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    Economic policy mistakes (5)

    Fatih Özatay, PhD13 February 2014 - Okunma Sayısı: 1172

    Can a country home to the ‘Hello Fatih’ scandal achieve the income level of rich countries?

    First of all, I have nothing in common with my namesake in the media manipulation scandal, known as the “Hello Fatih” scandal. Hoping that I have averted possible misunderstandings let me raise today’s question: Can a country home to the ‘Hello Fatih’ incident achieve the income level of rich countries? More clearly, can a country where no one believes that reliable and fair investigation and judgment will be carried out to clamp down on the alleged cases of corruption catch up with rich countries in income?

    At the university where I teach, I have a reputation for asking difficult questions in exams and making everyone fail the course. Students generally try to enroll to other sections for courses I teach. I can’t complain, actually; with fewer students, I design a more serious course with quizzes and homework requirements for almost every week. But, tell me for God’s sake, which part of the questions above is difficult?

    The answers are as clear as the day: No it cannot! Of course I expect them to explain why as well so that I can understand if their answer was deliberate. Imagine the investment climate is in a country which does not have a legal system that complies with universal legal standards but has an overly suppressed media. In a country as such, a substantial part of businesspeople will try to find a suitable opportunity to win a construction auction and manipulate zoning regulations. Finding that opportunity obviously requires some “special skills.” In such country, words like productivity, R&D, investing in new products and technologies make sense only for a few impertinent businesspeople. There is no need to mention foreign businesspeople, I guess.

    Some of you might say, “No one seems to care about the income gap between rich countries and Turkey. Why do you care?” Actually, this is the very problem I wanted to emphasize. So far in this series I focused on mistakes that relate to the short-term. But there is another grave mistake that has been with us for a long time and that unfortunately threatens the country’s future.

    There is a large gap between rich countries and Turkey in per capita income. For instance, Turkey’s GDP per capita is about 30 percent that of G-7 countries. More importantly, the gap does not seem to be narrowing down. This bitter outlook cannot be altered by interest rate or exchange rate policy, stock market performance, or budget policy. It requires a years-long structural reform program. Have you heard any decision to this end lately?

    On the contrary, decisions in the opposite direction were made. For instance, the auction law which was one of the biggest achievements in the post-2001 crisis period was altered dozens of times and made practically dysfunctional. The education system was changed from scratch several times in the last decade. The higher education council system is busy with distributing doctorate degrees in squatter-like university programs. Graduates of these programs soon become professors; teach students and raise new professors.

    Anyway, I think it is for the best that I finish the series here.


    This commentary was published in Radikal daily on 13.02.2014