Why Turks cannot make long term plans
03 May 2014
“Turkish economy still vulnerable to reversal of capital flow” reads the headline. It was a piece published last week by an S&P analyst on the dynamics of the Turkish economy. It made a good point. There is no question about that vulnerability. It has been around for a while. Six decades, maybe more? Just have a look at this last one: Turks have raised their imbalances while everyone else was in fact correcting theirs. Reversals every, Turkey is an exception. Reckless? Definitely. Dangerous? Yes.But it has definitely worked so far. The level of imbalance nearly doubled in the Turkish economy right during the period of quantitative easing in the West. Historically, we have doubled up the level of our chronic current account deficit level from 5% to 10%. That led to a two-year
Malaysia and Turkey: similar or not?
26 April 2014
The prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Razzak, was recently in Turkey. The two countries signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). As I was listening to Razzak talking about the agreement, I started thinking about the similarities and dissimilarities between the two countries. Turkey and Malaysia appear similar, but they are not at all. Let me explain. First, Turkey and Malaysia are predominantly Muslim countries; around 60% of Malaysians and 99% of Turks are Muslims. However, ethnicity and religion coincides in the case of Malaysia, as Malays are Muslims. There is no such one-to-one correspondence between ethnicity and religion in Turkey. That is a big difference, if you ask me. Second, both countries are considered examples of moderation in Islam. Similar? No. Turkey has a Civil Co
EU still means hope in Turkish
19 April 2014
The results from two different surveys surfaced last week. Both show the attitude of Turks towards the European Union (EU). Lately, Turks’ frustration with the EU has turned into a kind of numbness, a kind of indifference. The last we heard in 2013, only one third of Turks supported their country’s bid for EU membership. Two recent surveys however, display that the EU fire is still alive within Turks. But which regions of Turkey are more pro-EU? First, the level of support in general increases if you move to the East of the country. Support levels are significantly below average in Central Anatolia, as the graph shows. Secondly, Turkey’s corporate sector is overwhelmingly in support of the accession process. The trend is similar here – the level of support rises as you move east. The lesse
Twitter wars continue in Ankara
12 April 2014
What is our elites’ problem with the Internet? Let me tell you the brief answer: They simply don’t know what it is for. Of course, they individually use I-pads, I-phones, surf the Internet and tweet a lot, but they lack the notion for its greater role. They have no idea how it is changing people’s lives and the economy, from small enterprises to international corporations. No idea at all. That, I think is the basis of the Twitter ban. The ban put Turkey second to North Korea in Internet freedom. What a reputation! Fortunately, the Constitutional Court was brave enough to end the farce. Why does it need courage to do what your legal framework tells you to do? Well, just look at the verbal war against the court these days. The Twitter Wars are not over. They continue with every ve
Guess, who has won the elections in Turkey?
05 April 2014
Now that the people of Turkey have voted, we now have to decide what they have said. The first question: Who was victorious in the elections in Turkey last Sunday, March 30? The short answer first: There is no decisive victor in last Sunday’s elections. As for the winners, I opt for the MHP and BDP. Let me explain why.First of all, the elections have shown Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) still has a strong showing all around the country. The AKP received a minimum of 15% of votes all around the country and a minimum of 20% of votes in all provinces except Tunceli, Şırnak and Iğdır. If all politics are local as noted by Tip O’Neill years ago, Erdoğan still has the baseline support of the necessary locals all around the country, I have to
Flash in the pan
29 March 2014
Turkish markets have been interesting to watch lately. I see a kind of serenity in them, if not optimism in the last two or three days. Why is that so? Any change in the fundamentals? I don’t think so. Growth still seems to be faring down to 1.5 to 2 percent with the current account deficit around 6 percent. January saw a fund outflow, while the country needs a monthly inflow of around $5-6 billion at least; nothing good on that front. There is also no change in the U.S. Federal Reserve’s tapering process as far as I can see. Then are we expecting all this hurly burly in Turkish politics to be gone with a Justice and Development Party (AKP) win in the local elections? No. With both Twitter and YouTube closed down to Turkish citizens, the country sorely needs a new story. We have three elec
What is the purpose of the Ankara Department of Urban Aesthetics?
28 March 2014
In Ankara, there are 52 clock towers, each one uglier than the next, spattered along the roadsides. There are two types of cities: those which are oriented toward commuting with private cars and those which are not. In the former, you can only drive; in the latter, you can walk, take the bus, subway, or cycle. In such cities, children can play and wander in the streets. Children living in cities of the first type are not happy. If children are unhappy, the city is unhappy. It’s in our nature: birds are born to fly, and human beings are born to walk and run. Birds are happy as long as they can fly; and humans are happy as long as they can walk.
First as a tragedy, second as farce
22 March 2014
Twitter was on when I went to bed Thursday night (March 20). There was no twitter when I woke up Friday morning (March 21). So started the eradication campaign the prime minister promised. We can only guess what is next. This is all bad news for our national pastime of following the new episodes of our leaders’ wiretappings; bad for Wikileaks a la Turca, for a while, at least. I now understand that old saying by Ismet Inönü, “You just cannot predict what the bandits can do at night/Eşkiyanın gece ne yapacağı belli olmaz” Nobody expects to be surprised by politics with 50 years behind them, but events these days are unlike anything we have seen before. We are truly in the “interesting times” Chinese sages cursed their opponents with. Recall that just a few years back, Turkey was
15 March 2014
Turkey is still a country in flux. Its economic transition started in the early 1980s with price liberalization. That was later coupled with the EU Customs Union arrangement and the 2001 Kemal Derviş reforms. Both were important in transforming Turkey into a mid-tech industrial country. Political transformation started with the emergence of secondary industrial cities. Industry was eager to change the political landscape, and so started the political transformation of the 2002 elections. What is happening in Turkey today? Turkey is completing its first cycle of political transformation, if you ask me. The good news is that the country is going to cure its ills with the ballot box this time around. That is very healthy and should not be feared. Want to hear the bad news? It is go
For a child, Ankara is the same as Baghdad
11 March 2014
You will be shocked when you see that what we call a city is actually a big mess. And please share your observations with me. The other day I saw map of Baghdad. Incidents that had resulted in deaths were marked on it with red dots. Hardly a day goes without a car exploding or a terrorist attack in the city. Can you imagine what it would be like to raise a child in such an environment? Don’t just say, “Thank God we don’t have such terrorist attacks anymore. It was three decades ago, before the 1980s. I can’t even imagine what that is like.” I think we can well imagine what it is like. The terror of the urban-fast-tracks-downtown launched by Turkish municipalities is in no way different than the terrorist attacks in Iraq when it comes to the problems they cause for children. I look at Turki