How will Turkey be saved?
Turkey has always been a country that has received special attention due to its geostrategic location where continents meet and its Western orientation, despite its overwhelming Muslim population. A NATO member since 1952, a candidate to the European Union since 1999 as well as a founding member of a number of other European institutions like the Council of Europe, Turkey has always been a country of distinction.
Unlike many other countries in its region, it has always opted for a free market economy integrated with global economies, particularly after the 1980s. Following a major economic crisis in the early 2000s, thanks to strictly implemented structural reforms and improvement in accession talks with the EU, the Turkish economy has observed a real boost. Per capita income was increased threefold by 2010, placing Turkey as one of the most important emerging economies in the world.
It is no coincidence this trend in Turkey was a result of advances in the fields of democracy and the economy. Turkey’s Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was the shining star in a wider Middle East region where many countries were suffering from a lack of vision for the future.
At those times, Turkey was being described as a model country, especially with the launch of the—now broken—Arab Spring. But since then, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge.
Turkey is no longer considered a country that can join the EU because it has abandoned democratic reforms. On the contrary, it is now cited as a country with scores of human rights violations, where freedom of thought and freedom of the press are undermined and the rule of law and checks and balances have been abolished.
Turkey’s image abroad has immensely deteriorated and its relations with many prominent Western countries and institutions have worsened because of this.
On the economic front, as economists often underline, Turkey has lost a big opportunity in the last decade by preferring short-term economic growth through a boosted construction sector.
Billions of dollars have been spent on massive construction and transportation projects, while scores of state-run factories and industries have either been privatized or shut down. In the absence of an effective production-based economy, all these investments could be possible through the flow of hot money.
Today’s Turkey is now being ruled by a Turkish-model presidential system under the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who won the June 24 elections, which is often seen as the introduction of a one-man regime by the West.
A highly centralized state machine is still a making in the process, with a lot of uncertainties on how it will function and whether it will be able to resolve existing economic, political, and security problems.
This new governance model has so far failed to convince international markets over the future of the Turkish economy and to produce necessary diplomatic solutions to an existing bilateral crisis with the United States.
Turkey’s national currency is in a constant plunge with no convincing signs it will recover soon. The devaluation of the lira is more than 30 percent since the beginning of this year. The government, however, tends to blame international markets for staging an economic war against Turkey.
The new economic model announced by Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak is obviously important and a positive step by the government but it is also obvious it should be supported by strict structural reforms that will bring about fiscal discipline.
More importantly, the new economic model should be prescribed with a new democratic model that would fully reverse today’s undemocratic trends. It is time—before it is too late—for the government to realize it cannot win this so-called economic war with the same prescription it has long been using.
First and foremost, however, we should get rid of this “Brunson crisis” as soon as possible and without delay.