There is no question that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has managed to bring about a qualitative leap within a decade during which Turkey achieved an economic miracle — per capita income shot up four-fold to $10,000 (Dh36,700) and GDP gained a near similar percentage.
Erdogan was able to bring about such accomplishments due to an innate professionalism that characterised his term until 2011. Credit should also go to the pragmatic policy he embraced, far away from ideological or religious considerations. This has allowed him to enjoy good relations with countries and led to a sizable influx of foreign investments, including from the Gulf, which contributed to the accelerating growth rates, one of the highest in the world.
Until 2011, all indicators gave the impression that the Turkish economy would continue to make impressive progress and occupy an advanced ranking by the end of the current decade. Furthermore, Turkey was less affected by the global financial crisis than European countries.
But, when Erdogan’s government abandoned its professional and balanced policy direction and started to mix the economy with ideology and a touch of arrogance, it soon lost its momentum, especially after a decline in foreign investments was coupled to a capital outflow.
After the latest corruption scandal broke into the open and led to accusations against even Erdogan’s sons, Turkey has taken measures that are not in line with the approaches required to sustain a modern economy.
For example, the Turkish Airlines now requires its female flight crew not to use nail polish and lipstick, and for which no reasons have been provided to date. The Erdogan government also carried out campaigns against tourist destinations under the pretext of combating the sale of alcohol in the country, whereas tourism is one of the fundamental pillars of its economy.
Turkey’s actions were not confined to this. It dragged itself deeply into Arab issues and defended the Muslim Brotherhood’s regimes in Egypt and Tunisia at the expense of its strategic relations with the rest of the Arab countries, including the GCC, whose investments are of great importance to the economy.
Worse, the Erdogan administration has even stepped into the judicial system in an attempt to introduce new amendments to maintain the dogmatic policies of the ruling Justice and Development Party. The move clearly means putting an end to Turkey’s economic boom, because what scares off investments is when a government puts itself above the judiciary and the law, which simply means the spread of corruption and loss of investors rights after the crisis affected the financial and telecom sectors.
As a result of such ideologised measures, the Turkish economy is now suffering the consequences. The Turkish Lira depreciated by 46 per cent against the dollar. Last week, it dropped to a record low of 2.2 to the dollar, compared to 1.5 before corruption scandal broke out.
Also, growth has fallen from 7 per cent to less than 2 per cent, thus worsening the consequences of mixing economic policies with the ideological convictions of the ruling party.
As a result, Turkey has lost massive foreign investments, including the freezing of $12 billion such as the UAE investments in energy projects after Erdogan’s administration unleashed an unjustified media campaign against the country. More glaring as the UAE has always supported Turkey by encouraging investments and increased the trading ties.
Acting this way, Erdogan looks like a child who was spoilt by quick successes, and now has started breaking his toys one after the other. This compromises all his achievements in favour of realising his fantasy of reestablishing a Caliphate, which is inconsistent with the modern age and the nature of international relations in the 21st century.
Erdogan’s economic miracle is approaching its end, as it would not be possible for the Turkish people to move backwards. Credit should be given to the people for the economic progress achieved until now. The Turkish populace should not sacrifice their accomplishments for the ideology of a party which lives in the distant past.
Erdogan and his government are required to reconsider their policies and repair Turkey’s damaged relations with many countries, including the GCC and the EU, which Turkey is seeking to join. It has to halt economic deterioration and break away from ideological controversies that are of no use.
Dr Mohammad Al Asoomi is a UAE economic expert and specialist in economic and social development in the UAE and the GCC countries.