New Turkey: Growth, Conflict and Inequality

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Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (Research Turkey) organised a public seminar titled “Political Economy of ‘New’ Turkey: Growth, Conflict, and Inequality” to be delivered by Professor Özlem Onaran and Dr Cem Oyvat, both of whom are based in the University of Greenwich.

The event that took place on the 27th of October 2016 was also chaired by Dr Veli Yadırgı who is a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Development Studies in SOAS. The agenda of Turkey’s economic growth took a major place at the event. Before the onset of the Great Recession in 2008, many were congratulating the Justice and Development Party for its ‘sound’ monetary and fiscal policies which they thought solved the structural problems that lead to the economic and political crisis in 2001. However, in 2009 Turkey saw its economy shrink by 4.7%, being one of worst hit countries by the Great Recession. Although statistics indicate a speedy recovery after 2009, Turkey’s economy is still ridden with contradictions that are rooted in its political and economic structures.

Professor Onaran, in his speech and presentation, showed how “the structural changes in the economy and the policies of ruling government of the last decade has initiated a redistribution towards the poorest of the society” and “the source of this redistribution was income scrapped from the organized blue collar and white-collar/professional working people rather than taxes on corporate profits and the rich.” In Professor Onaran’s view, Turkey’s growth model has always been dependent on cheap labour before the 2008 Crisis, and overreliance on “speculative financial capital inflows, a construction boom and a high trade deficit” means that Turkey would have “experienced a crisis sooner or later even without the Great Recession”.

Dr Oyvat, on the other hand, analysed “the structural factors that restricted the educational development in Southeastern Turkey.” Dr Oyvat argued that contrary to the conventional wisdom, “the economic and political power of ağas in the region does not block education investments” and that “the armed conflict in the region did not directly hinder the education investments.” He argued that “the conflict reduced school enrollment ratios at middle and high school levels” while increasing it at the primary school level at the same time.

For further analysis of the Turkish political economy, you can refer to the first issue of Research Turkey’s journal Research and Policy on Turkey. The first issue can be accessed via the following link; http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rrpt20/1/1?nav=tocList

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