Turkey is in the gutter, so what can an economist write about?

As an economist, I do not write in the first person. Policy mistakes made in economic management sooner or later have their reflections on macroeconomic indicators. If the figures are manipulated, the economy weakens from another point and the emerging figures will still tell the truth.

In my opinion, an economist who writes a column should do her/his best to tell the story behind the numbers without diluting the main focus. The emphasis should be put on how today’s choices will be shaping the future in an economy and issue proper warnings as an objective analyst.

Under these rules that I have set myself, I have been writing for Ahval every week for a good period of time. It seems to me that not using the first person is the right thing to do when you're trying to move along the "cause-and-effect" relationship.    

So, this article represents an exception and I hope you will tolerate that.

Last week, I did not deliver my usual column to Ahval because I couldn’t select a subject even though there is an abundance of topics on the Turkish economy.

I could dwell on why the Turkish economy will run into great difficulties when world markets get turned upside down in the autumn, given the sale of $128 billion of the central bank’s foreign exchange reserves, which keeps net reserves locked at minus $47 billion.

By talking about the indexation of more than half of Turkey’s domestic debt to foreign currency during the Albayrak period when the lira’s level was officially "manipulated", I can try to shed light on how this can return Turkey to the crisis days of 2001 when the Fed starts tapering.  

I can try to explain how the debt bottleneck, the increase in production costs and the worthless produce of farmers will soon cause a food crisis now that a severe drought is added to the picture.  As food price inflation is burning the pockets of all in Turkey, I can remind the Turkish state about its “duties” by talking about how the situation will worsen and how it can turn into a social crisis when combined with the rising rate of hunger and poverty across the country.

While the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government prepares to pour tens of billions of dollars into a grand mistake such as “Kanal Istanbul”, I can emphasise how high the unemployment rate is among women and youth in Turkey and urge the administration to redirect such valuable resources to combat the 28 percent jobless rate across Turkey. I can touch upon the concept of "tolerable level on violence against women" now espoused by newly installed Family Minister Derya Tanık and explain why the problem remains unresolved by combining it with the low employment level of women in the country.    

I can correlate the collapse of the institutional structure of the Republic of Turkey and Turkey’s ability to attract only hot money at certain times, pointing to the imprisonment of philanthropist Osman Kavala and Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş despite calls by the ECHR to free them.

I can look at the world economy and elaborate how the social changes caused by the impoverished masses have pushed even institutions such as the IMF to work on the concepts of wealth tax and minimum income guarantee. I can try to come up with the idea that a similar approach in Turkey should be discussed as a right to citizenship, encapsulating the masses of unregistered employees.

Or I could talk about the education crisis that COVID-19 has now brought, how at least four million children have been deprived of education in Turkey during the past year. The obsolete education system, the young and unemployed part of the population who cannot even understand what they are reading; how 25 million young people will be idled in the world of the future due to lack of skills, that this will be a disaster, that young people are trying to flee the country... I can examine the extreme grudge-bearing, skill-scarce approach of the current administration that sees the last remaining respectable educational institutions as enemy strongholds to be conquered.

I cannot find the energy to expand on any of these vital issues.

Why? Because of the revelations of mafia boss Sedat Peker. His confessions this month have left many of us facing the swamp that Turkey is buried in while Peker takes on the role of a “political asylum seeker” and exposes his own dark past with the fury of being used and left behind by the current government.  

As Ünsal Ünlü explained very well in his own broadcast that "continuity is essential in the state", I cannot escape the nausea that grows within me as I see how today’s Turkey is the extension of the 1990s nightmares.

I cannot stop thinking about all the decent people whose lives have been lost or ruined over the past 10 years. Having lived long enough to know how Peker's insider accounts reflect Turkey's counter-guerrilla deeds, although I do not hear the story for the first time, I cannot get rid of the pessimism that it is "new" for a significant majority of people in Turkey. I cannot reconcile with the fact that the “deep” history of Turkey has become the most basic tool for the powers that rule the country after the 2018 transition to the presidential system that destroyed the "remaining crumbles of what can be called a system" in the country.  

As the child of a lawyer couple who had deep respect for justice, I cannot stand the passiveness of the apparatus of justice that we know has been deliberately shattered.

It becomes my problem when newly emerged opposition parties from the AKP ranks do not tell what they have witnessed over the course of the years, as Peker is apparently doing, or at least give an inkling of what went on.

During the election countdown, I find all opposition parties insincere. They cannot shout how and by whom the state is debunked, they cannot promise that a group of prosecutors with clean records, equipped with superior powers will be hired to investigate the accusations, along with mafia-state-media ties, once and for all.

When I hear Peker detailing the great journalist Uğur Mumcu’s assassination, I return to the morning that I remember very clearly when I was 21 and first heard the news. I cannot help but feel the weight, shame and sadness that descended on me then.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.