Higher growth, higher misery in Turkey
17 February 2018
Turkey’s economy grew by 11.1 percent in the third quarter of 2017. That’s the highest figure since 2014. Yet the misery index, found simply by summing up the inflation rate and unemployment rate, has reached 21.2 percent. That figure, in turn, is at its highest since 2004. So higher growth has made Turkey even more miserable. Why?
Turkey and NATO: 45 years ago, 45 years later
10 February 2018
NATO was established in 1949. Turkey and Greece became members in 1952. And if there was no NATO at the time, Turks would have had to invent it. Russia was breathing down Turkey’s neck, and it needed Western allies to keep it in check. And Turkey paid for that protection in its blood. A 5,000-strong Turkish brigade shipped off to the Korean War in 1950. 741 of them died. Yet these days people keep asking me “Why are Turkey and NATO growing apart?” Are they really? I don’t think so. Let me elaborate.
Russian-Turkish relations and the dark underbelly of Cryptocurrency
03 February 2018
Russian-Turkish relations were in the news again last week. But this time it was different. It was not about s-400s, not sanctions or secondary sanctions, nor even about the Syrian Civil War. It was about bitcoin and blockchain technologies. Could this also be considered something sinister, as Russia and Turkey as partners in crime? Could cryptocurrencies be considered a new tool for busting American sanctions? Could this be the premature end to bitcoin? Let me elaborate.
Is Turkey going back to square one after 40 years?
20 January 2018
Turkey has transformed itself from a sleepy agrarian society to a dynamic industrial country. Much of it is thanks to Özal’s reforms that started the transformation process in the 1980s. Then the Customs Union with the EU in 1996 turned Turkey into a mid-tech industrial country. The economic transformation of Turkey has so far been a success story in terms of improving the global competitiveness of the country. Not anymore. As of 2016, Turkey’s competitiveness has declined to lower than global average. Why? Let me elaborate.
The year 2007 was a perfect storm for Turkey
13 January 2018
“Countries don’t disappear, it has been said, but sometimes they do encounter perfect storms.” wrote Jorge Castaneda, a Mexican politician and academic, the other day in the NYT, “these do not threaten their existence, yet they can represent major challenges to their welfare and integrity.”2007 was such a year for Turkey. Let me explain why this is important today.
A tale of three countries: Turkey, China and Iran
06 January 2018
I was in Tehran right after President Rouhani was first elected. The hotel rooms were fully booked, with businesspeople and journalists from across the world. The story was that Iran was deciding to return to our world from the parallel universe the country has exiled itself to around 40 years ago. There is now discontent on Iranian streets. I see this as frustration with the pace of the reform process.
In the Dollar Turks Trust
30 December 2017
I was very surprised the other day when asked whether Turkey would “clam up” economically in 2018, meaning whether it would close in on itself. To give a bit of a background, Turkey started to open up with the Özal reforms in the 1980s, and the process reached its apex in 1989, with the total liberalization of capital account. Ever since, “opening up” to Turk is synonymous to getting freer and richer. “Clamming up” would be the opposite. Let me be very clear: Economically, this is unthinkable. Politically, it would be a suicide. Why?
How is the EU doing post-Brexit?
23 December 2017
Last week, Brussels started an unprecedented process to suspend the voting rights of Poland within the EU mechanism. “The Commission has today concluded that there is a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law in Poland,” said the official statement. The Commission, which is the executive branch of the EU, considered Poland’s judicial reforms as a serious breach of Polish courts’ independence. “Not good for European values” says the EU. What does this mean? Let me elaborate.
Rising US unilateralism is a bad thing
09 December 2017
Ten years ago, I was in Jerusalem on Jerusalem Day, which marks Israel’s “reunification” of the city in 1967. I got into a taxi in West Jerusalem to go to East Jerusalem. The traffic was heavy, with new checkpoints everywhere. “It has been like this every year,” said my Israeli driver, “reunification, my ass.” Jerusalem was a divided city then, and it is one today. Nobody seems to have told Donald Trump that very basic fact.
Take the NATO incident more seriously
25 November 2017
Have you seen that special Eurobarometer survey on the effect of digitization and automation on daily life? It was released this May. Only 7 percent of the participants say that they find news stories coming from social media trustworthy. 93 percent are not influenced. Considering all that talk about Russian interference, the idea may seem comforting. Not so fast. You may think that 7 percent is not that big, but think about acutely divided societies. 7 percent is more than enough to destabilize a country by itself.