Turkey seen from the window of Davos

Turkey seen from the window of Davos

Another World Economic Forum (WEF) has come and gone, with the annual meeting gathering more people every year, especially from the Far East, to its snowy mountain tops.

As for myself, I have spent more than 15 years at Davos. This year, while the confidence of developed economies, primarily the United States and the United Kingdom, was full, emerging markets – of which Turkey is one – were concerned. It was discussed in the sessions that emerging markets this year would face issues such as a drop in the growth rate, the exit of foreign capital and the excess valuation of the dollar.

Since 2008, the year when the global crisis erupted, the picture we have been seeing has turned upside down. Developed countries are more comfortable, but emerging markets are anxious.

I want to refer to two important issues that emerged in the sessions I attended. The first is the income gap that causes social unease both in rich countries and in emerging markets. The U.S., Mexico, China and Turkey lead the income gap. For instance, in Turkey, dollar billionaires have multiplied 10 times in the last 10 years. The second important issue that was discussed in most sessions was the pressure technology exerts on employment.

There was a small survey in the session held at the last day of the WEF, moderated by New York Times writer Thomas Friedman, in which Lawrence Summers, a candidate to head the FED, was among the speakers.

The positive and negative answers were half and half to the question of whether or not 21st-century technology would lead to unemployment. It seems as if this issue will frequently come up in the coming years.

Well, how did Turkey look this year from the window of Davos? I can say, unfortunately, very different from last year. As far as I remember from last year, Turkey was seen as an exemplary country, especially in growth.

One of Davos’ regulars, Professor Nouriel Roubini, who predicts crises and who is dubbed Dr. Doom, frequently referred to Turkey as the “shining economic power” last year.

This year, unfortunately, we have seen, with an aching heart, that the picture has turned upside down. The foreign businesspeople, academics and even politicians I talked to all had questions in their minds concerning the process that started with the Gezi incidents and continued with corruption scandals. I frequently came across those who were asking, “What is happening in Turkey?” pointing to the authoritarian signals of the government.

Some said that just like the Thatcher government, any government would become stale in 10 years; others claimed that Turkey should not even be counted as an “emerging market” anymore.

I am undecided as to what extent Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu were able to answer the questions in the minds of foreigners.

Ultimately, it was quite an upsetting factor for members of the media and the business word that attend Davos every year that the picture of Turkey, which has been the shining star for years in Davos, was reversed this year.

Also, Turkey was unable to make its presence felt this year except for the two ministers I mentioned above.

For example, last year, former Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Şahin who is now a mayoral candidate for the southeastern province of Gaziantep, was in Davos. It was surprising that the new minister who replaced her, Ayşenur İslam, did not come to Davos. The World Economic Forum issues a report every year on the “Gender Gap” in which Turkey is given the lowest ranks. Şahin used to conduct studies related to that. Turkey, together with Japan and Mexico, is one of the three in the “Task Force” in the World Economic Forum that exerts effort for gender equality.

Finally, for the first time in Davos, I was asked this question: “Why is your opposition not here?”
Isn’t that question really meaningful?