Archive

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    The Return of the Dispossessed
    Güven Sak, PhD 13 June 2015
    Turkey had its 18th multi-party general election last Sunday. The results bear repeating: our governing party of last 13 years, has come out 18 short of a parliamentary majority. We now have a 4 party parliament. The last time this sort of thing happened was when we used dial-up internet connections, and cell phones had actual antennas on them. [More]
    Turkey’s Great Normalization
    Güven Sak, PhD 06 June 2015
    There are two kinds of countries in the world. Ones where the election results are revealed after the ballots are counted and ones where results are known long before the first vote is cast. Turkey for sure belongs to the first category. We are no Ukraine, no Egypt. [More]
    Turks vote for no confidence every day
    Güven Sak, PhD 30 May 2015
    It is sad to see the deterioration of Turkey’s investment environment. I hear more and more that in order to do business in Turkey, you need to hire fewer lawyers and talk to more politicians. “It’s all about finding the right connections,” they say. Despite it all, Turkey is still a functioning market economy, to borrow a term from the European Union lexicon. We are certainly no Venezuela, but Russia? That we may discuss, especially depending on the results of the upcoming election. [More]
    Turkey and the limits of urbanization
    Güven Sak, PhD 23 May 2015
    We in Turkey compare ourselves to Europe. It is too often a heartbreaking exercise, which is why our persistence in the practice is so telling. I think deep down in our hearts, we know that Turkey belongs to the West in general, and to Europe in particular. Turkish history, starting from the Central Asian steppes, could be summed up as a centuries old, constant movement towards the West. [More]
    Why do Turks invest so much in construction?
    Güven Sak, PhD 16 May 2015
    Since the 1980s, Turkey has transformed itself from a sleepy agricultural economy to a mid-tech industrial economy. Impressive? Yes. But it stopped there. Just have a look at the share of hi-tech products in Turkey’s exports. A lousy 4%, while the OECD average is around 18%. Why? Why do Turks invest in construction rather than biotechnology? The obvious answer is often the right one: it’s about the duration of the investment. The term required to get your money back is much shorter in construction than in hi-tech endeavors. Turkey grows in volatile stop-and-go cycles, which shortens its investment horizon. So it’s all about poor macroeconomic management. [More]
    Public Security a la Turca
    Güven Sak, PhD 02 May 2015
    Emrullah Efendi, an Ottoman scholar on education, became the Minister of Education in 1910. He was elected to the Ottoman Parliament in 1909, from Kırklareli province in Thrace. The Balkan Wars were raging at the time, and governments were rising and falling like hills of Istanbul. Emrullah Efendi resigned in 1911, was reappointed shortly thereafter, and lost his job again with the fall of the government in July 1912. He died in 1914, before he could see the Balkan Wars giving way to the much deadlier Great War. [More]
    Cracking the wall of forgetfulness
    Güven Sak, PhD 25 April 2015
    Pax Ottomanica was based on the might of the Ottoman army. For most of the time during Empire’s rule, the tribes in eastern Anatolia, or Arab sheiks of the southern deserts, knew that if they challenged Istanbul, men with guns would come knocking on their door. So once the Army was not strong enough to guarantee peace, all hell broke loose. That was WWI. Bad things happen when empires crumble, and this was an especially big one. Other than Kurds and Palestinians, every Ottoman group carved out a  state of their own. Turks today are still awkward about what happened. For us, it was the end of a glorious era, and following a strange rupture, the start of a Republic. While Pax Ottomanica was based on military might, Pax Turcica in Anatolia has been based on forgetfulness. It was too painful [More]
    Why the G20 had an asymmetric impact on the Bretton Woods twins
    Güven Sak, PhD 18 April 2015
    April is the best time to see Washington DC. The cherry blossom herald the spring, and the weather is perfect for strolls along the Potomac river. Wait a few weeks, and the scorching heat and swampy humidity will suffocate you. Thankfully, the IMF and the World Bank hold their Spring meetings in April. Since Turkey holds the G20 presidency this year, the B20 and T20 activities are also being held at this time. While watching the show, I am beginning to think that the G20 has become a handy tool for the Bretton Woods institutions to reinvent themselves. But the impact has been asymmetric, to say the least, in that the IMF has been using the opportunity much better than her sister institution. How can I tell? On a very fundamental level, the IMF looks very busy while the Bank is still lookin [More]
    What do journalists do when they can’t write about the news?
    Güven Sak, PhD 11 April 2015
    Oscar Wilde is quoted as saying that “the one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it.” For some reason, recently Turkish journalists have been taking that duty on themselves. Why? Well, to begin with, it is safer. All the protagonists are dead, so no one can complain, call your editor, call you a terrorist, sue you, or put you in jail. It’s like a soldier staying at home and playing WWII games all day. You can die as many times as you want without any real consequences. It’s cheap thrills without any of the responsibility. That’s why rewriting history should be the number one item in “The Journalist’s Guide to Survival Under Unseemly Circumstances.” Find documents. No documents? Well, that’s what Photoshop is for. [More]
    Turkey is not included in the Middle East tour of the Chinese President
    Güven Sak, PhD 09 April 2015
    Chinese President Xi Jingping will go on a Middle East tour in April. This will be the first visit of Xi Jingping to our region. Which countries does this first visit entail? Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The former president Hu Jintao visited Egypt in 2004 and Saudi Arabia in 2006 and 2009 within the scope of his Middle East visits. It looks like the Chinese think of Egypt and Saudi Arabia when they hear “the Middle East.” They don’t think of Turkey. Admit it, Turkey had no bearing at all in the preliminary accord between Iran and the US either. Iran appears to be preparing to abandon its position as an outcast after 36 years and return to earth from some parallel universe. It is speaking directly to the Americans. Turkey does not feature even in the p5+1 equation. The Middle East is being resh [More]