Archive for the ‘DISCUSSION’ Category

Dr. Düzgün-Öncel is an assistant professor at Marmara University, Department of Economics.  She worked as research bdassistant at the same department between 2011 and 2015. Dr. Öncel-Dereli received her Bachelor’s (2006), MA (2008) and PhD (2014) degrees from Marmara University, Department of Economics as well. She was a visiting researcher at Universitat Pompeu Fabra during the summer 2007 and at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam during the 2013-2014 academic year. She also spent two years at Bonn Graduate School of Economics between 2008-2010 during her doctoral studies. Her PhD thesis was selected the best thesis of the year by Turkish Economic Association in 2014. Her research areas are health economics, labor economics, and female labor supply in a household context.

Huge literature on socio-economic inequalities reveals a persistent phenomenon of social  inequality in health in many countries, and people at low socio-economic status suffer a heavier burden of poor health than their better-off counterparts. In other words, many aspects of health determinants such as how health differs by socio-economic status (SES) over life cycle have been studied by this literature. Does the distribution of health change across generations? Do socio-economic disparities narrow or widen as people age? What dimensions of SES matter- financial aspects like income or wealth or non-financial aspects such as education? All of these questions address the strong relationship between health and socio-economic conditions in which individuals live and work both in rich and poor countries (Kunst and Mackenbach, 1994; Smith, 2004; Case and Deaton, 2005; Smith, 2007; Van Doorslear et al., 2008; Van Kippersluis et al., 2009; Willson et al., 2007). However analyzing socio-economic differences only at certain ages would lead to incomplete impression of the extent of health differences over the life course. Life cycle component to the SES gradient in health should be taken into account in order to reflect the  speed of decline of health by age groups.

Turkey has undergone substantial changes in health policy and retirement schemes in the last decades and debate goes on the age limit in retirement and pension systems. Two retirement reforms were passed in 1999 and 2008 that aim to regulate the retirement and work patterns and to increase retirement age. Additionally, three social security systems have been merged under one system which covers the whole population. These changes offer the importance of understanding fundamental structure of socio-economic status (SES) gradient in health in order to form an efficient public policy concerning retirement, pensions, health financing, health and social care.

This study aims to analyze the life cycle behavior of SES-health gradient in Turkey by using cross section data from 2010. The aim here is not to determine the causality from SES to health but to form a context that puts forward the magnitude and nature of SES gradient in health. The data used come from the wave of Turkstat Income and Living Conditions Survey (SILC) of Turkey for  2010. Since the analysis  focuses on adults, people under 25 are excluded.  Self-reported health, categorized as good and bad health, status is used as a health indicator. In this section, evolution of SES gradient in health is depicted by using income quartiles, education quartiles, work status and work type as indicators of SES.

Literature is divided between three approaches on the evolution of socio-economic gradient in health over life cycle. According to cumulative advantage hypothesis the differences in health by SES are established in life and subsequently widen as the economic and health disadvantages of less privileged interact and accumulate (Willson et al., 2007). On the other hand, age-as-leveler hypothesis suggests that deterioration in health is an inevitable part of the process of aging, with the result that SES-health gradient narrows at older ages (Beckett, 2000). A compromise scenario, is that cumulative advantage operates though middle age, with the SES-health gradient widening until around retirement age, before it narrows in old age as the biological determinants kick in (Van Doorsler et al., 2008).

There are important points remarkable in the process of analysis conducted here. One limitation of cross section data is that cohort effects may confound life cycle patterns. The strength of the relationship between SES and health may increase across cohorts (Van Doorslaer et al., 2008). Another limitation would be due to selective mortality. At older ages the most robust of the lower socioeconomic groups survive given that mortality is correlated with SES.

Income is attributed as the first indicator of socio-economic status (SES). Income is the household income per capita adjusted by OECD equivalence scale in which 1 is assigned for the head of household, 0.5 for each other person if he/she is older than 14 and 0.3 if he/she is younger than 14. First income quartile represents the lowest quartile (lowest income group), whereas the fourth income quartile represents the highest quartile (highest income group). Figure 1 shows self-reported good health according to income quartiles. One can regard percentages in the Figure 1 as: Probability (good health/1st quartile & age & gender). Although the income gradient is obvious, we observe different patterns for men and women. Despite the fact that starting points of first (bottom) and fourth (top) income quartiles are very close to each other; the rate of deterioration, which is given by the slope of the curves, is greater for women. For men, income gradient stays almost the same in young ages and income differences in health diverges at the beginning of the middle ages before it starts to converge after age of 64. On the other hand, the divergence in health starts immediately at young ages but convergence begin to occur at around age 45 for women. The immediate divergence for women would be due to justification bias and/or social roles.

Figure 1: Self-Reported Good Health by Age According to Income Quartiles and Gender


Figure 2: Self-Reported Good Health by Age According to Education Quartiles and Gender


Another important component of socio-economic status is education. Figure 2 presents self-reported good health according to education quartiles. First quartile includes illiterate individuals, second quartile includes primary education, third quartile refers to secondary education and fourth quartile involves individuals who have completed high school and university or higher education. As in the income gradient, men always report better health in every education and age category. For men, immediate widening of education gradient from young ages up to late middle age is apparent. The magnitude of education gradient is biggest at the age group 30-34. About 50% of men aged 40-44 report good health in the first (bottom) education quartile whereas this ratio is reached at the age of  65+ for men in fourth (top) education quartile. Similar structure is also valid for women; about 40% of women aged 40-44 in the bottom education quartile report good health while this proportion is attained after age 60-64 for the top education quartile.

Figure 3: Self-Reported Good Health  by Age According to Work Status


The theory predicts that individuals with physically demanding jobs will result in higher depreciation rates and will have a higher relative health decline over the life cycle (Grossman, 1972). Occupation is less predetermined than education, but is more so than income, offering another opportunity to examine whether the widening of income gradient until old ages may be influenced by the impact of health on work activity (Van Doorslaer, et al., 2008). In this respect the evolution of self-reported health through life cycle according work status, and work type are presented in Figure 3 and Figure 4 respectively. Figure 3 shows the percentages in good health according to work status. Working category includes individuals who are employed full-time, non-working category refers to the individuals who are both unemployed and out of labor force. The most remarkable observation is the widening of the gradient at younger ages and narrowing of it after age group 45-49 for men. Narrowing of the gradient would be due to selective mortality that leaves more robust survivors in the sample. Moreover it is observed that almost stable gradient for women implying that women’s health is not responsive to work status. Figure 4 presents the share of good health according to work type. Slightly widening of occupational gradient in health until late middle ages and narrowing of the gradient in old ages is observed. In  young ages, differences in health between blue and white collar workers are evident but not marked. However health trajectories experienced by blue collar workers are steeper.

Figure 4: Self-Reported Good Health  by Age According to Work Type


These results indicate that relatively wide SES gradient in health in middle ages and narrowing of it in old ages is a sign of cumulative-advantage hypothesis operating in middle ages before age of leveler hypothesis begins to play the major role in old ages. Although we cannot explicitly observe justification bias, selective mortality and cohort effects, the evolution of gradients reveals many important features. Education, work and income gradients imply that both of them are important for the production of adult health. Furthermore we observe significant difference between men and women over life cycle. Women’s health status is always worse than men in every SES group in any age category. However health of women shows greater response to education men. We can argue that policies directed at increasing female education would help to increase labor force participation and thus health status of women.


Beckett, M. (2000) ‘Converging Health Inequalities in Later Life: An Artificant of Mortality Selections’, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Vol.41,No.1,   pp.106-119.

Case, A. and Deaton, A. (2005) ‘Broken Down by Work and Sex: How Our Health Declines’, David A. Wise (ed.), Analyses in the Economics of Aging, Chicago, Chicago University Press, for NBER.

Grossman, M. (1972) ‘On the Concept of Health Capital and the Demand for Health’, Journal of Political Economy, Vol.80, No.2, pp.223-255.

Kunst, A. E. and Mackenbach, J.P. (1994) ‘Mortality Differences Associated with Educational Level in Nine Industrialized Countries’, American Journal of Public Health, Vol.84, No.6, pp.932-93

Smith, J.P. 2004.’Unraveling The SES-Health Connection’, Population and Development Review, Vol.30, pp.108-132.

Smith, J. P. (2007) ‘The Impact of SES on Health Over the Life Course’, Journal of Human Resources, Vol.42, No.4, pp.739-764.

Van Doorslaer, E., Van Kippersluis, H., O’Donell, O. and Van Ourti, T. (2008) ‘Socioeconomic Differences in Health Over the Life Cycle:Evidence and Explanations’, NETSPAR Panel Paper, No.12.

Van Kipperluis, H., Van Ourti, T., O’Donnel, O. and Van Doorslaer, E. (2009) ‘Health and income across the life cycle and generations in Europe’, Journal of Health Economics, Vol.28, No.4, pp.818-830.

Willson, A., Shuey, K. and Elder, G.  (2007) ‘Cumulative Advantage Processes As Mechanisms of Inequality in Life Course Health’, American Journal of Sociology, Vol.112, No.6, pp.1886-1924.

Read Full Post »

originally published in the 23rd issue ofG20 and BRICS Updateof the Heinrich Böll Foundation – North America

Dr Sevil Acar is an assistant professor at Istanbul Kemerburgaz University. Her research is on environmental and resource economics, particularly natural capitdrsevilacaral accounting, sustainability indicators, and the resource curse. Her undergraduate, masters and Ph.D. degrees are from Bogazici University, Istanbul Technical University, and Marmara University, respectively. During her Ph.D. studies, she was awarded a scholarship to conduct research at the Centre for Environmental and Resource Economics (CERE, Sweden) involving the analysis of Swedish sustainable savings and carbon convergence across countries, among other things.

In 2009, G20 Leaders committed to “rationalize and phase out over the medium term inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption”. The ongoing G20 agenda and the upcoming G20 summit in Antalya stand as unique opportunities to realize that pledge.  For more background information on the G20’s track record on eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, see the publications by the Global Subsidies Initiative and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), including the report co-authored by Acar, and  “The Fossil Fuel Bailout: G20 subsidies for oil, gas and coal explorationby ODI and Oil Change International (November 2014).

As a developing country, Turkey is facing increased demand for utilization of electricity and primary energy sources. At the same time, it is grappling with the challenges of realizing its emissions abatement needs and ensuring a cost-competitive energy supply. According to UNFCC, Turkey’s total greenhouse gas emissions reached 439.9 million tonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-eq) in 2012, which represents an increase of 133.4% above 1990 levels. The current situation of coal subsidies in Turkey, which is summarized below, counters potential abatement efforts.

In order to sustain a  cost-competitive and secure energy supply, Turkey set the following objectives in its Comprehensive Growth Strategy document prepared as part of the G20 Growth Strategy documents in 2014 (p. 16):

  • to increase the ratio of domestic resources in energy production;
  • to diversify the origins of energy supply in terms of countries, regions, and sources;
  • to increase the share of renewables, lignite coal-fired power plants and include the nuclear in energy mix; and
  • to take significant steps to increase energy efficiency.

As importing the majority of its energy supply (more than 75%) imposes a heavy burden on its balance of payments, Turkey has a definite priority to reduce import dependency in energy. Recently, there has been a rapid expansion of coal exploration and coal-fired power generation throughout the country. Although it also has ambitious plans for deployment of renewable energy, these are likely to be compromised by the continued existence of subsidies to coal-fired power generation and coal mining, including the recently introduced regional development package with investment support and loan guarantees. However, debate over subsidy reform is hindered by lack of transparent data about the magnitude and impacts of these subsidies.

A recent report developed by the Global Subsidies Initiative (GSI) and their partners in Turkey (Acar, Kitson and Bridle, 2015) establishes a detailed account of the current level of knowledge around the role of subsidies to coal and identifies particular subsidies for which direct cost estimates are not available. To begin with, the government provides generous support to the hard coal sector via direct transfers from the Treasury. The summary table below displays how these transfers reached a level of around US$300 million in 2013. Besides, consumer subsidies (coal aid to poor families) amounted up to more than US$390 million in the same year. Additionally, the coal sector is supported via the following measures and regulations):

  • In 2012, Turkey introduced the New Investment Incentive Scheme, which is comprised of various instruments to promote different industries. Coal exploration and production as well as investments in coal-fired power plants are categorized as “priority investments” and receive subsidies in the form of Customs Duty Exemptions, Value Added Tax Exemptions, Tax Reductions, Social Security Premium Support (Employer’s Share), Land Allocation and Interest Support, with the terms and rates of support depending on the region .
  • R&D expenditure: The government supports the fossil fuel sector with R&D expenditures. Among various fuels, coal receives the highest level of expenditures for this purpose. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that 2.6 million Turkish lira (TL) was spent on coal R&D by the government in 2009. (No data was available after this year.)
  • Rehabilitation Support: As part of the privatization process, the Turkish government funded the rehabilitation of hard coal mines and coal power stations.
  • Government support for exploration: The Strategic Plan 2010-2014 of the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (MENR, 2010, p. 41) documents its coal, oil and gas exploration budgets as displayed in the table below. The annual budget varied between 35 million and 51 million TL (approximately US$23 million to US$34 million) in the plan period.
  • Government expenditure on coal-fired power stations: Planned budgetary expenditure for new coal power plants was calculated as 28 million TL (~US$15 million) for 2013 and estimated at 31 million TL (~US$14 million) for 2014. These include the new domestic coal thermal plants of 3,500 MW to be completed by the end of 2013 (MENR, 2010).
  • Investment guarantees to coal power plants over 15-20 years of their operational life (e.g., Cayirhan and Iskenderun thermal plants).
  • Guaranteed price and purchase of electricity for certain periods of time are offered by the government to projects including investments in lignite coal-fired power generation.
  • Exemptions from environmental regulation: There are several reported examples of lax environmental regulations or straight-out failure to enforce the existing regulations and standards.

The report further highlights that the quantifiable subsidies to the coal sector result in a per-kWh subsidy of around US$0.01, which increases to US$0.02 per kWh when consumer subsidies are included. A total of US$730 million accrued to the coal sector in the form of subsidies in 2013 (Acar, Kitson and Bridle, 2015, p. 10). Needless to say, this number demonstrates an underestimation of the total subsidy amount since it excludes investment guarantees, the regional incentive scheme measures, price and purchase guarantees, permissive environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedures, etc. When remaining informational barriers are addressed, it will prove easier to show that these subsidies cannot be justified in financial, social or environmental terms.

Subsidies applicable to the coal sector in Turkey


Source: Acar, S., Kitson, L. and Bridle, R. (2015) Subsidies to Coal and Renewable Energy in Turkey. International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)-Global Subsidies Initiative (GSI) Report, p. 11).


* Coal exploration, production and investments in coal-fired power plants are subsidized within the Regional Investment Incentive Scheme, which offers subsidies in the form of Customs Duty Exemption, VAT Exemption, Tax Reduction, Social Security Premium Support (Employer’s Share), Land Allocation and Interest Support.

** The numbers include estimated coal, oil and gas exploration budgets of the MENR from 2010 to 2014 as recorded in the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources Strategic Plan 2010–2014.

*** The numbers represent planned budgetary expenditures for coal power plants for 2010– 2014 as stated in Target 1.2: New domestic coal thermal plants of 3,500 MW will be completed by the end of 2013 (MENR, 2010). The amount of subsidy within these budgets is not known.

Measures by other G20 countries

On the other hand, energy and energy subsidy policies of the other G20 members widely vary. For instance, Germany has committed to increase the share of renewable energy sources to 40-45% in 2025 and 80% in 2050 as well as to enhance energy efficiency. Besides, it aims to lessen its dependence on imports of oil and gas. However, the country still remains the biggest supporter of coal in Europe having spent €3 billion for coal production in 2012. In comparison, the United States focuses more on energy productivity and innovation. In its new policy actions, it pledges to eliminate $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies to the oil, gas and other fuel producers while extending the renewable electricity production tax credit permanently.

China’s growth strategy (2014) anticipated that energy consumption per unit of GDP would decline by more than 3% in 2014 and energy savings would be encouraged. The country intends to “promote the development of the green industry and provide more support to new energy, energy-saving and environmentally friendly technologies and products; actively carry forward pilot projects on the using and trading of emission rights, encourage energy saving and emission reduction” (p. 4). India takes similar steps towards promoting clean and efficient energy by promoting ultra mega solar power projects in different regions. However, the Indian government continues to provide substantive subsidies to the electricity sector and petroleum products, which are hard to estimate as electricity policies and tariff rates vary among states and consumer groups. Finally, South Africa has plans to reform the energy sector via ensuring security of electricity supply to support economic growth and development and the formulation of legislation allowing exploratory drilling for coal seam and shale gas reserves and draft regulations and other legislation for utilization of shale gas.. The country’s growth strategy does not articulate any attempts to depart from fossil fuel dependence apart from increasing the share of gas and renewables in the energy mix.

Concluding remarks

Fossil fuel subsidies have the potential to compromise the environment, disrupt the development of low carbon technologies, and undermine public finances. In 2009, the G20 leaders committed to “rationalize and phase out over the medium term inefficient FFS that encourage wasteful consumption”. The ongoing G20 agenda and the upcoming G20 summit in Antalya stand as unique opportunities to act on this promise, beginning with solid definitions of fossil fuel subsidies; comprehensive data collection; and vigorous peer review of subsidy cuts, including penalties for non-compliance.


Acar, S., Kitson, L. and Bridle, R. 2015. Subsidies to Coal and Renewable Energy in Turkey. International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)-Global Subsidies Initiative (GSI) Report. Available at http://www.iisd.org/gsi/subsidies-coal-and-renewable-energy-turkey

G20. 2009. Leaders Statement of G20 Pittsburgh Summit, September 24-25, Pittsburgh. Available at: https://www.g20.org/official_resources/leadersE28099_statement_pittsburgh_summit

G20. 2014. G20 Growth Strategies 2014 – Country Strategy Reports. Available at https://g20.org/resources/current-presidency/g20-growth-strategy-2014/

Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (MENR). 2010. Institutional Strategic Plan 2010–2014.

Read Full Post »

by Dr. Bilge Eris Dereli (Marmara University, Turkey)

Associate editor of ChangingTurkey.com


According to World Bank’s World Development Indicators, Turkey has been listed among the biggest 20 economies in terms of current GDP, steadily since 1997. Yet, development-related indicators other than the economic growth have been on the agenda of many development debates. Indices of human development, gender inequality, innovation, education, health, democracy, happiness, technology achievement, environment, media independence, human rights and many others have been treated as important indicators of national development and there is almost total consensus that a country’s overall social and economic success should be evaluated as a combination of its performance at these numerous aspects.

In order to evaluate Turkey’s mid-2015 well-being performance in terms of different development indicators, it is suggested to gather the most well-known development indicators mentioned above and compare them with each other. Since many of the indices are published by different institutions; both the calculation methodologies and the numbers of countries involved in the estimation differ from each other. This makes the evaluation of different indices at once challenging. Consequently, it is useful to put forward the indicators published by a selected institution, which cover the same countries[i] in ranking. The OECD publishes “Better Life Index” that compares countries’ well-being based on different essential topics which cover most of the key indicators of development. I use the most recently (July 5th) extracted data[ii] of Better Life Index for Turkey in order to evaluate Turkey’s rank of well-being in comparison with other OECD countries.[iii]

Before evaluating the indicators, it is necessary to look at the distribution of Turkey’s rankings out of 36 OECD countries for the selected indicators. Figure-1 shows that Turkey’s rank[iv] is 30 or more for 67% of the indicators, between 20 and 30 for 25% of the indicators, 15 for 4% of the indicators and 5 for the 4% of the indicators. Turkey is ranked 5th at best, and 15th at second best. Turkey is ranked at tops rarely: Turkey is ranked as 5th out of 36 countries in terms of voter turnout (which makes Turkey’s overall ranking for civic engagement in top 10) and 15th in terms of the housing expenditure. For all of the other indicators, Turkey is ranked 20th or higher out of the OECD countries.

Figure-1: Distribution of Turkey’s Ranking by Better Life Index Indicators


After introducing the indicators where Turkey is ranked at tops, let me move to where Turkey is ranked at bottoms. Figure-2 (the scale of the y-axis is reversed to make higher ranks to appear at the bottom) puts forward Turkey’s ranking among 36 OECD countries for the selected indicators of the Better Life Index. Turkey’s ranking for the following indicators is 30 or more: Household financial wealth, educational attainment, employees working very long hours, time devoted to leisure and personal care, dwellings with basic facilities, employment rate, personal earnings, air pollution, water quality, household net adjusted disposable income, job security, student skills, life expectancy, rooms per person, life satisfaction and quality of support network. It is observed that Turkey is performing very poorly in terms of housing, income, job quality, education, environment, life satisfaction and work-life balance indicators. Among these, I focus on the education and job quality indicators and it is very disappointing that Turkey performs almost worst out of 36 countries at these aspects.

Figure-2: Turkey’s Ranking by Better Life Index Indicators


Other sets of indicators where Turkey’s rank lies between 20 and 30 (still worse than the half of the countries) are related to community, health and safety: Years in education, assault rate, consultation on rule-making, homicide rate, long-term unemployment and self-reported health. With a very high voter turnout, Turkey performs very well in terms of civic engagement. However, it fails in the remaining main categories.

In terms of overall education indicators, Turkey performs the worst after Brazil and Mexico. Taking into account the growth-stimulating role of innovation and human factor lying at the heart of innovation and technology, and education being one of the most important components of human capital; education indicators show us that Turkey needs to go a long way to be ranked among the top 10 economies in the world. The dramatic increase in the number of universities since 2000 is claimed to be one of the biggest successes achieved by the Turkish education system. However, if the share of higher education graduates in total unemployed since 2000 is taken into account, this success story becomes questionable: According to TURKSTAT statistics; while 9.5% of the unemployed were recorded to be individuals with higher education degree in 2000, this share increased to 20% by 2014. On the other hand, unemployment rate across higher education graduates has jumped from 7% in 2000 to 10.6% in 2014. Moreover, the quality of the education at the universities has been questionable for the last years. The unplanned increase in the number of universities and thus the number of individuals with a higher education degree have led to serious labor market deficiencies.

Overall evaluation of Turkey’s job indicators makes its ranking 34, ranked just before Greece and Spain. Low employment rates (especially for women), low job security and low personal earnings are the main reasons that explain Turkey’s poor performance in this sector. Only long-term unemployment rate helps Turkey to be ranked as the 20th country. In addition to these; low female participation rates, high youth unemployment rates, high share of informal sector, gender inequality, long working hours, occupational accidents and mismatch can be listed as other poor  indicators of labor market in the country.

Although Turkey is among the top 20 economies in the world, there is a long way to go for it to be classified as a developed country, or at least to be among the top 10 economies. There are many policies that Turkey needs to implement in order to achieve that goal and it can be suggested to give the priority to education policies providing equal opportunities and aiming to increase both the quality and attainment for all levels of education. In this sector, quantitative improvements should not be considered more important than qualitative improvements. If the education system does not bring up innovative individuals capable of contributing to research and technology, it seems that Turkey will keep its place at the bottom of the development indicators ranking.

To conclude, it is important to remember that Turkey performs poorly on other macro-economic indicators too. There are many macroeconomic indicators that make Turkish economy fragile. Among them; low saving and investment rates, high current account deficit, increasing external debt of private sector can be listed as the most alarming ones.

[i] Most of the countries ranked as bigger economies than Turkey are captured by this classification as well.

[ii] http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=BLI#

[iii] OECD itself evaluates each country’s Better Life Index (for Turkey: http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/countries/turkey/); here, I to put forward Turkey’s ranking at a glance and analyze the indicators in more depth.

[iv] The higher the rank, the worse the performance.

Read Full Post »



By Associate Professor Dr. C. Akça Ataç (Çankaya University, Turkey)

21 July, the day of summer solstice, has been recognized by the United Nations as the International yogYoga Day, consequent to India’s vibrant campaign since September 2014 and the growing unforced global love for yoga. For the first time this year, yogis and yoginis all around the world concurrently came together outdoors as a proof of their commitment to be in unity and harmony with nature and in this way acknowledged that co-existence is humankind’s natural state. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the increasingly recognized face of the developing world, has set yoga diplomacy as a priority on his foreign policy agenda. The fact that the resolution for ‘International Yoga Day’ has received the support of 177 out of the total 193 member states of the UN is unprecedented in terms of the support for similar kinds of UN resolutions. Since the registration of the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, 2 October, as the International Day of Non-Violence in 2007, International Yoga Day has been India’s second important contribution to the UN’s annual calendar. According to the Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, such contribution to the UN agenda is “a reflection of the pan-global appeal of India’s rich cultural heritage,” which in fact “signifies how India’s age old traditions are in harmony with what the world needs today.”[i]

It appears that at the opening of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 70), scheduled to be held on 16 September, the issue of reforming the UN structure will be predominantly brought up by the leaders of major states and Modi will definitely be one of them. In his UNGA 69 speech he already underlined that a new, genuine dialogue must start there, at the UN, within a year and India constituting one-sixth of humanity would definitely participate in it. The Indian Prime Minister’s launch of this ‘pro-active, pro-people’ foreign policy was actually an unexpected move on his behalf, given that the more evident emphasis in his election campaign remained on domestic priorities.ModiSelfie-e1431693156496 However, before the first year of his mandate ended, he surprisingly became the “most well-travelled prime minister in Indian history”[ii] by beginning a series of high-profile travels, from China to France, Mongolia to United States. Also, he has demonstrated a renewed interest in the immediate and far-beyond neighbourhood of India by paying visits to Bhutan, Fiji, Mauritius, Nepal, Seychelles and Sri Lanka -places none of which had been visited by an Indian prime minister for more than 10 years. As a token of the good intentions of a neighbour, India has even yielded its claim in the Bay of Bengal, which was a thorny issue with Bangladesh.[iii]  Looking at this new internationalism, Modi is being more and more associated with Jawaharlal Nehru and his vibrant and inspiring foreign policy in progress with a sort of Non-Alignment 2.0.[iv] His selfie with the Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing went viral in social media early this year and definitely contributed to his popularity worldwide.

In point of fact, Modi’s enthusiastic reception by the international community makes one think of Ahmet Davutoğlu’s first years as the Turkish Foreign Minister. Davutoğlu’s rapid and unprecedented scheme of traveling had gained him the nickname ‘peripatetic,’ whereas Modi is the one now who bears the title ‘globetrotting’ among all pro-active statesmen of the world. Davutoğlu, too, had a vision for the new world order and the reform of the UN, as he underlined a “unitarian humanitarian conscience under the flag of the United Nations,” and in this vision he foresaw a cardinal role for Turkey.[v] To him, Western civilization had its chance to design the world, but instead led the international system to an impasse. Therefore, as he contends:

We have to be aware that the Eurocentric culture reached the limits. Now there is a rise of authentic cultures, of old traditions. We have to admit them, we have to create a cultural inclusiveness. Otherwise global cultural order could not be restored…There is a need for a new paradigm of cultural inclusivity and interaction of authentic cultures and modernity.”[vi]

Similarly, to bring the much awaited peace and harmony to the world under the UN, Modi’s new, active diplomacy suggests an ‘Indian way,’ which is “a constructive approach focused on finding peaceful solutions to global challenges that are in harmony with our environment.”[vii] In this way, he has reinvented the previously ‘Look East’ principle of the Indian foreign policy as ‘Act East.’

At the UNGA 70, India seems to be planning on putting a fresh emphasis on the Indian philosophical dictum vasudhaiva kutumbakam (the world is one family) in its attempts at taking part in the reform of the UN Security davutogluCouncil. For its permanent membership, it has already gained the support of a wide range of countries from France to Mongolia and to further its bid, it aims to question the fact that the world, no matter how interdependent it might look, has been deeply divided among groups, “various Gs with different numbers.” The reformed UN must be able to act as one united family, may it be “G-1” or “G-All,”[viii] and India under Modi comes to fore as an apt candidate to initiate an all-encompassing dialogue. In the same way, Turkey, too, has been demonstrating an intensified focus on the UN reform, particularly since 2008. Within this context, Turkey, not long after its non-permanent membership appointment to the Security Council in 2009 and 2010, once again announced its candidacy for another round of temporary membership in 2015 and 2016. The campaign it has started, Dünya 5’ten Büyük (the world is bigger than 5), may correspond to that of India. Nevertheless, the recent attempts by Turkey to remain ‘pivotal,’ a term Davutoğlu frequently and particularly picks to define Turkey’s new foreign policy, in the UN have not been received by the member states in the way Turkey had expected. Dünya 5’ten Büyük remained an uninfluential and under-attended campaign (only 31 votes on change.org) and Turkey could not win its bid for the 2015-2016 term on the Security Council.

Parallel to the acceleration of the Syrian crisis in 2011, the tone of Davutoğlu’s criticism of the UN has become less and less friendly as the Security Council continues to decline to militarily intervene against the Assad regime. He considers the failure of the UN to act on the Syrian civil war as a missed opportunity to reform the UN, or to be more direct, to elevate Turkey to a permanent position on the Security Council. Davutoğlu’s frustration about the absence of “a single binding resolution on Syria where more than 30 thousand people have been refugees”[ix] justifies the humanitarian diplomacy subsequently conducted by Turkey in the form of establishing refugee camps along its border with Syria. Asking, “So why do we need the UN?,”[x] however, diminishes the UN reform to merely increasing the number of permanent members of the Security Council and limits its mission to humanitarian intervention. Despite his earlier advocacy for a broader vision of the UN reform, Davutoğlu has come to perceive the UN only as a tool for intervening in conflict within neighboring states. This attitude has weakened Turkey’s capacity and capability to meaningfully contribute to any debate on the UN reform.

On the eve of a new round of reform talks at the UN, Turkey is no longer in the position to contribute to a genuine civilization of dialogues- impartial to all civilizations, partial to civilization. The recent uncertainty about the future government and the possibility of an intervention in Syria weaken Turkey’s international position even further. Meanwhile India comes to the fore as the state likely to be influential in initiating and conducting such a dialogue, willing to make progress on the gender-equality agenda. It is a pity that Turkey is now unprepared and unsuitable to contribute a meaningful input to the upcoming reform talks at UNGA70. This, however, could have been otherwise, had Turkey not taken the misguided steps of the recent past.


[i] ‘177 Nations Co-Sponsor the United Nations Resolution to Declare International Day of Yoga on 21st June, Every Year,’ http://www.indembassy.org.tr/alert_detail.php?newsid=36 [ii] Jaideep Prabhu, ‘Do We Finally Have an Assertive Foreign Policy Under PM Narendra Modi?’, dna, April 13, 2015, http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/stand-point-do-we-finally-have-an-assertive-foreign-policy-under-pm-narendra-modi-2077065 [iii] Tanvi Madan, ‘Indian Prime Minister Modi’s Foreign Policy: The First 100 Days,’ Brookings Institute, August 29, 2014, http://www.brookings.edu./research/opinions/2014/08/28-modi-100-days-foreign-policy-madan [iv] Prabhhu, ‘An Assertive Foreign Policy?’. [v] C. Akça Ataç, ‘Turkey’s New Vision for “Man’s Best Hope for Peace”: United Nations Reform and Reorganization of the Security Council,’ All Azimuth, Vol. 3 No: 1, January 2014, pp. 5-18. [vi] ‘Speech Delivered by H. E. Ahmet Davutoğlu Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, in the University of London School of Economics and Political Science’, 7 March 2013, London, http://www.mfa.gov.tr/speech-delivered-by-h_e_-ahmet-davutoglu_-minister-of-foreign-affairs-of-turkey_-in-the-university-of-london-school-of-economics.en.mfa [vii] ‘177 Nations Co-Sponsor the United Nations Resolution.’ [viii] ‘English Rendering of the Statement by Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi at the General Debate of the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA),’ September 27, 2014, pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=110091 [ix] ‘Davutoğlu: International System About to Fail Syria Test,’ TurkishNY.com, September 25, 2012 http://m.turkishny.com/news/davutoglu-international-system-about-to-fail-syria-test [x] Ibid.

Read Full Post »

by Dr. Burcu Düzgün-Öncel and Dr. Bilge Eriş-Dereli (Marmara University, Turkey)

Dr. Burcu Düzgün-Öncel

Dr. Burcu Düzgün-Öncel is a research assistant at Marmara University, Department of Economics since 2011 and received her Bachelor’s (2006), MA (2008) and PhD (2014) degrees from Marmara University, Department of Economics as well. She was a visiting researcher at Universitat Pompeu Fabra during the summer 2007 and at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam during the 2013-2014 academic year. She also spent two years at Bonn Graduate School of Economics between 2008-2010 during her doctoral studies. Her PhD thesis was selected the best thesis of the year by Turkish Economic Association in 2014. Her research areas are health economics, labor economics, and female labor supply in a household context.

Dr. Bilge Eriş-Dereli is a lecturer at Marmara University, Department of Economics (English) since 2013. She worked as a research assistant at the same department between 2009 and 2013. She is currently a TUBITAK research fellow at The University of Warwick, Department of Economics. She received her Bachelor’s (2006), MA (2008) and PhD (2013) degrees in Economics (English) at Marmara University. She was a visiting researcher in Centre de Recerca en Economia Internacional (CREi) at Universitat Pompeu Fabra for her doctoral research during the 2011-2012 academic year. Bilge has participated to various projects led by The Conference Board, The Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey and Turkish Employment Agency as a researcher both during Phd and postdoctoral studies. She is the associate editor of http://www.ChangingTurkey.com.

The main framework of this discussion is based on Burcu Duzgun Oncel and Bilge Eris Dereli (2015)  ‘Why Do Women Prefer Part-Time Employment in Turkey?’Topics in Middle Eastern and African Economies, Vol. 17, Issue No. 2, 82-109. 

The growing share of part-time employment in the 21st century has been a main feature of many developed and developing economies. Female part-time employment has been increasing in agriculture and non-agriculture sectors as a share both within female employment and total employment since 2005 in Turkish labor market as well.[1]

Fundamental aspects of female part-time employment are of interest. First, since females might be considered as among the most disadvantaged groups in the Turkish labor market, results regarding the female employment have important implications for government policy settings. In other words, considering the growth of part time employment as a factor contributing to the engagement of women in labor market activities, driving factors behind the rise is of importance for policymakers. Moreover the growth in the share of part-time employment may be considered as increasing labor market flexibility and it is important to understand the role of part-time employment in providing this flexibility. Finally, female part-time employment contributes many household budgets; therefore it is useful to consider the overall welfare of households that contain part-time workers would be useful.

Structure of part-time employment and the reasons underlying the growth in it has been studied in a wide range of perspectives. Part-time employment has been mostly criticized for the quality of jobs and providing limited career prospects for workers. Pocock et al. (2004) evaluates part time jobs as yielding inferior wages, conditions and employment security. The main determinants of the increase in part-time employment can be grouped as structural, demographic, institutional and business cycle factors. Long and Jones (1981) and Delsen (1998) and concentrate on structural and demographic factors. Institutional factors are also considered as possible determinants of the growth in part-time employment which may include employment protection legislation, unemployment benefits, part-time specific regulations, unionization and so on. Smith et al. (1998) and Genre et al. (2003) claim that institutional factors are the driving forces behind the increase in part-time employment. Finally, movements in the share of part time employment are affected by business cycles. Farber (1999) focuses on the effects of business cycles on the share of part-time employment.

Here, we outline some stylized facts concerning the key characteristics and present the general profile and labor status profile of part-time female workers in Turkey via descriptive analysis. We use Turkish Household Labor Force Surveys for the period 2005 and 2012. Since the results vary by agriculture/non-agriculture sectors, we present the results regarding this distinction.

Figure-1 shows the shares of full-time and part-time workers by gender in agriculture and non-agriculture sectors. The shares are given within their own gender employment. It is observed that there has been a shift away from full-time employment to part-time employment both for males and females in agriculture and non-agriculture sectors. While growth has been a feature of part-time employment for both males and females, the share of part-time employment among female workers remains higher than that of males. Moreover, the gap between full-time and part-time workers is shrinking more for female workers. Part-time employment accounted for 17%, 34% and 42% of female employment in agriculture in 2005, 2008 and 2012, respectively. These fractions are calculated as 8%, 10% and 13% for the non-agriculture sector.

bilge 1

Figure-1: Share of full-time and part-time workers by gender

Figure-2 shows the share of female part-time employment according to ages at agriculture and non-agriculture sectors in 2012. The share of female part-time employment in agriculture sector is highest for the middle aged and older (age groups between 30 and 59) female workers. On the other hand, share of female part-time employment in non-agriculture sector is highest for the age groups between 25 and 49, 30-34 and 35-39 constituting slightly higher shares than other age groups. In non-agriculture sector, middle aged and younger workers constitute the highest share among female part-time employment.

The distribution of part-time female workers across education categories is given in Figure-3. It is observed that low educated female has the highest share both at agriculture and non-agriculture sectors, the share being much higher in the agriculture sector. Low educated female constitutes approximately 88% of female part-time workers in the agriculture sector. In the non-agriculture sector the shares of low educated, medium educated and high educated female are approximately 58%, 20% and 22% respectively.

bilge 2

Figure-2: Share of part-time female workers by age

bilge 3

Figure-3: Share of part-time female workers by education level

The share of part-time female workers by area is given in Figure-4. It is observed the shares are almost the opposite of each other in agriculture and non-agriculture sectors. In agriculture sector more than 80% of part-time female workers are in rural area. The share in rural area is decreasing, associated with an increase in the share in urban area, after 2007 in agriculture sector. Turning to the shares in non-agriculture sector shows that approximately 80% of the female part-time workers are in urban area in contrast with the shares in the agriculture sector.

bilge 4

Figure-4: Share of part-time female workers by area (urban/rural)

Figure-5 presents the distribution of part-time female workers across formal and informal sector. In agriculture a very high share, 98%, of female part-time workers are employed in informal sector. In non-agriculture, approximately 76% of female part-time workers are employed in informal sector and the distribution stays more or less the same through the period.

Figure-6 depicts the share of female part-time employment by employment status and agriculture/non-agriculture distinction for 2012. It is observed that the distribution of part-time female workers by employment status differ significantly in agriculture and non-agriculture sectors. In agriculture sector unpaid family workers dominate the distribution, whereas wage earners and self-employed constitute the largest shares in non-agriculture sector.

bilge 5

Figure-5: Share of part-time female workers by formal/informal sector

bilge 6

Figure-6: Share of part-time female workers by employment status

The average hourly wages[2] and working hours of female part-time workers for selected regions[3] are presented in Figure-7. Different regions display varied levels of average wages and average working hours as well as varying trends for these variables through the period. It is observed that the average wages in agriculture sector are lower than the average wages in non-agriculture sector while the average working hours stay close to each other in both sectors. Both in agriculture and non-agriculture sectors, average working hours for part-time female workers are highest in Southeast Asia. Average wages seem close to each other within the agriculture sector; however there are discrepancies between average wages in non-agriculture sector.

bilge 7

Figure-7: Average wages and working hours by selected regions

Descriptive analysis provides good information about the structure of female part- time employment. Main findings for the agriculture sector can be summarized as the following:  Part-time employment is higher among older and middle aged, low educated females living in rural areas. Although low educated females constitute the biggest fraction both at agriculture and non-agriculture sectors, the share is much higher in the agriculture sector. Moreover, approximately all of the part-time female workers are employed in informal sector. A significant fraction of part-time female workers are unpaid family workers in agriculture sector.  Average hourly wages are lower while the average working hours are similar with the non-agriculture sector. Composition of female part-time employment by different aspects varies greatly by geographic distribution.

The main findings for the non-agriculture sector can be summarized as the following:  Part-time employment is higher among younger and middle aged, low educated females living in urban areas. In non-agriculture sector, approximately 70% of part-time female workers are employed in informal sector. In contrast with the agriculture sector, wage earners constitute nearly half of the part-time female workers in non-agriculture sector. Average wages are higher than those of in the agriculture sector. Composition varies by geographic distribution for the non-agriculture sector as well.

An overall evaluation of the results indicates that part-time female workers are employed at inferior jobs in Turkish labor market, especially in the agriculture sector. The increase in female part-time employment is usually considered as a driving force in the increase of female labor force participation and labor market flexibility. Policies are designed to encourage part-time employment so to make use of the potential benefits of the increase in it.  However, in contrast with most of the OECD countries, it might be questionable to encourage increasing part-time employment for female in Turkey until some stylized facts change. Further analysis is required to investigate the driving forces behind the increase in female part-time employment and clearly evaluate the geographical differences.


[1] Although the extent and the form of part time employment by gender vary across countries, part time employment is higher among female mostly. For international comparisons of part time employment, please refer to OECD (1999) and O’Reilly and Fagan (2002).

[2] Wages are in 2005 prices.

[3]3 regions at NUTS-1 level with different wage and working hour characteristics are selected.


Delsen, L. (1998). When do men work part-time?. Part-Time Prospects: An International Comparison of Part-Time Work in Europe, North America, and the Pacific Rim. London: Routledge, 57-76.

Farber, H. S. (1999), ‘Alternative and part-time employment arrangements as a response to job loss’, Journal of Labor Economics, 17: 142-169.

Genre V., Gomez-Salvador, R., Leiner-Killinger, N. and Mourre, G. (2003), ‘Non-wage components in collective bargaining’, in Fagan, G., Morgan, J. and Mongelli, F. (eds) Wage formation in Europe, Edward Elgar.

Long, J.E. and Jones, E. B. (1981), ‘Married women in part-time employment’, Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 34: 314-25.

OECD (1999), Focus on part-time work, Employment outlook, June.

Pocock, B., Buchanan, J. and Campbell, I. (2004), Securing Quality Employment: Policy Options for Casual and Part-Time Workers in Australia, Chifley Research Centre, Barton.

Smith, L., Fagan, C. and Rubery, J. (1998), ‘Where and why is part-time work growing in Europe?’, in OReilly, J. and Fagan, C. (eds) Part-time Prospects: An International Comparison of Part-time Work in Europe, North America and the Pacific Rim, Routledge: London and New York.

Read Full Post »

Dr. Fırat Bilgel is assistant professor of economics at Okan University. He holds a Ph.D in Law and Economics from the Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands. His research interests cover causal inference and program evaluation, health economics and political economy. Dr. Bilgel is the co-recipient of the 2013 Ibn Khaldun Prize from the Middle East Economic Association. His recent research focuses on the causal effects of legislative and regulatory interventions in transplant medicine and selective organ donation incentives. He previously published in the European Journal of Health Economics, Health Policy, International Review of Law and Economics and Journal of Conflict Resolution.

Dr B. Can Karahasan is Assistant Professor in Economics at Piri Reis University, Turkey.  He is also a Research Fellow at LSE, European Institute, Research on South Eastern Europe (LSEE). Previously he was a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Barcelona Grup d’Anàlisi Quantitativa Regional. He received his MA degree from Boğaziçi University and PhD degree in Economics from Marmara University. In 2010, he was granted the Best PhD Thesis award by Turkish Economic Association and in 2013 received the Ibn Khaldun Prize from Middle East Economic Association. Dr Karahasan has mostly published on inequality and regional development-integration issues in journals such as International Regional Science Review, Journal of Conflict Resolution, International Review of Economics and Finance, Review of Urban and Regional Development Studies, Region.  

The Economic Perils of a Political Armed Conflict

In our recent article, we sought to explore the causal repercussions of separatist terrorism on regional economic home_coverdevelopment in Turkey [1]. In contrast to numerous scientific endeavors that aimed at identifying the devastating economic effects of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorism and the correlates of underdevelopment in Turkey, we reformulate our research question in such a way that allows us to identify the economic consequences of separatist terrorism had Turkey not been exposed to terrorism. This potential outcomes framework, guides us to obtain the causal impact of PKK terrorism, defined as the average difference between the terror-exposed Turkey (factual) and the terror-free Turkey (counterfactual) after the emergence of terrorism. An attempt to formulate the economic costs of such a socio-political conflict in Turkey not only enlightens one of the many dimensions of rising duality but also emphasizes the importance of the current peace process in the Eastern Turkey.

In order to impute the counterfactual, we invoke the synthetic control, which finds a group of Turkish provinces which did not experience or were not directly affected by separatist terrorist outbreaks and which closely resemble to terror-stricken provinces (Eastern & Southeastern Anatolia). This way, we obtain a group of provinces that are highly comparable to our units of interest (the terror-stricken provinces) in terms of observable heterogeneity, controlling for heterogeneous responses to multiple unobserved factors over extended pre-terrorism periods [2].

Based on the proposed framework, in a time window of fourteen years that covers the 1988-2001 period, we find that the Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia could have enjoyed a 6.6 percent higher per capita real GDP had the region not been exposed to PKK terrorism. We envisage that our causal estimate is likely to represent the minimum gain due to the fact that a permanent, perpetual cease-fire would give the opportunity to shift the nation’s resources towards productive industries and yields an efficient allocation of resources. Terrorism and security concerns in the region have both direct and indirect effects which make us think that in the absence of terrorism, the region would have benefited not only from democratic, economic and cultural freedom but also have the ability to create other externalities fostering even higher regional development and growth.

The identification of the causal effect of terrorism has crucial implications both for policy design as well as scientificKurdish-inhabited_area_by_CIA_(1992) rigor. This necessity of identification becomes even more pronounced in the Turkish case due to selection bias inherent in the discussion of East-West dichotomy; that is, regions or provinces that were severely hit by separatist terrorism are so because they substantially differ from the rest of Turkey in terms of almost every aspect correlated with  economic development. Terror-stricken provinces are all located in the mountainous Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia that hosts a significant Kurdish population; the region exhibits half the productivity, income and human capital accumulation of the rest of the country.

The East-West dichotomy in Turkey is deeply rooted in the historical developments in the region at a time when the term terrorism was new and rather unknown. This heterogeneity is self-evident in the snapshot of the comparison of per capita income dispersion in Turkey, once in 1975 when terrorism was yet to emerge and then in the aftermath of 2001. It would therefore be misleading and unfortunate to infer that separatist terrorism is the cause of the region’s laggardness although it has detrimental causal effects on the region’s GDP. Separatist terrorism should be perceived as rather, an underdevelopment-enforcing mechanism; even perhaps a tentative consequence of the region’s underdevelopment and political conflict but not the cause. Although our analysis did stop at the frontline where the economic impact of terrorism on regional income convergence could be assessed, we predict that the spatial heterogeneous income pattern in Turkey would have exhibited no sign of regional convergence even in the absence of terrorism. This suggests that the political agendas that hold terrorism responsible for the failure of regional income convergence would lead to inaccurate and short-sighted policy prescriptions, failing to foresee the bigger picture that PKK terrorism is a manifestation of a political conflict and that political repression, identity issues and cultural clash lie at the heart of perpetuating regional inequalities.

Our findings emphasize how carefully and delicately the peace process should be handled to achieve an economically strong region that could have enjoyed an almost seven percent higher per capita real income in the absence of separatist terrorism.


[1] Bilgel, F. and Karahasan, B.C. (2015) “The Economic Costs of Separatist Terrorism in Turkey.” Journal of Conflict Resolution. doi: 10.1177/0022002715576572.

[2] Abadie, A., A. Diamond, and J. Hainmueller (2014) ‘‘Comparative Politics and the Synthetic Control Method.’’ American Journal of Political Science. doi:10.1111/ajps.12116.

Read Full Post »

by Dr. Zenonas Tziarras

Analyst on Security & Turkey,

Diplomatic Academy, University of Nicosia

Short Bio: Zenonas Tziarras holds a PhD in Politics & International Studies from the University of TZIARRAS Zenonas 5Warwick. His thesis analysed Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East between 2002 and 2013 from a Neoclassical Realist perspective. He previously completed an MA in International Relations and Strategic Studies at the University of Birmingham, UK and a BA in Mediterranean Studies and International Relations at the Aegean University, Greece. He is the co-founder and co-editor of the e-magazine The Globalized World Post and is currently the Analyst on Security & Turkey of the Europe Levant Observatory at the Diplomatic Academy, University of Nicosia. Among other publications, he co-edited a volume [in Greek] titled Republic of Cyprus: Dimensions of Foreign Policy (2013) and co-authored a forthcoming book [in Greek] titled Turkey and the Eastern Mediterranean: Ideology and Strategy (2015).


Domestic Transformations and Foreign Policy Change: The Rise of Revisionist Turkey

The presentation I delivered during the 6th Changing Turkey workshop at Warwick University sought to explore Turkish foreign policy change under the Justice and Development Party (AKP) towards the Middle East from a Neoclassical Realist (NcR) perspective and it was based on my PhD thesis.[i] It was argued that systemic changes in Turkey’s geopolitical environment have been primary in driving Turkey’s foreign policy behaviour with domestic politics being secondary. Within this NcR framework the system level comprises of three independent variables (international power changes, external threat perceptions, international economic interdependence) and two intervening variables (elite ideology and domestic interest groups). The dependent variable is essentially the foreign policy outcome – Turkey’s foreign policy behaviour – with the possibility of variation between status quo and revisionist foreign policy behaviour. To trace the change in Turkish foreign policy (TFP) since the AKP’s election to power (2002) I briefly evaluate the domestic and systemic context of the 2002-2011 and 2011-2013 periods. When it comes to the domestic level I remain focused on one of the two intervening variables (i.e. the AKP elite ideology) for brevity purposes.

2002-2011 – Systemic Context

With regard to the first period (2002-2011) it is argued that the systemic context was relatively benign despite changes in international power relations (i.e. the main independent variable) such as the war in Iraq (2003) and its geopolitical consequences for Turkey and the region. It was benign not because of the absence of security threats – there were plenty of those; but rather because it provided Turkey with the opportunity of re-engaging the region due to deteriorating relations with the United States (US), growing anti-American sentiments in the Middle East, improved relations with Iran and Syria, and so on. This rather favouring geopolitical environment, of the 2000s, in conjunction with the AKP’s struggle to overcome political obstacles posed by the traditional Kemalist establishment domestically, produced an outward foreign policy behaviour mainly characterised by cooperation, mediation and the employment of “soft power” tools more generally. Its economic relations with the Arab/Muslim world improved drastically – while its economic relations with the EU declined also due to the economic crisis and the Turkey-EU stalemate – even as it undertook significant mediation initiatives such as the one between Syria and Israel, albeit unsuccessfully. It was a period when Turkey, once again in its history, came to be referred to as a model of fusion between democracy, liberal economics and conservative values.

Though this outward foreign policy orientation of Turkey resembled past initiatives such as those of Turgut Ozal and Necmettin Erbakan in the 1980s and 1990s it proved to be something more during this time period. It was more focused, broader, deeper and arguably more serious and successful. It was all due to the ideological differentiation that gradually came about domestically with the election of the AKP to power. This is not to say that the AKP elite ideology was the primary factor. As mentioned, systemic changes are considered to be the primary driver of TFP. But the elite ideology of the state, the one that filters the geopolitical changes and the domestic constraints according to NcR, is very important in the shaping of the foreign policy outcome. The system-level changes could prompt different foreign policy outcomes depending on the dominant ideology and worldview of the (policy-making) elite; but without systemic changes foreign policy change is rarely, if ever, induced.

Elite Ideology & Domestic Transformations

Having said that, one has to identify the AKP elite ideology and thus its character and features. Based on research on texts, speeches and interviews of AKP elites (e.g. Ahmet Davutoglu, Abdullah Gul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Bulent Arinc, Ibrahim Kalin) and a comparative analysis between the AKP and its traditionalist predecessor Welfare Party (Refah Party – RP) of Necmettin Erbakan, I suggest that the AKP elite ideology (not of the AKP as a whole) is based on a version of Turkish political Islam which is actually more traditionalist than reformist, as the AKP argues. On the front of foreign policy and strategy in the Middle East, this worldview or set of beliefs, perceives the region as a primarily post-Ottoman and geoculturally integrated Islamic space; one that Turkey, from the AKP elite perspective, rightfully claims leadership over (as the successor of the Ottoman Empire).

In this sense, the AKP elite ideology is revisionist, provided that revisionism is defined (in Realism literature) as a state’s efforts to change the geopolitical status quo to its own benefit. As noted previously, the domestic power struggle between the Kemalist establishment and the AKP did not leave much room to the latter to freely express and implement its revisionist goals. For example, the AKP’s shift towards the Middle East was not significantly opposed by other domestic powers or groups insofar as it did not take place at the expense of relations with the West. Once the AKP managed to win the power struggle and predominate domestically through a process that roughly started in 2007 and had largely succeeded by 2010, its policies became more openly revisionist. However, by that time domestic groups (of mostly Kemalist ideology) were unable to successfully oppose or constrain the AKP’s policies as the Kemalist establishment, the traditional and most noteworthy political force, was to a great extent marginalised and crippled.

2011-2013 – Systemic Context & Revisionism

The impact of these historical domestic transformations became even more evident in the next period under examination (2011-2013). The systemic shifts that came about with the Arab uprisings caught Turkey by surprise, challenged the regional relationships that it developed as well as its geopolitical stature. As such, the systemic environment was no longer benign; it had become unstable and greatly insecure, brewing conflict and multiple security threats. This had a great impact on Turkey’s ability to implement its revisionist elite ideological vision in a benign way and through “soft power” tools. Perhaps the most significant examples of Turkey’s revisionist foreign policy behaviour since 2011 are the case of Syria and Egypt. In the case of the Syrian civil war Turkey, for the first time in its history, adopted the revisionist strategy of regime change, albeit with some delay. Not only that, but it also seemed reluctant to carry out its threats towards Syria while preferring to “bandwagon-for-profit”[ii] which essentially entailed that it chose to achieve its strategic goals through its reliance on Western powers for regime change in Syria.

Similarly, Ankara’s stance towards the ousting of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood (2013) points to mingling in Egypt’s internal affairs. It was revisionist foreign policy behaviour because Turkey actively, if politically, tried to reverse the changes under way in Egypt that would deprive it from an Egyptian government that was ideologically and politically close to the AKP. Since then Turkish-Egyptian relations have deteriorated dramatically. Other examples of revisionism in TFP can be remembered such as the coercive diplomacy employed against Israel and Cyprus in 2011.


Overall, Turkey, over the past 13 years or so has experienced great economic growth and development as well as democratic reforms. At the same time it has risen as an openly revisionist state. The domestic transformations and the substitution of the largely pro-status quo Kemalist politico-military establishment by the AKP’s revisionist elite ideology, resulted in a revisionist foreign policy behaviour. Foreign policy action that is prompted by system-level changes is increasingly being filtered through the ideological lens of the AKP – and specifically President Erdogan. Because Ankara’s revisionist goals cannot be achieved in the turbulent post-2011 Middle East, it often resorts to “hard power” or other revisionist tactics that exacerbate regional polarisation and highlight its revisionist foreign policy strategy even more.

[i] Zenonas Tziarras, Turkish Foreign Policy towards the Middle East under the AKP (2002-2013): A Neoclassical Realist Account, Department of Politics & International Studies, The University of Warwick, Coventry, 2014.

[ii] A term borrowed from Randal Schweller. See, Randall L. Schweller, “Bandwagoning for Profit: Bringing the Revisionist State Back In,” International Security 19, no. 1 (1994): 72-107.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: