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    The country of the year was the modest Uruguay
    Güven Sak, PhD 24 December 2013
    I really liked Jose Mujica. He is not after cheap heroism as Chavez was. He is working quietly and humbly. Jose Mujica is 78 years old. A former Tupamaros guerilla, he fought and was shot by the police six times. He was incarcerated for 14 years in a military prison; he paid a price for his actions. He was elected president of Uruguay in 2010. Currently, he is showing the world a different kind of political leadership. He is a very humble and modest man. He does not cause noise pollution when he talks. He walks with two bodyguards! He lives with his wife in their small farmhouse outside of town instead of in the presidential palace. He does not use an official car, nor does he have a motorcade that escorts him, honking or blocking streets. Indeed, he drives his old Beetle. He is different [More]
    Double jeopardy in Turkey
    Güven Sak, PhD 21 December 2013
    I feel bad for Dr. Erdem Başçı, the governor of the Central Bank of Turkey. Just at the end of August, he surprised me by saying that the “Turkish Lira could reach 1.92 against at the end of December 2013”, hinting a surprise move. Those months passed rather swiftly, and here we are at the last third of December. The end of the year is approaching and the Lira is now around 9% lower than the nominal Başçı limit. It is around 2.09 at the time of writing. Never set a nominal limit for the exchange rate. It is bad for the already tarnished credibility of the Central Bank. Some stability would not have gone remiss in these very interesting times. There is no question that the Turkish Lira is under severe stress. It is breaking its own records of depreciation. One day after the start [More]
    If the Fed tapers, we have to tighten our belts
    Güven Sak, PhD 20 December 2013
    Add to this picture the political uncertainty the massive bribery and corruption probe will cause. Recently, I attended a G20 meeting in Sydney. The meeting was on the G20’s 2014 agenda. One of the chief objectives of the G20 is to ensure more inclusive decision-making processes. The participants asked about inclusiveness and the steps to take. [More]
    When is the land rent illicit?
    Güven Sak, PhD 17 December 2013
    In Turgut Özal’s time, land profits were distributed to millions and it was licit and inclusive. Not anymore. The Taksim Square has professedly become a pedestrian zone. It sounds like a good thing for pedestrians. “We have spared this zone exclusively for you. It is a car-free zone where you can enjoy the city and your lives.” This is how it sounds; but in practice it means quite the opposite. Do you wonder why? [More]
    Mind the gap
    Güven Sak, PhD 14 December 2013
    We have a fixation in Turkey. Every now and then, we like to emphasize that Turkey belongs to Europe. If ever a foreign government, official or publication lists Turkey among countries other than Europe, Turks will get upset. Have you seen the latest issue of the Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum though? Let me tell you what I see: When it comes to gender gaps, Turkey definitely belongs to the Middle East; among the 136 countries surveyed in the report, Turkey ranked 120th. That is a reality check for me. Just have a look at the report and see what I mean. There is no question that Turkey needs to mind the gender gap. We also need to mind the gap in Quranic education for children, I have to say. Let me explain. The World Economic Forum (WEF) started publishing [More]
    Why did civil politics fail in making a constitution?
    Güven Sak, PhD 13 December 2013
    To begin with, when addressing this failure, we should not focus on the concrete steps taken during the process. It appears that the constitution-making process initiated in 2011 has become mired down for now. Levent Gönenç of TEPAV has done a study of 148 among 806 attempts at constitution making since the French Revolution of 1789 and identified that the average time that it takes to make a new constitution was 16 months. In Turkey’s case, civil politics has failed in making a new constitution in its first attempt of about 25 months. I hope it does not end up like the Myanmar Constitution, which was made by the military in about 17 years. The Citizens’ Assembly Meetings we carried out in early 2012 revealed that 75 percent of the people were unhappy with the constitution of the coup d’ét [More]
    What is the use of the third bridge for innovativeness?
    Güven Sak, PhD 10 December 2013
    You cannot just build a bridge in the name of service procurement. I am sure somebody is calculating the yield of the project carried out with the people’s money. The third Bosporus bridge is being built with no consideration about its use. I think I saw the construction site from the sky when I was landing in Istanbul. Trees had been cut. The decision had been made, I am guessing according to some assessment, but we don’t know what. And I am extremely curious about that. For instance, what is the use of the third bridge for the innovation process? How will it make Istanbul a more livable and pedestrian-friendly city? How will it contribute to Turkey’s growth prospects? I am not arguing that all projects should have an economic return or make positive contributions to growth. I say that [More]
    Children of another tongue
    Güven Sak, PhD 07 December 2013
    The OECD’s new PISA exam scores were announced this week. The PISA test is a useful index to compare the educational attainment of children from different countries. This year, two things marked the announcement of the 2012 exam scores in over 60 countries for me. One was the discussion of the meaning of PISA comparisons between countries. China’s results are a part of the furor. The claim is that the Chinese conducted tests only on students around Shanghai, where the school system is better than in other parts of the country. That would mean that the data is skewed. Regardless of whether or not this is true, there is no question that sampling is important. Note that PISA tests are conducted in official languages. Some things will inevitably be lost in translation.Despite all th [More]
    Turkey ranks sixth in the number of recipients of doctorates at American universities
    Güven Sak, PhD 06 December 2013
    Why doesn’t Turkey remunerate the efforts of the well-trained young people? I noticed this the other day when I was checking the 2013 Transition Report of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). It appears that Turkey surpasses transition countries in the number of recipients of science and engineering doctorates at American universities. As of 2011, the number of recipients from Turkey was 90 per million people while the numbers were barely around 30 in transition countries such as Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. The total number for transition countries is around 300 per million. Turkey does not do badly concerning skilled labor force. Why can’t it do miracles, then? Why  is it stuck at the bottom on innovation indices? Where the hell are the science and engi [More]
    Now the state has seized supermarkets
    Güven Sak, PhD 03 December 2013
    So, who should the Venezuelan people blame? The people who try to extend their profits within a state-designed system? Not in Turkey, thank goodness. Not yet. We make do with wheeling out the “banks exploit the people via interest payments” discourse. Nothing new in Turkey. In Venezuela, however, things have completely gone out of control. The country is now paying for the mistakes made yesterday. Yesterday’s mistakes are causing even bigger mistakes today. This is the key lesson I have learned from the Venezuelan experience. The first lesson is that the state’s aversion to market prices augurs ill as it. later evolves to price manipulation and finally to price caps. The second lesson is that the state does what it does with completely good intentions. The road to hell is paved with good [More]