two most indebted countries in the world.

    Nothing wrong with what Hamza said here since he clearly specified imf debt, and the imf is not an organisation you want to be in debt to

  2. Fitzcarraldo says:

    I don’t know what the wisdom is you are trying to impart here. As pointed out by Abu Fatimah al Britanni above, Hamza Yusuf was talking about Turkey’s debt vis a vis the IMF, and you yourself don’t seem to dispute that Turkey has cleared that. And then you bring the wider area of debts into the arena and start saying something else that is not related. Yes, Turkey has debts, Britain has debts, Japan has debts, the US has debts. Bringing the prestige of the Royal society into it will add nothing more to your non sequitur argument. The point unmentioned here is debts to the IMF are specially noxious. The hidden hands are doing their best now to steer Turkey back into indebtedness to the IMF. Perhaps you are naive, perhaps you are putting your telescope to Nelson’s other eye. Learn from Malaysia in the 1990s when the entire world was advocating resort to the IMF. Malaysia resisted against the tide and survived. If it did, it’d probably be under the chains of the IMF now.

    • My point was a very simple one. Turkey’s then debts to the IMF were insignificant compared to their other actual external debts. So, paying off the IMF debt was no doubt a laudable achievement, but should not blind us to the large increase in Turkey’s external debt in recent years. So, singling out the IMF repayment without mentioning the large increase in external debt was a bit misleading, wouldn’t you say?

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