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In the 2003-2012 period, GDP of emerging market economies on average grew by 1.95 times, compared to Turkey’s 1.43.
What a repulsive scene: a general out front. A few more sitting behind him, accompanied by religious authorities and come civilians. Purportedly, they have saved the country. People celebrating at squares. Egypt is on world’s radar nowadays. On March 12th, I wrote an underwhelming piece on the Egyptian economy and I have nothing more to offer. The best I can do is to return to the “overpraising” series on Turkey. So far I have focused on the “over” part of the deal and will do the same today. As you might remember I was obsessed about the per capita income developments.
Between 1950 and 2012, Turkey’s GDP per capita grew on average by 2.6 percent. In the last decade the average was 3.6 percent. But this was not an extraordinary achievement: average per capita GDP growth was higher at 3.8 percent in the 1963-72 period and was as high as 3.4 percent in the 1984-93 and 1951-60 periods. More importantly, in the last decade the economy demonstrated different performances in two different episodes: per capita GDP growth was as high as 5.6 percent in the first sub-period between 2003 and 2007 and was as low as 1.7 percent in the second sub-period. Please note that the performance in the second sub-period is substantially below the 1950-2012 average. The main conclusion is that we would have had every right to praise our economic performance if the high-growth in the 2003-2007 period could have been sustained. But it was not sustained and that’s why it is overpraising we have. Unsustainability is unfortunately a familiar concept for many countries including Turkey.
There is more on the “over” part of the story, which actually strengthens my case even further. It becomes all more visible with international comparison: In the 2003-2012 timeframe, GDP of emerging market economies on average grew by 1.95 times, compared to Turkey’s 1.43. Turkey’s per capita GDP grew at a pace significantly below that for countries in the same income group. This clearly validates that Turkey’s economic performance is overpraised. Of course, when you focus on different indicators, you might find valid reasons for praising the performance. For instance, comparison of Turkey’s growth account with developed countries definitely can relieve the minds of many: In the same period, GDP of developed countries increased only by 1.18 times. But that’s not a relief for me.
More important than all of these figures is that the prevalence of overpraising raises deep concerns about the current level of democracy in Turkey. Despite the cold facts I have summarized above, we are told every day the “Turkey shines like a star” story. We are under this bombardment night and day. People criticizing the government on different ground feel the urge to praise the economic performance in spite. True, Turkey is not performing badly, but nor it is shining like a star. Far from it, Turkey’s grade is nothing more than mediocre under the current status quo; I have to say if I put my teaching glasses on. So, how to change the status quo? Isn’t it a disgrace for Turkey to settle for mediocrity and market this on every occasion as the shining star?
This commentary was published in Radikal daily on 06.07.2013