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    Everyone learns his own lesson

    Güven Sak, PhD11 July 2009 - Okunma Sayısı: 956


    Turkey is in a rapid transformation process. The point to be emphasized considering the change is: Changes does not happen under military discipline designing each step in advance. The process must certainly contain a flavor of surprise.  Unfortunately, it is impossible to go through a change without encountering undesired outcomes. In social sciences, it is not possible to see the past and the future simultaneously and say "Now we entered the fourth phase of the plan". When human is involved in the picture, a small mistake in initial conditions can push the system off the track. So, what do we have to do? It is quite simple: We have to not follow each detail second by second. We had better to make the assessment considering the process as a whole.  Today, let us discuss how Turkey can evaluate the present process to differentiate the vital from the important. In the meanwhile, let us emphasize that turning the crisis into an opportunity is not impossible despite all the time wasted.

    Apart from providing the chatters with the opportunity to meddle with the media every day on a different television channel,  we spent the last week for discussions on a regulation which does not have much of a meaning considering "judicial independence" but is completely political as successfully obscures the real agenda of the country. Everyone, including the ones from the "it is excellent indeed sir" school among those appearing in a different channel each day, knows that things tried to be done can be done better. However, this is what happens when human factor is involved. If the bald man is on our side, he is said to have gold hair even before he dies. So, is this discussion platform boring? Yes it is boring. But it is also instructive. We had better to be more patient in such periods. Turkey learns how to discuss and how to be patient.

    Let us begin this weekend's column with a quotation from Ludwig Wittgenstein. I repeat this quote whenever it is necessary to be patient: "You cannot pull the seed out of the soil. You can provide warmth, light and moisture. It has to grow alone." What does this mean? Experience cannot be conveyed from one to another by telling it. Everyone has to live and learn his experience alone. This applies both for countries and human beings. It is doubtless this approach also contains the risk of repeating the mistakes made by other. However, those mistakes are also a component of the experience. Now, let us repeat the question taking departure from this point: So, what must be done? If we are to make an assessment, how must we approach the issue?

    In this case, the thing to do is not to overthrow the table getting seized by the desire of the momentary, meaningless and mundane discussion but to elaborate on how the seed can be provided with warmth, light and moisture. Today, let us monitor the state of affairs for the economy. The current state of affairs is bad. A global crisis that was not related with Turkey has turned into a hundred percent domestic crisis thanks to the inertia of the administration. When OECD countries and all G20 countries are considered, Turkey comes to the fore as the country damaged by the crisis the most. This has occurred as sort of a publicly "live homicide". We can get very angry and irritated about this. We can accuse the administration of incompetence, which is in fact correct. But, what is the ultimate result? Ultimately, when live broadcasted discussion program on television end, the discussions will be only trivial and the economy will be left in a mode of depression. This is what it is.

    Despite this, however, there are things to do. The principle to feed the process with "warmth, light and moisture" is beneficial. Turkey can take a major step to overcome in this climate the lack of skills problem in the labor market. As per the "principle to feed the process with warmth, light and moisture", we can launch mass vocational training programs. There are two paths ahead: we will either ask everyone in each province who needs new personnel what type of skills they look for and carry out a needs analysis, or take a step that will add an anytime and anywhere appreciated skill to the unemployed population as a whole. Both steps are correct. However, the latter is a higher priority. This is an appropriate climate to mobilize resources to restructure labor force quality. It will be wise to not to miss this opportunity. Correct contributions to the discussion can be made by focusing on the process rather than the moment.

    Then, concretely speaking, what can be done for labor markets? A study carried out by TEPAV in 2007 for the World Bank underlines two points about vocational training. There are two particular skills sought in labor market: First is speaking English and second is using a computer. None of these two are related to attain a single-minded shape to the labor force. Both are solely stimulating; and directed to open the door for achieving skills. They are to facilitate easy adaptation to changing ways of doing business. The rest is just story. In the upcoming period mass vocational training programs must be designed within this framework. "The principle of feeding the process with warmth, light and moisture" will step in within this context in the process of transformation.

    But, what is going to happen if we take a step in this direction? It will prepare us to the future, to the competitive climate. Here is the first point: The world is currently in a process of digital disintegration. Figure 1 shows the relationship between the ICT diffusion index published by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and technologic structure of countries' trade. ICT diffusion index is an indicator formed considering the prevalence of information and communication technology infrastructure and to what extent the society is ready to use these technologies. The figure shows that Turkey is not in the first section. According to this index, a country not in the first section does not have the chance to spread exports toward high-technology products.  This is exactly what the figure below indicates. Countries that can improve the technologic capacity of exports are those who manage to join the first section of the ICT diffusion index. For now, Turkey is not in that section. This should be the opportunity to take. And this is the second point to state. Third point appears when the level of income in countries not seen near to Turkey in the graph. Yes, you are not wrong; countries which can alter the composition of exports toward higher-technology products also attain highest level of income per capita. Then, the thing to do is to make our labor force compatible with the digital age. It is time to overcome the imperfections put forth in the TEPAV study.

    Figure 1: Technologic structure of exports and ICT diffusion index in OECD countries



    So, what does it mean to announce an investment incentive package and define the sectors to be supported? Do you believe that the administration can make correct choices in determining the future of the country in the current crisis period where we are highly vulnerable to economic policy design mistakes? Honestly, I do not. Then, the investment incentive package must be changed. The principle is "to provide warmth, light and moisture". The administration must not interfere in businesses out of their depth. Incentive legislation must be retrieved from the omniscient "savior officers" logic. It is not possible to increase the level of per capita income fairly without enabling millions to achieve the skill to follow up the trends in the world. This requires a state of mobilization; unionization is in our genes.


    This commentary was published in Referans daily on 11.07.2009