Growth is related to education and production
ERDAL SAĞLAM“Two important components are needed for Turkey to stay on the path of sustainable high growth:
1. A significant improvement is needed in the level and quality of education and in cognitive skills.
2. A serious improvement is needed in the technological content of Turkey’s production and exports.”
This quotation is taken from the final evaluation section of the Turkish Industry and Business Association’s (TÜSİAD’s) report titled “Constraints on Growth in Turkey: A Prioritization Study.” I remembered this report yesterday, when TÜSİAD incurred the wrath of the prime minister because they criticized the government’s new motion on education. Foreign trade figures for the month January were also announced yesterday.
TÜSİAD is the favorite scapegoat of politicians.
They love to strike out at TÜSİAD, regardless of what it says. TÜSİAD shares its high-quality research with the public, and politicians react to it as it serves their purposes. Because TÜSİAD is highly prejudiced, and many wonder what kind of interests a bosses’ club can possibly have in the common good, not only conservatives but intellectuals also view them with a dose of suspicion.
But the holders of capital in countries such as ours may also wish for a contemporary and orderly market economy, seeking just income distribution in a democratic, liberal system that respects human rights, and they may prefer to live in a categorically modern country, and thus may assume a role in increasing the people’s welfare and freedoms.
There may be different views and different characters inside TÜSİAD, but this influential body is led by teams and individuals who have long defended more liberal, contemporary systems. What I’m trying to say is that TÜSİAD’s statements should be regarded objectively, free from politicians’ interests. The report I mentioned above is an example of a very badly needed scientifically objective study.
The foreign trade figures for January announced yesterday, especially those for imports, were way above market expectations. The reason for this is clear: The present production structure is one that generates a current account deficit and one that increases the vulnerability of the economy, and this has to change. TÜSİAD, as well as other institutions and the media have been saying this for years, but politicians have failed to change this structure due to populist concerns. Everyone wants sustainable high growth but its requirements have not been met. Foreign-trade dependent growth based on hot money is not sustainable; we have seen this already in several crises.
Education, everybody’s problem
TÜSİAD’s report clearly demonstrates, based on several surveys and different research, that the length and quality of education are directly related to growth. Thus, sustainable high growth will only be possible after this problem is solved. The fact that the level of education in Turkey, and especially the average quality of education, are low, and that this has a negative effect on growth is displayed in the report using international comparisons. Just like growth, education is an issue for everyone, including TÜSİAD.
Let alone education’s direct relationship with the economy, even if it were merely a social issue, everyone should have a right to discuss it. But its relationship to growth is clear, and a high rate of growth naturally interests bosses, workers, farmers, and all of the population.
The government’s roasting TÜSİAD because it has criticized them, using this to gain popular support, and assuming this will gather votes may receive applause from deputies and radical grassroots groups, and may even bring in some votes, but this does not necessarily mean it is for the good of the people.
It is especially not for the good of the low-income conservative population. To oppose compulsory education ideologically in this era with the Feb. 28 decision absolutely does not accord with democracy and will also damage the economy.
Erdal Sağlam is a columnist for the Hürriyet daily, in which the piece from which this was abridged was published on March 1. It was translated into English by Daily News staff.