How to trust Turkey’s institutions after electricity blackout?
Something strange has recently been happening in Turkey. Any ordinary day may turn into a catastrophic day full of “unusual” things, and the unusual becomes the “usual.”
March 31 began as an ordinary day, but it took just a few hours for a nation-wide power outage to start. The huge blackout affected more than 70 million people, hitting almost all 81 provinces. Only the eastern province of Van avoided the cut, as it meets some of its electricity needs from neighboring Iran.
The massive power outage, which hampered production and transportation across Turkey, cost the country millions of dollars. Production systems have still not returned to normal levels in several big plants, according to sector representatives.
Of course, such crises may occur in any country any time. The point is for a well-functioning system to find the reasons for a crisis and to resolve the problem as soon as possible. Finding who is responsible for such crises is of great importance to hinder any reoccurrence.
If there is not a very well-functioning system, anyone can speculate over what really caused the crisis. This has recently been happening far too much in Turkey. The deterioration of trust in state institutions plays a big role in triggering the speculation. People expect a reasonable explanation about the causes and responses from those responsible, but they are usually unable to find any.
This country has seen this movie many times over the last couple of years. For instance, a number of huge mining accidents took place in Turkey last year, leaving behind hundreds of dead workers. Who was responsible for these accidents? We have a number of possible names and institutions in our minds, but we still do not have the exact answers.
The structure of institutions - from the judicial system to central examination boards - does not just start to be questioned in a short space of time. It sometimes takes years for countries to come to this point. However, it is becoming a real case that Turkey is losing faith in its institutions; nobody is really sure who is responsible for crises, or who should be held to account.
On April 6, Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said the nation-wide power outage was likely caused by mismanagement, and the head of the electricity distribution company (TEİAŞ) has resigned.
“We also evaluate that there was an operational error in addition to a technical breakdown,” Yıldız said, adding that five main distribution lines were disabled during work on the lines.
The investigation to determine the exact cause of the breakdown has been completed and all technical details will be shared soon, he also added.
According to several energy experts, the real cause of the blackout was the overloading electricity in the system with the new “unplanned” power plants recently coming online, especially in the Mediterranean region. The existing power distribution system needs to be updated to overcome these fragilities, they say.
I have concerns about whether we will see any steps taken to update the system. This is the key problem: Nobody should be expected to trust any system absolutely, but the skyrocketing of doubts about the functionality of the system in Turkey is a problem.
One of the most discussed points about the Turkish economy has focused on the country’s strong need to create a new economic story. Many pages can be written with suggestions about how this will happen, but the need to rebuild trust in institutions must play a big role in these discussions.