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    Wikileaks a la Turca
    Güven Sak, PhD 08 March 2014
    Turks have a new pastime. They are addicted to listening to and commenting on the wiretappings of their leaders. They are all about illicit deals and activities of the country’s ruling elite, containing the violation of the rule of law, the separation of powers and good governance. It’s like watching a car crash – you can’t look away, and Turks are Googling the new episodes of the saga every day. Well, not all Turks, of course. Only half of them have Internet access. So it is the dominantly urban, male and Western part of Turks that have access to the real thing. Transcripts of the recordings are published in newspapers promptly the day after. I call it Wikileaks a la Turca.  Let me tell you the pattern and its differences from the real thing.First of all, let me highlight a sim [More]
    If you don’t take care of your neighborhood, who will?
    Güven Sak, PhD 04 March 2014
    In Turkey, the Prime Minister is the one and only person responsible for each and every decision. The current assessment system confines Turkey to a lame mediocrity. Turkey is not well-managed. If it were, there would be goals in our minds instead of question marks, like why don’t Turkish cities look like cities? Why is it impossible to walk with a stroller safely on any sidewalk in the country? Why are there no child-friendly cities despite all the effort to encourage larger families with many children? Why are Turkish cities condemned to mediocrity? Why is everyone “in” when it’s time to share urban rant, but “out” when it’s time to make cities more livable? I believe that all are closely linked to the fact that our cities are unclaimed.  Our cities and neighborhoods have no owner embrac [More]
    Turkish Cypriots are like Palestinians
    Güven Sak, PhD 01 March 2014
    I was at a meeting on the Dead Sea, Jordan this week. The meeting was between the Palestinians, Israelis, Turks, Jordanians, Egyptians and the Americans looking for economic cooperation possibilities in our complicated region. There I heard one Israeli businessman asking a rather naive question to expat participants from the GCC countries. He was asking why peace matters so much in fostering GCC private sector investments in Palestine and why GCC companies do not start investing in Palestine today without complicating the analysis with the utterly political peace issue. Every sustainable investment requires a business horizon and predictability, an element that is lacking in Palestine. If a company’s objective is to focus on solid profitable investment opportunities then Palesti [More]
    Why has the TAI failed to do what the KAI has done?
    Güven Sak, PhD 28 February 2014
    Turkey could have been selling its Freebirds already if it had the determination and patience in regards to R&D. Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) was established in 1984. Turkey was planning to buy F-16 aircrafts from the US for the Turkish Air Force. It is reported that Turgut Özal wanted a company that would assemble the parts of aircrafts to create a synergy in technology development. The TAI was hence established for the transfer of technology and started its operations in cooperation with Lockheed Martin. [More]
    "We have blown up 28 missiles to understand why"
    Güven Sak, PhD 25 February 2014
    The administrators do not have the patience for promoting any given R&D project since they approach it the way they approach construction projects. The Custom’s Union agreement helped Turkey become a medium-tech industrial economy and an indispensible part of the European market. The Custom’s Union has fulfilled its function for Turkey. Please let me note that this was all thanks to the European Union accession process. There is one thing that has been occupying my mind lately: [More]
    ‘Where is that bridge-guy? Come quickly, quickly!’
    Güven Sak, PhD 22 February 2014
    Those words were uttered during the ceremony to lay the foundations of the third bridge over the Bosphorus. It was only May 29 of last year, but it feels like a very long time ago. Too many things have changed in Turkey since then. The Gezi protests started two days after the ceremony and things have been speeding up ever since. The Fed’s tapering was just a cruel reality test for all of us in mid-December. The graft probe was the final straw. The country’s elite is in permanent shock and Turkey’s political landscape has changed drastically since. But I still remember a scene from that now long-forgotten past of ours, one that encapsulates the meaning of doing business in Turkey for Turks and foreigners alike. It goes to show why Turkey has not been able to break free of the mid [More]
    Turkey somehow cannot get beyond the beginner level in English
    Güven Sak, PhD 18 February 2014
    Teachers cannot go beyond the textbook, encourage students to read newspapers, or write movie critiques. TEPAV and the British Council recently carried out a survey on English education in primary and secondary schools in Turkey. My favorite part of the results is that 21 percent of primary school students believe that they are beginner level in English. These students go on to secondary school and continue to take English courses, but 32 percent of them think they still speak beginner level English. Time goes on, more English courses are included in the curriculum, but some part of students still think they speak beginner-level English. The rates are even higher in vocational schools. The rate of students who believe they speak advanced English is 10 percent among primary school students [More]
    Turkey needs Jordanian help
    Güven Sak, PhD 15 February 2014
    The population of Jordan is less than 7 million, in comparison to Turkey’s more than 70 million. However, the 1 million Syrian refugees might have been less of a problem in Jordan than in Turkey. This is what I have been thinking about for a few days now. Jordan knows how to cope with a refugee problem, but Turkey does not. Compared to Turks, Jordanians know how to integrate refugees into their lives. Turks do not. Around March 2011, when the Syrian uprising was just an uprising and not a civil war, Turks saw Syrian refugees as their temporary guests. Our prime minister thought like that, too. The number of Syrian refugees had not yet reached six figures, mind you. We had so many red lines to not be crossed in those days. Now, after three years, Turks are still seeing Syrian ref [More]
    What is the link between the inability to walk with a stroller and Internet bans?
    Güven Sak, PhD 14 February 2014
    No one has thought just for ten minutes with a holistic perspective what it is like for children to grow up in Ankara. What is the link between not being able to walk in Ankara with a stroller and the latest regulation that gives the state unlimited discretion about Internet control? This question came to mind when I was reading the awkward law package the other day. I saw a close link between them. I am concerned with form rather than content today. I believe that this method does not allow a healthy legislation process and the parliament to use its legislative powers. I recommend that you read the law. Why can’t you walk safely with a stroller in Ankara? Because you cannot know what kind of a surprise is waiting for you when you turn the corner, thanks to the “parcel-based planning” inve [More]
    Why doesn’t Turkey act as it talks?
    Güven Sak, PhD 11 February 2014
    If Turkey wants to be an important actor, it should just maintain a solid economy and strong democracy, that’s it. A foreign diplomat asked me this question the other day. We were having a conversation about Turkey and he, completely naturally, asked “Why do you think Turkey does not act as it talks?” I responded immediately: “Pardon me, what do you mean?” He continued, “Turkey talks about being one of the key actors in its region, and I agree with that. But Turkey does not act as it talks.” Actually, I have been thinking the same lately: Turkey talks about things, but somehow does not or cannot do what is necessary. [More]