According to the Author of Asia.nikkei, Stephan Richter, Turkey has lost its business dynamism.
That is the predictable result of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s systematic effort to root out the last figments of critical thinking in what he very consciously calls “his” country.
Erdogan can count on future declines in Turkey’s business rankings; the country has already stumbled hard in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business survey. Contrary to what Erdogan believes, it is not helpful that one Turkish businessman after another mindlessly professes great admiration for the big man, preferably on international television.
Now Erdogan is essentially destroying what he initially let others build. He has forced his economic team, once the driving force of that advance, to turn into a team of mere soothsayers. Their only goal now is to placate increasingly worried foreign investors. In the process, the Turkish economy has lost any momentum.
To be sure, Erdogan’s own recent pronouncements on family policy — he wants to keep women at home and focused on child-raising — do nothing to advance the growth potential of Turkey’s gross domestic product.
More than anything else, it is Erdogan’s efforts to turn himself into a modern-day sultan that has stifled his country’s prospects for future economic growth. Turning the country into a horde of yes men — whether by the arrests of editors at the Cumhurriyet newspaper or with stunning jail sentences proposed for Kurdish opposition leaders — certainly will not help.
A comparison with China, another country destined to sit in the middle-income trap for the long term, is instructive here. Like Erdogan, China’s leadership certainly has a strong penchant for authoritarianism. In both countries, whatever degree of media freedom used to exist is being dismantled. This is a wrong-headed bet. The only way out of the middle-income trap is to wager on the national population’s ability to engage in critical thinking.
An oppressed people is not an indicator for growth, other than perhaps at an early stage of its economic development (witness China 10 years ago or Vietnam today). Erdogan does not get this. Like any good totalitarian ruler, he believes that, since he has Turkey under ever firmer control, his country will be “more stable.”
It is not. It is more brittle. In addition, as the Chinese will also learn, a people oppressed and without any freedom of opinion dumbs itself down. And such a collective dumbing down is not exactly conducive to rising up the global economic ladder.