BURAK BEKDİL > Super turbo state Turkey

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A year ago the German magazine Stern described Turkey as “Turbo-Staat Türkei” (Turbo State Turkey), a reflection of the country’s vibrant economy, the Bosporus glittering with wealth, a rising regional power and every other euphemism for the “Turkish miracle.”

In response, and with all due respect for the world-renowned German expertise in the motor industry, I’m inclined to remind readers of a few things:

1. According to the UNDP’s Human Development Report, Turkey stood at a not-so-turbo rank of 92 out of 187 countries.

2. UNDP’s gender inequality index put Turkey 77 out of 146 countries.

3. The World Economic Forum’s 2011 Report put Turkey 122 out of 134 countries in women’s access to education, economic participation and political empowerment.

4. Turkey ranked 138th in the World Press Freedom Index.

5. According to the U.N.’s Economic Freedom Index, Turkey was the world’s 67th freest economy.

6. According to Transparency International, Turkey’s corruption ranking was 56 among 91 countries, a rank worse than Namibia, Oman, Brunei, Botswana, Bhutan and China.

7. The Freedom House put Turkey 116th out of 153 countries, labeling the turbo-democracy as “partly free.” 

8. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index ranked Turkey 89 (behind Honduras, Ecuador, Albania, Bangladesh, Mali, Ghana, Lesotho and China), presenting Turkey’s democratic credentials under the tag “hybrid regime.” (Turbo state Turkey, Aug. 11, 2011)

These rankings are more or less the same today while Turkey’s impressive economic growth also remains more or less unchanged. 

True, Turkey’s neo-Ottoman dreams have mostly shattered after they hit a wall of reality on which big bold letters said: ‘Welcome to the Middle East.’ But never mind, even the dream of a graceful return to our glorious past was nice. There is no harm if the dreamers keep on dreaming. 

But they look funny when a country with ambitions to “show the others the way” cannot find the way itself. It would have been much nicer if Turkey first controlled its own territory and made peace at home before shaping the future of its neighbors and attempting to bring peace abroad. It is always a difficult task to give someone else what you don’t possess. 

These days, Turkish lawmakers come in three flavors: those who sit in the Parliament, those who are jailed and those who are kidnapped by terrorists and released at their mercy. Glory days! 

Mind you, in the two decades between 1990 and 2010 terrorists kidnapped 154 people. In 2012 alone they have been able to kidnap 146 people, including a local governor, soldiers, policemen, politicians and civilians. And that’s turbo-state Turkey! 

To make it a super turbo state we have new engine additives and modifications this year, like a world-renowned pianist being prosecuted because he had tweeted that he is an atheist, or new additions to the growing list of journalists who have lost their jobs because the prime minister did not like the way they wrote. 

It is quite puzzling to guess which one will happen first; will the Baathist Arab states embrace democracy or will Turkey embrace Baathism. A more realistic option could be that Turkey and the Arab states will embrace each other, daggers hidden behind backs, or perhaps a result somewhere in between. But what other “commodity” can neo-Ottoman Turkey export to the “awoken” Arab nations? Justice. As in the name of the ruling party. Not only justice, but also economic justice.

The government’s statistics agency has just released the results of its household consumption survey for 2011 according to which: 

1. Turkey’s top 20 percent income bracket accounts for 36.7 percent of total consumption while the bottom 20 percent for a mere 9.1 percent,

2. The top 20 percent bracket accounts for 39.7 percent of total health spending vs. 10 percent for the bottom 20 percent, and

3. The top 20 percent accounts for 62.3 percent of total education spending vs. 5.2 percent for the bottom 20 percent.

But is it not great to be a net exporter of democracy, security, peace and justice?


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Notice on comments

US Observer

8/21/2012 10:13:55 PM

I'll just point out that the high GDP and success economically will not last if the rankings BB pointed out do not raise. I think giving the AKP credit for the economy completely is pretty insulting to Turkish businesses too.

Sandra Jacoel

8/19/2012 2:52:08 PM

@ Erik Johansson: Couldn't agree with you more!

Erik Johansson

8/18/2012 5:02:25 PM

Having a good economy is good but not good enough. Any autocracy can achieve an economical wonder. If everyone had as much courage and insight as this columnist, Turkey would probably be among the top-ten on all those lists.

ilker avni

8/18/2012 1:06:51 AM

Reminds me of the wiki leaks quoat from the Americans,Ambitions of a Rolls Royce but the resources of a Rover..Turkeys change of economic fortunes are down to the brilliant K.Dervis who rescued Turkey.Turkey is changing for the better slowly,foreign investment is proof of this.You cannot expect a country who for decades have lived under a military dictatorship to change over night.Kurds are better today than thirty years ago.Turks are better today than thirty years ago.Give it time,


8/17/2012 6:04:49 PM

"Kurds because you lack basic freedoms, equality and justice." I am dying to know what basic rights Kurds lack. They can not practice their religion, they are disciminated, they can not find work, they cant go to courts, they can not till their fields, they cant speak their language, they can not move freely anywhere, buy anything and sell anything? In what way there is a lack of basic rights, equality or justice compared with the rest of the country. Again, I urge you respect our intelligence.

Aryeh Rapaport

8/17/2012 4:59:12 PM

Murat, Yes, Gaza, Kurds, China. Gaza, because your jailed, tortured or killed if you write against Hamas. Kurds because you lack basic freedoms, equality and justice. Chine because they dont allow free speech as well. Why would you want to Equate Turkeys free Speech to Hamas free speech? (Turkey should be better)

american american

8/17/2012 4:47:58 PM

ozman cometh. civility leaveth. there he goes again on his own...


8/17/2012 4:27:28 PM

Though there is much truth in it, it is highly one-sided. Is there denial that Turkey is much better off in almost all categories important to its people compared with a few decades ago? Problem is AKP and Erdogan are too eager for all the credit and admit to no mistakes. Not a single minister has been ever fired by AKP in a decade! Turkey lacks basic human rights? Like West Bank or Gaza? Please, do not make it so obvious... respect our intelligence.

Harry Foundalis

8/17/2012 4:12:21 PM

@Dogan Kemal Ileri, you must be a newbie. Mr. Bekdil not only has criticized harshly prior-to-AKP governments, but was prosecuted for what he wrote and was nearly sent to jail. I believe it was the Ecevit government when that happened, but not sure. Check the Turkish Daily News archives. And, @Johanna Dew, Recep Ozel, et al., the country is ColOmbia with an “o”, for Pete’s sake. ColUmbia is an old poetic name of the U.S., a Canadian province, the D.C., a retired space shuttle, a university, etc.

Aryeh Rapaport

8/17/2012 3:21:04 PM

BB, Its important Turks know its relative standing in the world. There's no doubt Turks lack basic human right. Thanks for putting this subject up to discussion; its important! For Turkey to be in G20 is not an achievement but a reality. The amount of people and GDP make it a reality. What cant be denied is the success of current govt to be more business, investment friendly. Though current instability is threatening once again we have yet to see what this combo will produce.
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