Turkey may be going back to square one after four decades - columnist

Turkey’s government is failing to mobilise the whole of society in a shared vision for the country’s future, a situation last seen 40 years ago when the army launched a military coup, according to Güven Sak, founding managing director of the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV).

Developments since 2007, including a state of emergency ‘a la Turka’ show Turkey has lost control of a political transformation that, together with a bid for European Union membership, had previously been the driver of economic growth and shared prosperity, Sak wrote in a column for the Hürriyet Daily News.

Turkey’s global competitiveness increased rapidly from 2002 to 2007. Those were the days of the shared EU vision. Then politics spoiled the story. A study on the sophistication of Turkey’s export basket shows serious damage. Turkey’s competitiveness stalled in 2007 and started to decline from 2012 onwards. In 2016, the global competitiveness of the country declined to levels below the global average. Turkey was here in 1980, when its economic transformation process began.

Other contributing factors included the election of Nicholas Sarkozy as president of France and his opposition to Turkey’s full EU membership. A decision by the European Court of Human Rights, which stated that the country’s headscarf ban didn’t contravene democratic norms, also “severely confused” the Turkish ruling elite, Sak said.

“The vision of accession, it seemed, belonged to the old elite, and the new, more conservative elite had to look elsewhere,” he said.

It is time for Turkey and our European friends to realize what is happening: getting out of the middle income trap has become more difficult for Turkey. The state of emergency a la Turca is too costly. Turkey needs its shared vision back. As a recent survey shows, about 80 percent of Turks are still sharing the ideal of Europeanization for Turkey. Rational decision makers should take note.