From Liability to Asset: Realizing Turkey’s Potential
Dr. Aykan Erdemir (left), Dr. Pelin Eralp Wolak (center), Mr. Cenk Sidar (right). Photograph by Jessica Sidar.
On Thursday, May 11, 2017 HasNa Inc. hosted a panel discussion titled From Liability to Asset: Realizing Turkey’s Potential. This panel discussion sought to explore the ways in which Turkey could play a pivotal role in middle-eastern politics by expanding its political and economic horizons, and also through a smarter and stronger transatlantic engagement. Our guest speakers were Dr. Aykan Erdemir, senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and former member of the Turkish parliament, and Mr. Cenk Sidar, a global risk executive with a vast experience in assisting top financial institutions, multinational corporations, risk management firms, and legal firms operating in high-risk regions. The panel was moderated by Dr. Pelin Eralp Wolak, Senior Program Manager at HasNa Inc.
The political and economic perspectives of the discussion were presented by Dr. Erdemir and Mr. Sidar respectively. Dr. Erdemir started the discussion by highlighting the main challenge for Turkey: how do we make the transition from this obsession with strong rulers to good governance and strong institutions? Law and order is often a result of inclusive and effective institutions, transparency and accountability. The most important lesson that we have learned from the current political situation in Turkey and indeed from many countries of the world, is that building strong institutions takes a lot of time, but destroying existing institutions does not take much effort or resources. Closing with the upcoming meeting between Presidents Erdogan and Trump on May 16, Dr. Erdemir emphasized the need for a principled engagement as opposed to appeasement between USA and Turkey.
Presenting the economic angle, Mr. Sidar started by describing Turkey’s position on the edge of a major economic crisis, with a high, unsustainable private sector debt that has been accruing for the last 5-6 years. If public debt is high, IMF can step in and inject some cash, thereby resolving the crisis temporarily. But the high private sector debt cannot be resolved by injecting cash. Inflation has reached 11% while economic growth is only 2% — a significantly low and dangerous growth rate for an emerging market with high increase in population. Sustainable, long-term growth is required to create economic stability. Historically, an economic crisis has always led to a change in government in Turkey. The younger people of the country voted in line with democratic principles, and 60% of the country’s population is below 35 years of age. According to Mr. Sidar, if Turkey’s economic condition is reversible, that reversal can be gradually accomplished by the youth of the country.
The session ended with a lively Q&A segment where the audience asked interesting questions about inclusivity and proposed action plans.
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