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    Was it a translation error?
    Güven Sak, PhD 08 November 2013
    The amusing legitimacy debate going on in Turkey? I still want to believe that it is a misunderstanding caused by a translation error. Lately I have been thinking about explaining how the Internet economy has changed our lives by use of a solid example. On the occasion of prime minister Erdoğan’s recent amusing remark themed, “there are legitimate lives and illegitimate lives,” I want to talk about how the sharing economy today has boomed, thanks to the Internet. It has been on my mind for a long time, and here I go today. Companies of the new economy, such as Uber, Airbnb, Lyft, Sidecar, and RelayRides have been growing like crazy. The Internet has changed the organization of our lives. "Property" has become a word leftover from the previous century. The meaning of ownership has changed [More]
    Reduce the prices of staple foods; we can decide what to eat
    Güven Sak, PhD 05 November 2013
    The average Turk spends around 30 percent of his or her income on food, compared to 15 percent for the average French person. Would you like a tax system that loves you more than you love yourself, interferes in every single aspect of your life, saves you from doing bad things, and promotes good behavior? Say that the state, assuming that high-glycemic index food and beverages are detrimental to people’s health, raises taxes on such products. This would push up the prices of the high-glycemic index foods and beverages, discourage their consumption, and hence protect people from obesity. This also would mean the state regarding you as a baby, knowing what you need better then you do. It thus interferes with your lifestyle, just for your own good, of course. Would you love such a paternalist [More]
    What is the significance of the Marmaray Project?
    Güven Sak, PhD 02 November 2013
    The first phase of the Marmaray Project was officially opened on Oct. 29. That is an important date – the 90th anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey. But the event once again has shown how polarized Turkish society is at the moment. Just follow the Twitter activity around it and you’ll see the division between those who consider it a centennial event and the ones who are trying to diminish its significance. But that is not what struck me the most. After all, I am now used to it in Turkey. What struck me is the empty rhetoric of the official explanations. There is a kind of “It’s a bird, it’s a plane” mood in the air, but nobody concludes the trio of my childhood days with “It’s Superman.” People aren’t sure of what to make of the Marmaray. I see a problem in [More]
    What does it mean to have had five education ministers in one decade?
    Güven Sak, PhD 01 November 2013
    Why is education system reform crucial for Turkey? Simply because the current system is poor, bringing Turkey only meager PISA scores. You might think that I am obsessed with this “five ministers in a decade” deal, but I am not the obsessed one here. It was a McKinsey study titled “How the World’s Best-performing Schools Come out on Top.” The study, conducted in 2007, reviewed and compared approximately 20 of the world’s school systems, including those ranked among the top performer schools in PISA. In conclusion, they identified eight key points for reforming education systems. Stability was found to be the most important factor to take into account: the average education system reform takes six years. In countries that succeeded at economic reform, administrative actors and political act [More]
    Let’s reconsider closing the private training schools
    Güven Sak, PhD 29 October 2013
    I have always believed that you should keep what you have at hand if you don’t have a better alternative in mind. Turkey has one of the highest child poverty rates among the OECD countries. It was not in the top four of the poverty league only in 2008, whereas it was one of the four countries that had the highest increase in child poverty between 1990 and 2008. When I checked the figures years ago I had decided that Turkey had to open a new path for education. Last week, Brookings, the American think-tank,  released a study that revealed that children from poor families can succeed in life if they can go to top-class schools. The study is based on  US data. The US also is a country with high rates of child poverty; in sixth place, following Turkey, which is in fourth place. Turkey has yet [More]
    How to picture doing business in Turkey?
    Güven Sak, PhD 26 October 2013
    Let me help you. I came across this photo on the internet the other day. Have a look at it, if you would like to get an idea about the business environment in Turkey. It is the photo of a Turkish handicapped man trying to navigate through the streets, not unlike foreign firms in a new environment. It was taken in one of the big cities and it tells you all. Let me tell you what I see.Firstly, in the Turkish idea of development, the road is essential while the sidewalk is considered a decoration. See the width of the sidewalk – it is ornamental. City planners (to use the term liberally) will see it as an annoying convention obstructing traffic. No wonder Prime Minister Erdoğan was saying that “the road is civilization,” when referring to the one his government is forcing through t [More]
    Are we going on the Karatay Diet?
    Güven Sak, PhD 25 October 2013
    The MTP does not foresee an improvement in public savings. If public savings are constant while revenues increase, then the plan is to increase expenditures as well. Two weeks I wrote, “When I finished reading the last Medium Term Program (MTP), I felt like I had watched a television show about how you can lose weight by eating.” The program claimed that Turkey would consume more and grow on the basis of domestic consumption on the one hand and save more at the same time. That’s why I thought I was misinterpreting something and said “maybe I should read the MTP document once again from the top” at the end. I checked the program for a second time to see if I had missed a reform program. I also read the recently announced Draft Bill on Income Tax, and the draft bill on 2014 budget law. At fi [More]
    How many people can fly a remotely piloted aircraft?
    Güven Sak, PhD 22 October 2013
    1300 RPA pilots were employed in the US Army as of 2013, making up 8.5 percent of the total. I believe that Turkey is not aware of the change, though the change is happening right under its nose. At least this is what I think, having seen the battle of words going on, as if we are surrounded by story tellers.  I think the current opinion of Turks about Ankara must be like the current opinion of Americans about Washington. Ankara is unable to differentiate between what is important and what is not. So today let us go back to the top and answer the question in the heading: how many people do you think it takes to fly a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) and an F16 for 24 hours? What does the difference between an F16 and a RPA signify for the future? How does this relate to the Edward Snowden i [More]
    The disparity of perceptions on Turkey
    Güven Sak, PhD 19 October 2013
    Sometimes who you are and how others perceive you are two completely different things. The GE Innovation Scoreboard on the perceptions of policy environments towards innovation in different countries tested for a harmony of global and domestic perceptions regarding policy environs of different countries. The domestic perception about the policy environment is how you see yourself, while the global chart measures how others see you. It is the comparison between global and domestic perceptions of the policy environment in Turkey and Israel that struck me. In both cases, the domestic participants in the surveys have an inflated view of their countries, specifically of their policy environments’ innovation-enhancing policy. Now, not all countries make this mistake. The Koreans for ex [More]
    Has Turkey struck oil or something?
    Güven Sak, PhD 18 October 2013
    What I think Turkey needs is to focus on the task rather than to talk. About a month ago in Yalta, Turkey’s minister of European Union affairs, talking on Turkey’s EU adventure, said, “unless Europe gives up its prejudice, in the long run, I think Turkey will end up like Norway.” Like Norway, very closely aligned with the EU in economic terms, but not a member in it. My friend who cited this story added, “We should first become like Norway and then we’ll see.” For a month since then, I have been thinking about this Norway analogy. Because the EU Progress Report has been recently released, let me ask, “Has Turkey struck oil or something?” If so, it’s all okay. If not, why don’t we think twice before we speak? Let me tell you my version of the story and then decide. [More]