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    Overpraising (once again)

    Fatih Özatay, PhD27 August 2013 - Okunma Sayısı: 1000

    The problem is that, Turkey already has been close to the seventeenth place in the world’s ranking of largest economies.

    Stephen Grosz is a psychoanalyst. His first book The examined life: How we lose and find ourselves? was published this year and made it to the best sellers. In chapter three, the book proves that unbounded praises can give way to undesired outcomes.

    In 1998 two experts carried out an experiment with the 10-11 age group. The students were given mathematical problems to solve. After evaluating the solutions of the first problem set, they said some children “you were so good, you are very clever” and some others “you did well, you must have tried harder.”  Later the students were given the harder problem set. Students who were praised for their cleverness were observed to become anxious about their confidence, motivation and performance. Charlotte Stiglitz, the mother of the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, have thought remedial reading lessons. She argued that children should be praised when they did something really difficult, not when they did something what they should be able to do.

    Cengiz Çandar’s commentary in Radikal dated 18 August quotes from Jihad Al-Zein, an expert on the Middle East and an important supporter of the Erdoğan government. In his article titled ‘How Erdoğan Ruined the Turkish Model’ he says, “In nearly a decade, Erdogan has led Turkey into a new and historic political role. He has reshaped the basic balance that governs the Turkish state by weakening, or rather excluding, the army’s role as the overseer of political life for the first time since the republic’s founding. He has led Turkey to economic success and stability, which have transformed the country and made Turkey the 17th largest economy in the world. So it is difficult for someone like him to accept the fact that he has become a burden on Turkey’s progress, a threat to Turkish gains or maybe even harmful to them.” I will ignore the critical last sentence and focus on the overpraising issue that I have been obsessed about. I am talking about Turkey being the seventeenth largest economy of the world.

    1 –Evidently, Turkey “has to be at some other point” in order to “get somewhere.” The problem is that, Turkey already has been close to the seventeenth place in the world’s ranking of largest economies. One should be cautious when making international comparisons. The outcomes are bound to change when the exchange rates change, for instance. Therefore, the comparison has to be made with “fixed” prices. With this method, Turkey has been the seventeenth largest economy of the world for a long timeframe, since the mid-1990s (I have not analyzed the figures for earlier periods). Let’s neglect the exchange rate fluctuations and do the comparison over current prices. Even then has Turkey not made much progress recently. In 2000, for instance, it was the eighteenth largest economy of the world with current prices.

    2 – Let’s accept that Turkey is indeed the seventeenth largest economy. China makes it to the top three of the world and exceeds Sweden or Switzerland depending on the framework of analysis. So, can we argue that the average Chinese is happier than the average Swiss or the Swedish?

    3- That is indeed the very problem. Apart from the advantages in foreign policy a large economy can enjoy (by the way, do you think Turkey has benefited from such advantage lately?) one first needs to take a look at the GDP per capita, concerning which Turkey’s performance is not promising.

    4- GDP per capita is derived by dividing GDP to population. But it not satisfactory as an indicator. What if the GDP has concentrated in the hands of a few? I am talking about the difference between women who wear shorts and wait for the bus at the station and those who drive SUVs. Technically, income distribution is of key importance.

    5- That’s not enough. Say that Turkey’s economy is large and income distribution is fair. But what are you leaving to the next generation? A ruined environment? An oppressive regime?

    Anyway. Yes, Turkey is the seventeenth largest economy of the world.

    This commentary was published in Radikal daily on 27.08.2013