Erdogan Speaks: Egypt’s Transition Must Be Led By A Temporary Administration

Increasingly influential in the Muslim world, the Turkish Prime Minister speaks candidly about what must change in the face of the popular revolt in the Middle East.

Erdogan (WEF)

BISHKEK- On an official visit to Kyrgzstan, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke at length Wednesday for the first time publicly about the situation in Egypt, telling Turkish journalists that Middle East leaders must respond to the popular calls for democratic reforms.

The Egyptian military has asked people to return home, but clashes continue. What's your perspective on the situation? To resist the will of the people is like trying to make a river change its course. Whatever that river requires, sooner or later, it will get. I have no intention of interfering in Egypt's domestic politics. But for decades there has been frustration in the Middle East. The people of the region have suffered. We are not a country that can sit back and be a spectator to events in the Middle East. People there ask us for our opinion.

Do you think things have passed the point of no return? That is the way it looks.

Could this spread to other places? What are you going to do with the Palestine documents published by Al Jazeera? The documents on Egypt, likewise. People there don't just see these documents, they are living them. At a 2,500-person conference in Sharm el Sheikh, a woman stood up, a journalist, and asked me: How many weeks does it take for elections to take place in your country? I told her ‘We get conclusive results within 24 hours, but we'll know what the situation is by 10 or 11pm on Election Day". She said ‘With us, it takes a month".

What did you make of the Egyptian military's statement? I followed what was happening until late at night. This statement was deemed insufficient by the hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Cairo's square. The people expect (Egyptian President Hosni) Mubarak to take a very different kind of step. The present government doesn't inspire confidence as to the swift transition to democracy. A roadmap, a schedule is needed. If they announce a schedule, the masses will be satisfied. If they don't, they will be frustrated. I think it is very, very important that this transition period is managed by a temporary administration. Because trust is key. There are steps that need to be taken to establish this. I hope that the bloodshed and deaths in Egypt will stop. More than 100 people have died. It is not good for this to continue. But the statement by the military is significant and meaningful. It is relevant to the future of Egypt. The present attitude of the police there is also significant.

Read the original story in Turkish

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Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.

In the Netflix series, losers of the game face death

Yip Wing Sum


SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.

The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.

It's a plot that many have noted is not quite as surreal as it sounds, a reflection of the reality of Korean society today mired in personal debt.

Seoul housing prices top London and New York

In the polished streets of downtown Seoul, one sees endless cards and coupons advertising loans scattered on the ground. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, as the demand for loans in South Korea has exploded, lax lending policies have led to a rapid increase in personal debt.

According to the South Korean Central Bank's "Monetary Credit Policy Report," household debt reached 105% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, equivalent to approximately $1.5 trillion at the end of March, with a major share tied up in home mortgages.

Average home loans are equivalent to 270% of annual income.

One reason behind the debts is the soaring housing prices. In Seoul, home to nearly half of the country's population, housing prices are now among the highest in the world. The price to income ratio (PIR), which weighs the average price of a home to the average annual household income, is 12.04 in Seoul, compared to 8.4 in San Francisco, 8.2 in London and 5.4 in New York.

According to the Korea Real Estate Commission, 42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s. For those in their 30s, the average amount borrowed is equivalent to 270% of their annual income.

Playing the stock market

At the same time, the South Korean stock market is booming. The increased demand to buy stocks has led to an increase in other loans such as credit. The ratio for Korean shareholders conducting credit financing, i.e. borrowing from securities companies to secure stock holdings, had reached 21.4 trillion won ($17.7 billion), further increasing the indebtedness of households.

A 30-year-old Seoul office worker who bought stocks through various forms of borrowing was interviewed by Reuters this year, and said he was "very foolish not to take advantage of the rebound."

In addition to his 100 million won ($84,000) overdraft account, he also took out a 100 million won loan against his house in Seoul, and a 50 million won stock pledge. All of these demands on the stock market have further exacerbated the problem of household debt.

42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s

Simon Shin/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Game of survival

In response to the accumulating financial risks, the Bank of Korea has restricted the release of loans and has announced its first interest rate hike in three years at the end of August.

But experts believe that even if banks cut loans or raise interest rates, those who need money will look for other ways to borrow, often turning to more costly institutions and mechanisms.

This all risks leading to what one can call a "debt trap," one loan piling on top of another. That brings us back to the plot of Squid Game, "Either you live or I do." South Korean society has turned into a game of survival.

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