Beşiktaş fan goes to Bursa
I was initially rather worried when I got invited to moderate a panel on Turkish monetary policy with two central bankers at Uludağ University’s “Young Economic Forum” (don’t ask me why it is called “young”, and not “youth”) on April 28.
After all, my friend Mark Lewis, the International Monetary Fund’s resident representative for Turkey at the time, was “egged” at the very same conference room I would be speaking back in 2011. And he wasn’t even a Beşiktaş fan with an eagle tattoo on his back- local football club Bursaspor’s age-old animosity towards my beloved Black Eagles meant that I should consider myself lucky if I got away with just eggs.
In the end, I did accept the invitation- but missed my ferry to Bursa when my Dalaman-Istanbul flight got delayed for nearly three hours. I took the metro to the bus station and got on the first available bus to Bursa- in three hours. I ended up getting to my hotel at 6.30 in the morning- and spent the first day of the conference (April 27) sleeping and exercising until the Beşiktaş game at night.
Oh, and by the way, the Central Bank chickened out at the last minute: Not only they did not want to discuss monetary policy, they did not want to discuss it with me, either. They ended up talking about global crises, moderated by a former central banker- also a professor at Uludağ University. İş Investment’s Serhat Gürleyen, the moderator of the TÜSİAD panel on inflation I took part in on April 10, called me sharp-tongued when introducing me, but I had no idea I was that fierce!:)
I ended up speaking at a panel on capital flows to Turkey with two market economists. It is common knowledge that economists cannot agree on anything, but our remarks were amazingly similar. We all sort of emphasized that Turkey had to change its capital flows-dependent growth model. It turned out that PhillipCapital’s Özlem Bayraktar Gökşen and I even had exactly the same graph in our presentations. In the end, we all ended up underlining the need for structural reform.
In the Q&A, when asked to name the most important structural reform area, İş Investment’s Muammer Kömürcüoğlu singled out tax policy, while Özlem emphasized judicial reform. Noting that these two were vital as well, I chose education. Incidentally, I recently found out that Prof. Refet Gürkaynak of Bilkent University picked the same three as areas that required urgent reforms during his speech at the Eurofinance Summit on April 20. All in all, I reminded myself once again that in Turkey, we have a near-consensus among economists on the country’s economic woes- and solutions.
We were also asked to give the students career recommendations. While I singled out English language skills, Özlem highlighted being critical. I loved Muammer’s emphasis on working hard and not having too much self-confidence. Simple enough, but it really put things into perspective when I remembered a recent column of fellow Hürriyet Daily News columnist Güven Sak, who had referred to data showing that we Turks tend to overestimate ourselves more than any other nation.
I did thank the organizers of the conference for letting a Beşiktaş fan speak in Bursa. And nothing got thrown at me after all- but that doesn’t change the fact that all Bursaspor fans are…- sorry I think it is time for my medicine:)…