Waiting for the virus
30 August 2020
Constantine P. Cavafy’s poem “Waiting for the Barbarians” is a delightful read in dark times. It’s about a day in an unnamed city-state, where life comes to a halt as everybody, from the king to the crowd, stop whatever they usually do, dress up in their finest clothes and await the arrival of “the barbarians.”
Turkey is still normalizing
16 August 2020
Looking at Turkey from abroad these days, one might be interested in various data points. The exchange rate, the interest rate and the various up-and-down ticks of the Borsa Istanbul index. One may also look at dotted lines in the Aegean and dotted lines on paper that are being negotiated or renegotiated. Those things are surely important, but I submit to you one data point that captures something far deeper than any of that: The fertility rate. Turkey recently announced its revised average rate of births per woman. As of 2019, the fertility rate dropped sharply from 2.069 babies per woman to 1.88. That’s the kind of thing I have in mind when I am telling my foreign friends to take a longer view on Turkey. Look at the grand normalization process that’s moving forward despite the daily news
A tale of three blasts
09 August 2020
I still recommend taking the long view on Turkey. Yes, there is cause for serious concern, but Turkey remains a great country in a very troubled region. In this troubled region, we do not always do the right thing, but I like to think we learn from our mistakes. Just have a look at the three major events, three blasts, in fact, that I see this week, and three learning opportunities, taking their place in our collective consciousness.
That pricking feeling again
04 August 2020
It’s Bayram (Eid el Adha) a time for celebration in the Muslim world, when families gather, make an animal sacrifice, and feast together. The Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakthin wrote “the feast has no utilitarian connotation (as has daily rest and relaxation after working hours.) On the contrary, the feast means liberation from all that is utilitarian, practical. It is a temporary transfer to the utopian world.”
Turkey’s COVID-19 response from the perspective of German business
26 July 2020
Recently, “AHK Türkei,” the Turkish-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce, has announced the results of a survey regarding the business expectations of its members. Fortunately, Turkey is not the only country that AHK, the German Chamber movement, has a dual chamber arrangement with – it has these arrangements with 92 countries. That is how through this survey, we can compare the COVID-19 response of different countries from a commercial perspective. It’s a kind of litmus test for Turkey’s COVID-19 response, and I find the results more than a bit ambivalent. Let me explain.
Deeper in 2020, slower in 2021
28 June 2020
“The crisis like no other will have a recovery like no other,” IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath said this week. I couldn’t agree more. We have never had a sudden stop in global economic activity like this one. It is only natural that we do not yet have a real idea of how to get out of this mess. For an economist, this is a real-world experiment of planetary scale.
Throw out the old policy menu
21 June 2020
Telecommuting is one of the great novelties of our lives in this age of COVID-19. It isn’t that the technology is new of course, but the manner in which we use it definitely is. You can be at a meeting in Riyadh in the morning, participate in a debate in Berlin in the early afternoon, and be in a workshop in Washington, D.C before dinner, all the while staying at home in Ankara. No jet lags, no overnight stays, no hassle at crowded airports. You can participate in the global debate – at times more than it is necessary, as we now have more free time than usual.
Ready for the second round?
14 June 2020
We are all getting ready for the second round of the fight between the virus and humanity. The first round was all about “flattening the curve,” meaning that we had to limit contagion through severe physical distancing measures, lockdowns and curfews. The virus has equalized all economies in this first stage, if I may say so. It didn’t matter how rich or poor your country was, your population was vulnerable just the same, and you had to shut down your economy just the same. As Jerome H. Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve, put it so elegantly, “It’s the virus, not the usual suspects” that led to the sudden stop in global economic activity.
The virus and the unicorn
07 June 2020
It was my new year’s wish in 2019 to see the first Turkish unicorn that year, but I was disappointed. These mythical creatures are startup companies with a value of over $1 billion. There was a long list of them created by the venture capital industry all around the world, hailing from developing and developed countries, and yet none had come from Turkey. Finally, last week, Zynga acquired the Istanbul-based Peak Games for $1.8 billion. It was none other than the coronavirus that brought the first unicorn to Turkey.
A change in the nature of uncertainty
24 May 2020
The COVID-19 induced uncertainty has brought a sudden stop to real economic activity. We needed to slow down the spread of the virus to gain time and get to know the virus better. But now we are finally thinking about living with the virus, as new cases are subsiding. We cannot yet magically lift uncertainty, but we have a better sense of things. We are gradually moving away from the world of complete uncertainty into a world where we can assign probabilities to different eventualities, kind of moving from crisis management to change management. That’s what reopening is to many.