The erosion in Turkish economy bureaucracy

The erosion in Turkish economy bureaucracy

“With this current bureaucracy, it’s good that this ship is even sailing,” said a representative of the private sector following intense meetings with public officials.

The deteriorating quality within the bureaucracy, something everyone has been aware of for some time, is at the highest level.

But not just representatives of the private sector, some politicians and bureaucrats of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) are also complaining about wrong decisions and operational problems due to the erosion in the bureaucracy.

“We were mistaken. We used to always complain about the bureaucratic state, but now we realize the importance of having a strong bureaucracy,” a public sector official told me last month.

Underling the fact that the ministers’ competencies have also diminished after the cabinet change, he said: “Now, the ministers are looking at bureaucrats to get the work done, but the bureaucrats who do not have know-how look back at the minister. In the end, problems cannot be solved rationally.”

The same bureaucrat highlighted the impact of having all powers collected in one hand.

“The old administrative system did not work fast, but now the bureaucrats who want to accomplish some work -although their numbers are few - are prevented from taking initiative by the new system. On the other hand, some other bureaucrat does not want to take risks, and instead of solving the problem, waits for the decision to come from the top,” the official said.

Briefly, quality in economic administration has declined sharply due to the increase in the government’s appointments to the state bureaucracy without looking at merit.

Even representatives of some private sector groups, who expanded their businesses during the AKP governance and have been complaining for a long time about the quality problem, have come to the point of saying things are no longer going normally.

One of the reasons for the recent articulation of these complaints are the meetings that have been taking place within the framework of a new five-year program to be prepared by the Development Ministry.

These meetings, which have become frequent in recent days, are carried out with the participation of officials from relevant departments of the public and private sectors as well as relevant union leaders.

Private sector representatives attending the meetings complained to me about the quality and visions of the bureaucrats, saying: “Even with a five-year plan in such an understanding, it is impossible to get results.”

To improve power, to reduce quality

I think the most important part of the problem is about the need to decrease the impact the state and the government has on daily decisions. Even steps that have been taken in the past in that direction have been retracted.

Reshaping a totally government-affiliated economic process is amplifying the problem. In such a system, the competence of public officials and their administrative skills become even more important.

Imagine if some confident bureaucrats were experts in their subject, would it be possible for state of emergency decrees on economic issues, like the ones regarding the Wealth Fund or the privatization of the Vakıf Bank, to be put into practice?

Despite the wishes of the political power, the bureaucracy would have prevented these decisions after seeing how they endanger the country and its economic future.

Yet it is dubious whether they have realized how detrimental these decisions are, and more dubious whether they would have voiced their concerns to politicians even if they realized it.

Erdal Sağlam, hdn, Opinion