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SEMİH İDİZ

SEMİH İDİZ > It’s not all about the economy, stupid!

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Whatever its “EU perspective” bears in the final run, it goes without saying that Turkey needs an economically and politically stable Europe for its own economic prosperity. Turkish “schadenfreude” vis-a-vis Greece and all that aside, it is apparent that every economic failure in Europe, and that includes our Aegean neighbor, reverberates in this country.

The thinking in Europe is now shifting from an uncompromising “austerity” approach to one that has growth and jobs in view. There are those such as Jim Rogers – an often quoted analyst who also has the sobriquet of “Doctor Doom” – who feel it is “ridiculous to take from the strong and give to the weak” as a means of trying to overcome the economic crisis.

But the “weak” in this case are the common people, and they have been showing their dissatisfaction in one election after another across Europe. This is obviously forcing the rethinking, but not necessarily a jettisoning, of the kind of austerity measures supported by the German government.

Put simply it’s the old Keynes vs. monetarists debate once again. But economic developments in Europe are such that it is time for creative thinking that involves a little Keynes, little Friedman and a little of the previously not thought about.

The alternative is that it will become harder to avert the possibility of political extremes, and especially the ultraright, from gaining a foothold by taking advantage of public anger and frustration, as happened in Greece.

That country goes to the ballot box again this Sunday to try and come out with a viable government that will take the country out of its present mess. Hopefully the violent and anachronistic behavior of the neo-Nazi “Golden Dawn” party will have alerted the Greek public to the dangers that lie ahead should they choose to go in that direction.

Nouriel Roubini, the famous economist who foresaw the global economic crisis and does not predict an early end to it, has come up with a novel idea that serves a couple of purposes. It also points to the kind of creative thinking that should be going on in order not just to contribute to efforts aimed stimulating growth in the weaker economies, but to increasing amity between Europeans who have fallen; a case in point being the Greeks again, and the Germans.

His idea, put forward in an interview with a German paper, goes something like this: As a substitute to extending funds to stricken countries, which the public of the giving country considers to be “unjustified handouts,” and which is thus politically unpopular, Germany should give its citizens who want to take a holiday in southeastern Europe 1,000 euros to spend.

Not only will this stimulate those economies, which as in the case of Greece in principle, are heavily dependent on tourism, but will also contribute to a better climate between “northern Europeans” who feel they are forking out for others, and the “southern Europeans” who are angry about the condescending and snide attitudes of northerners.

Beneficiary countries however have responsibilities here too and must curb anti-EU nationalism in the first instance in order to deem themselves attractive. This is especially important when we read reports of significant cancelations by Germans in terms of pre-booked holidays for Greece, for example.

In the meantime enough capital has been amassed by the governments of the stronger countries, and by private industry, so it is time to spread the wealth around now for the sake of political stability. Unless that is done in feasible and imaginative ways, in order to get the economic wheels turning again, the likely outcome is that people will be forced to take to the streets and do dangerously silly things like relying on the far right.

That part of the political spectrum has never led to anything good, neither in Turkey, nor anywhere else. So it is not “All about the economy, stupid!” in this case. There is much more at stake than that.

June/15/2012

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