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    How ISIS activity is bad for Turkey
    Güven Sak, PhD 12 July 2014
    Of the 30 billion dollar Iraqi exports, a third is from Turkey. Gaziantep alone provides around a fifth of Iraq’s imports. So Iraq by itself is important for Turkey. Now two things are happening at once. First of all, it is getting harder and harder to send trucks down to Iraq. Secondly, Iraqi import demand is declining rather rapidly as Iraq transforms into a war zone. The decline in Iraqi orders has now reached 40 percent, and doesn’t seem like it will stop there. Declining orders and no transport corridor to send the goods. Bad for Turkey. Especially bad for provinces neighboring Iraq and Syria. [More]
    Is İhsanoğlu David to Erdoğan’s Goliath?
    Güven Sak, PhD 05 July 2014
    Turkey is going to elect its 12th president this year, with the election’s first round to be held on August 10. The first 11 of our presidents were elected by Parliament, while this time it is going to be done by direct popular vote. A direct vote to elect the president of a parliamentary system paves the way for a constitutional crisis, if you ask me. A popularly elected president will surely change the chemistry of our parliamentary system. He (as there are no female candidates in the race) will surely have moral authority to push his agenda. [More]
    A draft bill on “you-know-what”
    Güven Sak, PhD 28 June 2014
    Can you solve a problem by not naming it? That is how the Kurdish reconciliation process has been managed so far. Now, a new draft law on the issue has been sent to the Turkish Parliament last week. The name of the draft law is rather telling of how the Kurdish reconciliation process has been managed so far. It is called the “Draft Bill for Ending Terror and Strengthening Social Cohesion.” You might hear an Orwellian bit to it, but it mostly reminds me of something out of the Harry Potter books. Remember Harry’s nemesis, Lord Voldemort, who was referred as “He-who-should-not-be-named?” Or my personal favorite, “You-know-who.” Here in Turkey, we now have our own draft bill on “you-know-what.” The bill authorizes the government to do its utmost in dealing with “you-know-whos” and talking ext [More]
    Why the Arab Spring went wrong
    Güven Sak, PhD 21 June 2014
    When Egyptians was flooding to Tahrir Square, I was fascinated with the Arab Spring. Like many others, I too wrote in praise of the movement at the time. Then an experienced Turkish diplomat warned me. “Do not reach for quick conclusions” he told me, “things always start good in the Middle East, with high hopes and good intentions, but let me tell you about the people here: They mess up sooner or later. They cannot break from their past.” He was right. They just messed up big time. In the second act, it all became messier in Egypt, Libya, Syria and now in Iraq. The Arab Spring has gone wrong. Here is my first take for today: There is no structural break with the past. That past is still there and haunting them. So nothing unusual yet on the southern front, I have to say.  The age-old dysfu [More]
    Do come to see Ankara, city of ultimate fakes
    Güven Sak, PhD 14 June 2014
    Can a city be defined by fakery? Here I am not talking about politics, which can easily be added to the list when talking about ultimate fakes. I am talking about the reality or hyperreality. Driving in and around Ankara is to live inside a hyperreality alla Turca. [More]
    In Cyprus negotiations, this time it’s different
    Güven Sak, PhD 07 June 2014
    Leaders of both Turkish and Greek communities in Cyprus recently signed a joint declaration committing themselves to a confederation of two federal states. Thus the Cyprus negotiations restarted. That is better than the alternative. But there is reason to look beyond the usual pessimism of Cyprus watchers. I think this round is truly set to be different. Let me explain why. [More]
    Gezi spirit and the twitter wars prevail
    Güven Sak, PhD 31 May 2014
    I have to thank Türk Telekom for reminding me yesterday morning that Turks, well at least 50 % of them, are celebrating the first anniversary of the Gezi Park incident that I might have forgotten otherwise. Allah korusun! Let me tell you how I was reminded. [More]
    Turkey’s Misery Index and the shy rate cut
    Güven Sak, PhD 24 May 2014
    Remember the old Misery Index of Arthur Okun and Robert Barro from the past? It is simply the sum of the unemployment and inflation rates. When it was first invented in the 1970s, the problem of the developed economies was stagflation; that is high inflation together with low growth and high unemployment. Later, it was used in the US to compare the performances of different presidents. High unemployment signifies a lack of jobs and high inflation is about the rise in the cost of living. That is misery to you. Have you ever looked at the misery index for Turkey? My colleagues at TEPAV have just prepared a series for me to look at. Let me make three points regarding the trends in the Turkish Misery Index. [More]
    Why are more Turks dying for a ton of coal?
    Güven Sak, PhD 17 May 2014
    Turkey is mourning for its losses in Soma. A record number of miners have lost their lives. The death toll is creeping to 300, making it comparable only to the 19th or early 20th century mining disasters. The human cost of coal production is rather high in Turkey. In fact, Turkey is a world leader in the human cost of coal production. Let me explain. In 2012, the U.S. produced around 1 billion tons of coal annually against Turkey’s 76 million. However, there were 20 fatalities resulting from injuries in coal production in the States in 2012. Turkey’s death toll in coal production due to accidents was also 20 in 2012. If our coal production had been closer to that of the U.S., the human cost would have been around 250 in Turkey. That is what I have in mind when talking about the [More]
    Growing pains in Turkey
    Güven Sak, PhD 10 May 2014
    Turkey is a country in flux. My personal history happens to cover all the major parts of my country’s transformation. I was born in the western part of Turkey in 1961. The first industrial zone of the country was also established in that same in year in Bursa, my hometown. Industrialization started with industrial zones and Bursa was one of the leading cities outside of Istanbul and İzmir. At the time, Ankara was a city of civil servants only. Only a year had passed since the city had seen its first coup d’etat. Turkey was just a sleepy agrarian country. In the years after my birth, private sector-based industrialization started to sprawl across Anatolia. The army really got into the swing of coup d’etats. So I consider myself as having seen it all. I may be wrong, but that is my feeling n [More]