UPDATE WITH MORE REMARKS FROM FINANCE MINISTER; OTHER EDITS
By Tuba Sahin and Can Erozden
ANKARA (AA) - Accomplishments in Turkey’s ongoing Operation Olive Branch in Syria’s Afrin region will avert possible risks to Turkey's economy, Finance Minister Naci Agbal said on Wednesday.
Speaking at the Anadolu Agency Editors' Desk in the capital Ankara, Agbal said: "The operation will positively affect expectations for Turkey's economy in 2018."
Highlighting that instabilities and geopolitical strains in Syria have impacted Turkey’s economy, Agbal said Turkey is carrying out the ongoing operation with determination and its accomplishments will go on to eliminate risks to the economy.
He also said the market remains calm as the operation is proceeding as expected.
"The market is calm, again this was expected from the operation. Developments on the stock exchange, foreign exchange, and financial markets indicate stability," Agbal said.
On Tuesday, Turkey's benchmark stock index rose almost 1 percent to hit its highest close of all time, 118,400.06 points.
The USD/TRY rate dropped to 3,7720 at 9.30 a.m. local time (0630GMT) on Wednesday, versus one dollar per 3.8020 Turkish liras at last Friday's market close.
Turkey on Saturday launched Operation Olive Branch to remove PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin.
According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to protect Syrians from terrorist oppression and cruelty.
The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.
The military has also said that only terrorist targets are being destroyed and "utmost importance" is being put on not harming any civilians.
Afrin has been a major hideout for the PYD/PKK since July 2012 when the Assad regime in Syria left the city to the terror group without putting up a fight.
- ‘Economy will continue to grow’
Saying that Turkey made a good start to the year and its economy caught a powerful wind, Agbal added that the country maintained its strong growth trend, as leading indicators showed.
Agbal said the industrial capacity utilization rate reached its limit in a number of sectors, arguing that the government should introduce new incentives in order to boost installed capacity in 2018.
Turkey's industrial capacity utilization rate reached nearly 80 percent at the end of 2017, according to the Turkish Central Bank.
Public finance will bring lay the foundation for economic growth, especially tax policy.
"It seems that we need to make regulations to support investments, particularly machinery and equipment expenditures, and we’ve finished our preparations for this," Agbal said.
Citing how consumer confidence in Turkey soared in January, Agbal said that people who baselessly speculate on the county's economy would be again mistaken.
Agbal said people’s positive expectations were reflected in the consumer confidence index, and added:
"We project that this acceleration will continue on the private consumption side."
The consumer confidence index jumped 11.1 percent in January, from 65.1 in December to 72.3, the Turkish Statistical Institute announced on Tuesday.
- Crime syndicates behind illegal gambling sites
Agbal also addressed the problem of illegal online gambling.
"Illegal online betting started to become an issue," Agbal said, adding that some crime syndicates in Turkey and abroad are posting the websites.
He said the volume of illegal online betting grows every day.
Agbal said several Turkish ministries -- including justice, the interior, youth and sports, and finance -- started a concerted effort against illegal betting.
Agbal warned people about gambling on illegal websites, as organized crime syndicates is behind these websites and profit from them.
Agbal warned that illegal gamblers could end up in hot water.
"We seize the money and start judicial proceedings against people who get mixed up in these activities,” he said.
Turkey allows state-run games of chances such as the national lottery and lotto.