Published On: Wed, Jan 1st, 2020

A brief review of Turkey in 2019 and what to expect in 2020




As we begin the new-year, we find it helpful to make a general assessment of Turkey in 2019, especially for our foreign friends (and all of us) who live here. Turkey had an unsatisfactory performance in 2019 owing to problems in the fields of foreign relations, economics, law and education.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

When we look at the foreign affairs area, the Syrian issue has become a very big burden for Turkey. The wrong choices made by the administration earlier – such as involvement in the Syrian conflict – turned out to be big headaches, later. So much so that Turkey was obliged to host 4 to 5 million Syrian refugees. The price Turkey paid for this went up to US$ 40-50 billion. Moreover, hosting such large numbers of Syrian refugees within the country’s borders has caused great unrest among citizens.

On the other hand, Turkey which carried out multiple military operations to eliminate threats on its southern border, incurred considerable financial damage here as well. Of course, the fact that the administration had to make extra efforts to find a balance between the United States and Russia, in a way, caused his own balance to deteriorate. Therefore, the country had to pay huge bills because of other strategy and policy mistakes made at the beginning.

In the meantime, it should not be forgotten that the United States has accepted various packages which can be implemented any time, to impose sanctions on Turkey.

ECONOMY

2019 was indeed quite a distressed year for Turkey, full of unfavorable surprises. We call it distressed because the economy entered a major bottleneck and the depreciation of the Turkish lira against the dollar hit the economy, badly. Of course, this also had a very negative effect on inflation and the purchasing power of the people declined, badly.

The government did its best to suppress the dollar and make inflation look as low as possible. TUIK (Turkish Statistical Institute) announced economic indicators that did not quite match with rising prices in the market.

On the other hand, introduction of new and heavy taxes, and price hike implementation for essential and vital substances such as fuel oil, electricity, meant a big blow for citizens, declining life standards across the country.

The economists do not expect the situation to be very different in the new-year. The reason is Turkey has bigger and more serious issues than the apparent problem of exchange rate and inflation, only.

Turkey needs to produce high technology added value products to export. In fact, many of Turkey’s state owned production facilities or establishments that used to create employment were either closed or sold one by one. The worse part was the money coming from this channnel went to infrastructure investments mainly and not used for investments that would directly contribute to production. Therefore, both production decreased and the unemployment problem meaning another negative impact for the economy of the country.

LAW AND JUSTICE SYSTEM

To be even more important, Turkey has another issue which is “the legal and justice system and therefore democracy in the country are not sufficient and that freedom of speech is not fully exercised”. Practically, opinions and/or speech or written text criticizing the administration or the president may be considered as insult or criminal and hurt the owner of such opinions/articles etc. (on condition it is deemed against the state etc.)

This picture, showing the sword of Damocles swinging over some rights (freedom of speech etc.) of the citizens has also a negative impact abroad, causing foreign investors who do not fully trust the current legal system and especially the practices in Turkey. Consequently it is a factor to abstain foreign investors from evaluating their investment funds here in Turkey resulting in decline of foreign funds coming to the country.

Turkey has no choice but to raise standards of the legal and justice mechanism to an acceptable high point so that it can attract investment and funds to pay off its debts which have reached incredible figures. There is no doubt the country has a great potential, indeed to do this.

EDUCATION

Education has been one of the major problems as well. The quality level of education in schools has declined. An important issue for the government has been the effort to introduce religious subjects into schools starting from the level of primary school. Meanwhile, religious cults have strengthened their efforts to control several departments of the state like a nightmare over the country, again.

CONCLUSION

At the moment, the administration seems to be in difficult situation, in awareness of most of these facts. Even the loyal and conservative voters who have supported the AK Party or rather its leader until today, are slowly waking up and even the leader’s charisma might not be a cure for the negative impact of the poor economy on the public.

Under these circumstances the administration received the first warning in the Istanbul local election and the opposition candidate IMAMOGLU was elected mayor, with a difference of 800,000 votes (ten percent) against the AK Party candidate. In Ankara likewise, MANSUR YAVAS the opposition candidate defeated the candidate of the ruling party by a clear margin. These two unexpected results were a real shock for the ruling party.

On the other hand, two key figures who left AK Party (the former prime minister and the former finance minister) have almost finished their work on forming new parties. Neither of these parties are likely to come to power, but they would possibly contribute to weakening Republican Alliance (AK Party and its partner MHP) currently ruling, by stealing votes from AK Party, mainly.

In summary, although everybody hopes 2020 can be a year of recovery it is a fact that said target will not be easy to accomplish without fixing manufacturing, unemployment problems and legal systems. The political picture shows that the ruling party has been losing power and 2020 is likely to bring about serious developments – although no early elections appear in said period.

When it comes to foreign relations, it does not seem easy for Turkey to get out of trouble caused by concerned issues in the new-year, either. The Syrian issue is still unresolved and on top of that, the eastern Mediterranean conflict and now the issue of sending troops to help the government in Libya have been added.

Therefore, we only hope and pray the country will have a better year in 2020 and things will develop to the benefit of Turkey in new year.







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