Two serious problems of Turkey
I don’t want to say problems with the United States are not serious. They are serious, but they are not structural problems. Political crises can be solved easily when you change the parameters. Turkey and the U.S. have had crises before, as serious as the current one, but they were eventually solved.
No, I am not going to mention the terrorism problem — the most recent tragic example of the problem happened on July 31, when a bomb planted by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on a state road exploded and killed the wife and baby of a non-commissioned officer. It is a problem with domestic and international political dimensions.
Those two problems can be important regarding the future of the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government led by President Tayyip Erdoğan in future elections. But the two problems I want to mention are related to the future of the Turkish nation: In the short run, the economy, and in the long run, the education system.
When the failure of high school graduates in the 2018 university admission exam was revealed in the results last weekend, many were really worried. Out of 2,260,000 students taking the exam, 65 percent failed to pass the threshold in the math and science sections and 25 percent in the humanities section. Some 41,000 students got zero points; they could not even answer one question right. In math, out of 40 questions, the average rate of questions answered correctly was 5.64. In science, it was even worse: 2.82. Even in Turkish language, whose questions are in the humanities section, the average rate of correct answers out of 40 questions was 16.18. The most successful students came from science-focused high schools, while the least successful ones came from religion-focused high schools in spite of the extra support the government gives to them.
It is not only the continuously changing education system, curriculum, and test and evaluation methods, which have been tackled in a trial and error fashion under every education minister in the last decade, educators are also criticizing the education given to teachers as well as the quality of the teachers.
The economic outlook is alarming too. The Central Bank increased its inflation forecast from 8.4 percent to 13.4 percent on July 31, a dramatic 5 percentage point increase. Early in July, inflation hit its 14-year high at 15.4 percent. Only hours later, Turkey’s state natural gas grid BOTAŞ increased the price of the gas it provides to gas-operated power plants by 49.5 percent and indexed the prices to the U.S. dollar rate, which is gaining value against the Turkish Lira. Soon after, the Energy Market Regulatory Authority (EPDK) increased the residential electricity prices by 9.57 percent and industrial by 9.26 percent. Then BOTAŞ again announced that it increased gas prices by 9 percent for residents and 14 for industry. In parallel to those developments, the interest rates of commercial credits kept rising, exceeding 20 percent, while the Central Bank’s main interest rate is kept steady at 17.75 percent.
Erol Bilecik, the head of the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD), Turkey’s biggest investors’ club representing more than 80 percent of the entire production, said on Aug. 1 that high inflation rate and high interest rates were harming the industry and trade.
Yes, there are acute problems, like the crisis with the U.S. and terrorism, but the economy and the education system are no less important.