Nation States and MENA
12 May 2018
Remember what Robert Reich, President Clinton’s labor secretary, said about the Republican-led government shutdown in 1996? “You know, much of what the federal government does in the United States... is to provide what is almost a large insurance policy for people. And it’s only when you get into trouble...that you realize that the insurance policy has effectively been cancelled. And that’s what’s happened now” he said. I think that this is a good way of thinking about the modern nation state. It’s not only about building roads and schools and military bases but also a regulatory edifice to operate the country, oversee markets, and create an environment for your citizens to freely interact with each other. That is what the Middle East urgently needs.
Ready for cohabitation a la Turca?
05 May 2018
When asked about the situation in Turkey, I have recently been quoting Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein: “You cannot draw the seed up out of the earth. All you can do is give it warmth and moisture and light; then it must grow.” Countries change by interaction, not by design. That is what is happening in Turkey. The country is changing, and if you take the long view you’ll see it’s changing for the better. Let me tell you why I am a cautious optimist regarding the upcoming elections in Turkey.Turkey is due to hold snap presidential and parliamentary elections in less than two months. Many constitutional amendments passed in the April 2017 referendum will go into effect after this election. The world is struggling to make sense of things: Where is Turkey going? Is this the e
The silent backdrop to the election
29 April 2018
Turkey is heading into snap elections in less than two months. A glance at the headlines tells us one thing: Afrin is out, elections are in. You can tell a lot about a country by headlines alone. Since 2002, Turkey has had four parliamentary and one presidential election. Issues of identity play a role in these things, but then, as now, one factor is vital: the economy. As in 2002, it’s the current unsustainable state of the Turkish economy that has brought the elections to the fore. Let me elaborate.
Plunging Lira, early elections
21 April 2018
President Erdoğan surprised everybody this week by rushing the country into early elections on June 24. That’s in two months, mind you. Why this rush? I think the unbearable and uncontrollable plunge of the Turkish Lira is the major culprit.
Why did Halide Edip give her son a Japanese name?
14 April 2018
Presidents Erdoğan, Putin and Ruhani were in Ankara last week to talk about Syria. Their photo has been plastered across the news for much longer than is typical for this sort of thing. Western friends are puzzled and a bit upset, like someone who has just heard that their long-lost friend joined a drug cartel. Bob Menendez, a senator from New Jersey and ranking member of the powerful Senate Foreign Affairs Committee had a more mature attitude.
The Turkish Lira is plunging despite high growth. Why?
07 April 2018
Turkey had a record growth rate of 7.4 percent in 2017. As of April, the lira has depreciated by 8 percent in 2018. This trend, it seems, will continue. Can we say that record growth has made the Lira more vulnerable? And if so, why?
Imagine a Syria with no Americans
31 March 2018
Have you heard the last bit of presidential wisdom from Donald Trump? “We are knocking the hell out of ISIS” boasted the triumphant president, “we’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it.” When asked about Trump’s remarks, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said she was “unaware” about any plans for a troop withdrawal. Whether it will actually happen or not, President Trump is making us think about a scenario hitherto far out of the realm of possibility: What if there were no Americans in Syria? What if the supposedly sole superpower in the world just didn’t try to shape events in the most violently disputed piece of land in the world?
From Japan to China bashing
17 March 2018
I see two emerging trends. One is in the West, the other is in China. I was at a meeting in Mumbai this week. Everybody there was more interested in the power consolidation in China than in the disarray in Washington. President Trump, who has never been accountable to a board of directors in his life, is running the American government like a private company. We have a drunk sitting in the driving seat of the American government. Let me tell you what that feels like to a Turk in Mumbai.
The gender gap is narrowing in Turkey
10 March 2018
Last week, TEPAV announced its third Gender Inequality Scorecard. Our objective here is to raise awareness about gender inequality in the Turkish countryside. The results are surprising this year. After the 2012 and 2015 reports, there is significant improvement across the board in gender equality. We collect data on the provincial level, and the best performing are Van, Tunceli, Antalya, Maraş and Artvin. Except Antalya, all of these provinces are in the East.
Turkey needs more GVCs
24 February 2018
Turkey’s industrial transformation started in the early 1980s. Unlike many of its Middle Eastern neighbors, Turkey has no natural resources, so it had to organize its society around producing things others might want to buy. And we did. Our per capita GDP went from $1,500 in 1980 to more than $10,000 in 35 years. An agricultural backwater became an urban, industrial, and fairly market-driven place. So far so good. Yet if the idea is to converge with the rich world, Turkey is in trouble. It needs to renew its industrial base. To do that, it needs global value chains (GVCs). It now seems however, that GVCs no longer want to come to Turkey. Why not?