Turks care more about democracy than visa free travel
28 May 2016
Have you seen the Kadir Has University’s latest Survey of Perspectives on Turkish Foreign Policy? Well, I find its results rather interesting. 55% of Turks thinks that Turkey needs to be more active in the Middle East. Further, around half thinks that in the post Arab Spring atmosphere, US is the most powerful country in the Middle East. Yet the American activities in the region are perceived as a security threat; 41% of Turks states that the US is not to be trusted. Overall, negative evaluation of the US has increased to 67% this year.
China’s slowdown and Turkey’s window of opportunity
21 May 2016
China is changing, and the world feels its shock waves, far and wide. This process does hurt the Turkish economy, but much less so when compared to other emerging economies. I hear lots of complaining in Ankara and Istanbul. But I think if Turkey plays its cards well, the benefits could outweigh the costs.
Why Turkey is no Brazil
14 May 2016
Political tensions are high, both in Brazil and Turkey. Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s President, was impeached this week. Yet Turkey is no Brazil. Let me explain. When Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was the President of Brazil, I used to make comparisons between him and Erdoğan. Why? First, they both came to power in 2003. Erdoğan became the Prime Minister and Lula the President. Second, they both come from poor backgrounds, having journeyed from the so-called “periphery” to the “center”. Third, both Brazil and Turkey have become more inclusive countries under their leadership.
Executive authority and political leadership: Where the twain shall meet
07 May 2016
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had a choice this week: Either define a modus operandi for cohabitation a la Turca, or step down. He chose the latter. Davutoğlu had the opportunity to help shape the new normal after the first popularly-elected president took office. He did not use it. Given our current constitutional setting, a president elected by slightly more than 50 percent of the popular vote and a prime minister elected by slightly less than 50 percent of the vote could only mean trouble. Why? Let me explain.
What Gazans need
30 April 2016
Gaza has many problems. Yet when the UN asked nearly 16,000 displaced Gazan households what type of information they wanted more of, they responded with some predictable things, like updates on checkpoint crossings, the security situation, issues relating to food or water. But one problem that overshadowed all others was that Gazans seemed to be chafing under the never-ending reconstruction of their small territory. They felt like they didn’t know what was going on. 92 percent of Gazans would like to be more informed about what is happening in the reconstruction process. The status of crossings, commonly thought of as the most important aspect of Gazan daily life, by comparison, only 64 percent want more information about. This was in the April report of the United Nations on Gaza.
What Gaza needs
23 April 2016
I first visited Gaza in 2003, which was only 10 years after the Oslo Accord. The late Ariel Sharon was either about to, or had newly announced his plans for Israel’s disengagement from Gaza. It took him a while to convince everybody to take Israeli settlements out of Gaza. Disengagement started in 2005.
Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees
16 April 2016
I was in Washington, DC this week. Having attended multiple panels on the region, I heard so many negative things about the current state of affairs in Turkey. Especially the word “vexation” was used so many times with reference to Turkey. Speaking to concerned observers, I just point out the latest survey results of Turkish Statistics Institution. The institution has announced just yesterday that the fertility rate among Turkish women in 2015 has declined to 2.14. In 2016, the expectation is for this rate to further decline to 2.1.
A more unconventional monetary policy in Turkey?
09 April 2016
When developing Asia was in crisis in the 1990s, the world valiantly upheld monetary orthodoxy. Then Europe went into crisis in 2008, world leaders came up with unconventional monetary policy. That’s when we all learned about monetary easing and negative interest rates. So the poor were forced into discipline, while the rich can indulge in “helicopter money”. Well, guess what? Turkey’s leaders may now want some of that sweet “unconventional” stuff too.
Turkey is losing hope
02 April 2016
Nobody in Turkey talks about the 2023 targets anymore. Remember the days when Turkey had an ambitious, but doable plan? I do. I had much to criticize back then, but at least there were policies to criticize. Looking back, I kind of miss those days.
Turks are unwell
26 March 2016
There is a famous dialogue in Mike Nichols’ 1967 film, The Graduate. It is a film about a young college graduate who has an affair with the older Mrs. Robinson, who is the wife of his father's business partner. Dustin Hoffman plays the lead as young Benjamin. In this scene, he is talking to an old acquaintance of the family, Mr. McGuire, played by Walter Brooke.