Governance Practices in Turkey: A Comparative Perspective – Dimitris Tsarouhas
- Turkey’s latest National Development Plan seeks to attain economic and social development equal to that of the world’s most prosperous states.
- By structuring expectations and incentives for economic and political actors, institutions play a key role in achieving sustainable, long-term development.
- This paper provides a systematic longitudinal analysis of core governance indicators which shed light on Turkey’s evolution over time from a comparative perspective.
- The results point to a sharp decline in the institutional efficacy of the Turkish apparatus of state vis a vis core aspects of the country’s development agenda, especially with regard to the rule of law, public administration, regulatory capacity, and predictability.
- Turkey’s declining scores in recent years fly in the face of its political agenda and severely undermine welfare gains made in the early 21st century.
Read here in pdf the Policy paper by Dimitris Tsarouhas, Non-Resident Senior Research Fellow, ELIAMEP Turkey Programme.
In the early 2000s, and following successive currency and economic crises (1994 and 2000–01), Turkey embarked on a series of structural reforms. The aim was to establish, and subsequently consolidate, macroeconomic stability and large net foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows in line with the dominant economic paradigm of that era. The reforms led to welfare-enhancing changes in key indicators : Turkey raised its GDP per capita from US$3,115 in 2001 to US$7,924 in 2020, having achieved even higher levels in the interim, while poverty rates dropped from 18.6 percent in 2005 to 14.4 percent in 2018. The impetus behind the reforms was twofold: First, they were set in motion to recuperate economic losses and allow the country to reap the potential of its youthful population. Second, at a political level, they were spurred on by the prospect of European Union (EU) membership, which requires political, economic and administrative changes in line with a liberal socio-economic and political system.
The welfare gains of an earlier era are now under serious strain, with poverty levels going up again and the rising cost of living eating into the savings and accumulated welfare gains of the majority of the population.
Twenty years later, Turkey finds itself in an entirely different position. The goal of EU membership is more remote than it has ever been, and successive crises, such as the global financial crisis (GFC) of 2009 and (especially) the currency crises of 2018 and 2021 have impacted negatively on the country’s economic performance. In recent years, Turkey’s soaring inflation has dented confidence in the country’s economy, despite the fact that consumption-driven growth remains high and public sector debt liabilities remain under control. The welfare gains of an earlier era are now under serious strain, with poverty levels going up again and the rising cost of living eating into the savings and accumulated welfare gains of the majority of the population, including its expanded middle class.
Despite current difficulties, Turkey’s leadership is aiming high. The country’s Eleventh Development Plan (EDP), covering the period from 2019 to 2023, is indicative of the country’s ambitions. The Plan’s overall vision is for Turkey to become a stronger and more prosperous country, with an enhanced productive capacity. The explicit aim of the Plan is to raise Turkey’s income and enhance its levels of economic and social development in line with the achievements of high income countries across the world. According to the Plan, such goals can be achieved by raising the level of citizen welfare above current standards and safeguarding the fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens. In this sense, then, the plan invites a series of reforms which it identifies as important in this respect, not least with regard to the functioning of the justice system, the provision of public services in major policy areas, and the consistent and predictable implementation of public policy.
How do Turkey’s governance ambitions square with its current realities? What trajectory should the country follow in achieving such goals? This paper provides tentative answers by analyzing the evolution of major governance indicators in Turkey from a comparative perspective. It seeks to shed light on some of the underlying strengths and weaknesses of Turkey’s performance over time and discusses the extent to which Turkey’s ambition of becoming one of the world’s top-10 economies is premised on current trends. Emphasis is placed on indicators with the broadest coverage, which capture institutional performance and functions, and on combining international experts’ assessments, perceptions, data, and administrative/objective measures. Most of the data is longitudinal and covers both intra-Turkey comparisons and comparisons between Turkey and others (see below). Since it is currently impossible to account for post-pandemic effects on the basis of international datasets, most of the data used is from 2020 and before.
This paper is structured as follows. The first section provides a brief overview of the salience of institutional performance. This is followed by an account of the status quo vis a vis economic and political institutions in Turkey. I use various international datasets and indicators to demonstrate how these have developed over time and how recent events have in many cases led to a reversal of progress in this regard. These datasets and indicators will also make it possible to compare Turkey’s situation with other states, be they emerging market economies or Turkey’s peers in the OECD world. Finally, the policy paper will summarize the findings in the conclusion.
How and when do institutions matter?
Institutions matter, and this is more than a truism.
Institutions matter, and this is more than a truism. In fact, it is at the heart of this paper and aligns with institutionalist thinking that has deep roots in economics as well as political science. The right institutions can be conducive to growth, accelerate economic development, and help a country transition from upper-middle income to high-income status. According to Douglass North, ‘institutions’ are defined as a set of formal and informal norms and ways of doing things that determine and constrain the way stakeholders interact with each other. Lack of space limits our definition to the more rationalist North definition. Below, I briefly outline the respective significance of economic and political institutions, focusing on them because, together, they constitute governance in Turkey and around the world.
Property rights in Turkey are, overall, secure and well entrenched in state practice. According to the International Property Rights Index (IPRI), a measure created by the Property Rights Alliance (PRA), Turkey’s score of 5.40 (0–10 scale) places it 66th among 129 states.
Economic institutions introduce predictability into what is otherwise a set of highly volatile and unpredictable markets. Although the list is extensive, we will focus here on those that are undeniably key to any modern economy: namely, (safeguarding) property rights and the rule of law. Together these two institutions offer (potential) investors a degree of assurance that their investments will not be arbitrarily expropriated in case of a dispute with the host country. Equally significant from an investment perspective is the existence of a regulatory environment characterized by transparency, predictability and a clear enforcement capacity. However, economic institutions are not only important because they safeguard stability: they also have an important impact on economic growth, which is a precondition for emerging market economies that wish to transition to higher levels of development and welfare. They do so by shaping the incentives of key economic actors and influencing investment decisions in various forms of capital (physical and/or human) and technology. The same is true with regard to resource distribution. Different institutions will therefore be associated with different degrees of efficiency and potential for economic growth, and with different gain distributions across different social groups. Politics, in other words, is never too far off in any analysis of the role economic institutions play in influencing the aggregate effects on development. Economic institutions are collective societal choices, and because of their influence on the distribution of economic gains, not all individuals and groups prefer the same set of economic institutions. This leads to conflicts of interest among various groups and individuals over the choice of economic institutions. Protection of property rights seem to be strongly correlated with economic growth, while the growth rate of real GDP per capita seems to improve as governments adhere more closely to the rule of law.
Political institutions determine the constraints on, and the incentives of, key actors. Pluralism, citizen participation in politics, representative government and minimal corruption are not necessarily ends in and of themselves; their actual value lies in the fact that they facilitate an environment conducive to innovation, which is in turn necessary to sustain economic growth over the medium to long term. The argument has been advanced that economic growth is not sustainable without inclusive political institutions which enable some form of democratic pluralism.
A correlation has now been established between development outcomes, on the one hand, and effective governance, broadly defined, or certain components of governance, on the other. Moreover, there is a strong causal link between good governance and higher income levels. It is also important to stress in this regard that good institutions are a better predictor of growth evolution than either trade or geography. The interplay between corruption and the quality of bureaucracy and the rule of law in enhancing growth has also been widely discussed. Some argue that corruption may ’grease the wheels’ of bureaucracy and positively affect the economy, whereas others have stated the opposite with regard to its deleterious effects, particularly as it applies to autocratic regimes.
Economic Institutions in Turkey
Property rights in Turkey are, overall, secure and well entrenched in state practice. According to the International Property Rights Index (IPRI), a measure created by the Property Rights Alliance (PRA), Turkey’s score of 5.40 (0–10 scale) places it 66th among 129 states. Its 2020 rating is closer to upper middle-income countries (5.21 average) than to high income states (7.08 average). This discrepancy is due to Turkey’s score of 3.76 on the sub-indicator ‘Legal and Political Environment’ (see Figure 1), which is much lower than its economic indices for physical property (6.80, in Figure 2) and intellectual property (5.64, Figure 3). This is a function of governance developments discussed below.
Figure 1: Legal and Political Environment Index for Turkey, 2007–2020
Source: International Property Rights Index 2020
Figure 2: Turkey Physical Property Rights Index 2007–2020
Source: International Property Rights Index 2020
Figure 3: Turkey Intellectual Property Rights Index 2007–2020
Source: International Property Rights Index 2020
Corruption is reflected, together with predictable enforcement, in the ‘impartiality of administration’ score on the IDEA Global State of Democracy Index. This index, which is fairly authoritative in its accuracy and coverage, demonstrates that Turkey’s score began to diverge from both Southern Europe and North-west Europe after 2015, subsequently falling below both Eastern Europe and post-Soviet Europe. While this decline is due both to corruption and to Turkey’s decreasing score on predictable enforcement, the latter has had a significant impact. Interestingly, Turkey’s performance on this indicator began to decline after 2005, as negotiations for EU membership were beginning, and had reached 0.37 by 2015. Turkey’s reference point then became the post-Soviet region (which has a regional average of 0.36), with its decline continuing apace after 2015 and reaching 0.23 by 2018.
The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI, created by Transparency International) identifies the judicial system and public procurement law as important dimensions of corruption perceptions. This set of data is necessarily more subjective, as it relies on qualitative interviews. Evidence shows that “the decision made by public prosecutors’ offices not to prosecute Crimes Against the Reliability and Functioning of Public Administration increased from 44% in 2009 to 54% in 2018”. In a similar vein, the decision not to prosecute Economy, Industry and Trade Related Crimes increased from 29% to 47% over the same period. In the case of the Crimes Against Public Trust, the non-prosecution rate increased from 23% to 45%. In terms of public procurement, the Public Procurement Law has moved away over time from the intended principles of transparency and accountability. The proportion of public procurement achieved by means of auditing and fair competition has declined rapidly as a result of the expanded scope of exceptions, which have actually become the norm over time. The open tender rate, which was 75% in 2004, had fallen to 63% by the first 6 months of 2019. The total proportion of tenders conducted within the scope of negotiated tendering and exceptions increased from 10% to 32% between 2004 and 2019.
The data on Turkey points to a noticeable deterioration in the country’s performance over the second decade of the 21st century in, essentially, every dimension: access to state business opportunities executive embezzlement and theft, executive bribery and corrupt exchanges, public sector corrupt exchanges, and public sector theft. Issues surrounding these phenomena have become notorious in Turkey in recent years.
The V-Dem index shows stable scores on ‘Corruption and embezzlement’. The data on Turkey points to a noticeable deterioration in the country’s performance over the second decade of the 21st century in, essentially, every dimension: access to state business opportunities, executive embezzlement and theft, executive bribery and corrupt exchanges, public sector corrupt exchanges, and public sector theft. Issues surrounding these phenomena have become notorious in Turkey in recent years. The picture is similar when we break down the WGI’s ‘control of corruption’ index. This index reflects perceptions of the extent to which public power is exercised for private gain, as well as state capture by private interests and elites (Figure 4). When compared to other members of the OECD, Turkey’s performance has been sub-standard for some time, but recent years have seen a growing gap emerge as the country’s indicators have declined (Figure 5).
Figure 4: Corruption and Embezzlement
Source: V-Dem Index Turkey
Figure 5: Control of Corruption
Source: Worldwide Governance Indicators
Allegations of corruption are frequent in Turkey’s political discourse, while accusations pertaining to corruption, not least regarding the awarding of contracts in large public sector infrastructure projects, have become more frequent in recent years.
When we look at the corruption perceptions index from the standpoint of overall comparative performance, Turkey ranked 96th out of 180 states in 2021 with a score of 38 out of 100. The country’s score in 2012 was 48/100, suggesting a declining performance with regard to this metric, as well. In more detail, corruption perception has deteriorated since 2013, when Turkey was placed fifth across Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Today, Turkey is one of the three countries which have experienced the largest decline in their rankings. Allegations of corruption are frequent in Turkey’s political discourse, while accusations pertaining to corruption, not least regarding the awarding of contracts in large public sector infrastructure projects, have become more frequent in recent years. The absence of a robust framework for investigating allegations of this kind has contributed to the country’s deteriorating performance.
Figure 6: Corruption Perception Index 2020, Transparency International
Source: Transparency International 2021
Figure 7: Corruption Perception Index, Turkey 2012–2019
Source: Transparency International
Data and Digital Development
What is the significance of data for the purposes of enhancing sustainable development? Government data is crucial with regard to enabling transparency and accountability, and these can in turn prevent fraud and waste, potentially at least. Despite the various methods they employ and the estimates they provide, every study agrees that open data can become a source of growth and development for the economy, for society, and for governmental effectiveness, spurring growth and hence better development outcomes.
In this context, Turkey has made some progress through its adoption of the G20 Anti-Corruption Data Principles in 2014. On the other hand, the country has not adopted the Open Data Charter, which calls for data to be: 1) open by default, 2) timely and comprehensive, 3) accessible and usable, 4) comparable and interoperable, 5) used to improve governance and citizen engagement, and 6) used for inclusive development and innovation. Its score of 31/100 places Turkey fifth from bottom on the Open Data Barometer, in which regard it is described as a ‘struggler’. Backsliding has been reported for Turkey in cooperation between government and civil society organizations, confirming a trend noticeable with regard to other indicators, as well.
Table 1: Open Data Implementation
|Land Ownership data||65||50||65|
|Detailed census data||80||100||80|
|Detailed government budget||65||80||95|
|Detailed data on government spending||5||5||45|
|Public transport timetables||50||95||80|
|International trade data||65||45||80|
|Health sector performance||60||40||75|
|Primary or secondary education performance data||60||70||60|
|National environment statistics||60||80||90|
|National election results||65||65||65|
Source: Open Data Barometer
The United Nations (UN) has developed the e-Government Development Index (EGDI) with the aim of measuring and recording the extent to which government has moved into digital space and enabled better public services as a result. As a composite indicator, the EGDI is used to measure the readiness and capacity of national institutions to use information and communications technologies (ICTs) to deliver public services. It is a composite index based on the weighted average of three indices: one third is the result of the Online Service Index (OSI) based on data collected from an independent survey questionnaire, another third is derived from a Telecommunications Infrastructure Index (TII) based on data provided by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), and the final third comes out from the Human Capital Index (HCI) based on data provided by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The survey assesses several features relating to online service delivery, including whole-of-government approaches, open government data, usage uptake, e-participation, multi-channel service delivery, the digital divide, and innovative partnerships using ICTs. Turkey’s overall score places it in 53rd position. Significantly, Turkey’s record places it relatively low compared with countries which have a similar economic profile (see Table 1).
The Open Budget Index (OBI) results from the Open Budget Survey, which was conducted as part of a global advocacy program to encourage transparency and public access to public budgeting processes. Turkey was able to make important progress in this policy area in the past through budget law reforms. The OBI uses three indicators to classify states: 1) transparency in the budget process, 2) public participation, and 3) public oversight by legislatures and audit institutions. States are divided between those that are sufficiently or insufficiently transparent, with 61 serving as the cutoff point on a 0–100 scale. In 2019, the global average transparency score was 45/100. In 2019, Turkey scored as follows: Transparency 51/100, Public Participation 0/100, and Public Oversight 56/100. One of the country’s major deficiencies in this respect is the absence of an independent fiscal institution that would strengthen the budgetary process, especially in a context dominated by an all-encompassing presidential system of government. On Transparency, Turkey’s score of 51/100 ranked it 46th out of the 117 states analyzed. This was almost identical to its score in 2012 (50/100), but moderately lower than its score in 2017 (58/100). Its lowest sub-indicator score of 29/100 was on the audit report by the country’s supreme audit institution (Turkish Court of Accounts) as this was assessed in the 2017 fiscal year, whereas its highest was the In-Year Report (89/100) on the publication and regular updating (monthly and/or quarterly) of collected revenues and incurred debts. Until relatively recently, the Court of Accounts was a strong institution in Turkey’s governance system, but this is no longer the case. With regard to Public Participation, Turkey’s 0/100 makes it an outlier among OECD states (average 23/100) and, indeed, beyond. The public has no opportunity to participate in the budgeting process during any of the formulation, approval, implementation and auditing stages.
Gender inequality in education and employment
Gender inequality in education and employment reduces growth and harms development. In education, inequality between men and women reduces human capital and harms economic performance. From an efficiency perspective, the argument is rather straightforward: given declining marginal returns on education, educating girls has a higher marginal return than educating boys, and therefore boosts overall economic performance. A second argument relates to the positive externalities of female education associated with a reduction in fertility levels and a reduction in child mortality levels. Cumulatively and individually, these have an important impact on economic growth.
The risk of women falling into the ‘not in employment education or training’ (NEETs) category is three times higher than it is for men; at 42 percent, Turkey’s percentage of women NEETs is the highest in the OECD.
There is a strong gender imbalance built into the current education system in Turkey, and this is borne out by the available data. The risk of women falling into the ‘not in employment education or training’ (NEETs) category is three times higher than it is for men; at 42 percent, Turkey’s percentage of women NEETs is the highest in the OECD. Turkey’s Motherhood Pay Gap stands at 29.6 percent. This reflects cultural norms relating to the role of women and their unpaid labor in family and care settings. In all, 30 percent of women have completed upper secondary education, compared with 43 percent of men. Female inactivity has been calculated to ‘cost’ Turkey 3.4 percent of its GDP annually. Education expenditure per student is the second lowest in the OECD, at USD PPP 3,500 pa. This is one third the average OECD spending on education. Turkey scores below OECD averages on PISA testing, as well.
Figure 8: Relative Poverty Rates by Gender
Among OECD states, Turkey is the country with the biggest gender employment gap—a statistic that relates directly to gender equality as well as to development potential. As of 2019, in the pre-pandemic era, the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) was reporting a 71.8 percent employment rate for men and a mere 34.5 percent for women; this is particularly noteworthy, considering that a number of Turkish women excel internationally on various fronts. Some progress has been made in recent years, however, given that only 27 percent of females were employed in 2005. Substantially reducing the gap between male and female employment levels is a precondition for achieving the goals Turkey set out in its latest Development Plan.
Figure 9: Turkey Unemployment and Employment Rate by Age Group, 2014–2020
Source: Turkish Statistical Institute
Political Institutions in Turkey
The Rule of Law and Public Administration
Moving on to explicitly political institutions, the picture painted above hardly changes. In fact, Turkey’s score on this set of indicators has fallen more, and faster, compared to its record on economic scores.
Moving on to explicitly political institutions, the picture painted above hardly changes. In fact, Turkey’s score on this set of indicators has fallen more, and faster, compared to its record on economic scores. To start with, the breakdown of the V-Dem Index demonstrates a declining trend in Turkey’s score on the rule of law index, mirroring a trend observed with regard to other indicators in this paper. This includes several judicial indicators plus the impartiality and effectiveness of public administration (see Figure below). There has, however, been a slight recovery in some rule of law indices in recent years: namely, compliance with lower judicial organs and lower court independence. This points to an attempt by state authorities to restore the functioning of lower courts following the 2016 coup attempt and the huge disruption that accompanied it. On the other hand, the sharp decline in data on ‘Rigorous and impartial public administration’ is noteworthy: governance in Turkey is simply not administered as it used to be.
Following a period of instability and sharp decline, Turkey’s rule of law score is now stabilizing far below the level achieved a few decades ago (Figure 11). The sharp deterioration in Turkey’s performance is linked to the declining independence of the judiciary, as a result of political pressure and interference. The overhaul of the judicial system through successive legislative acts, plus the adoption of a new Constitution in 2017, has restructured basic tenets of the judicial system and led to a decline in the system’s overall efficiency. This, in turn, has led to reduced transparency and lower levels of independence for both the country’s lower and high courts.
Figure 10: V-Dem Index Turkey, Rule of Law
Figure 11: WGI Rule of Law Score
Source: Worldwide Governance Indicators
Good Governance Practices
Some of the available indicators attempt to measure country performance over time. This allows us to speculate on the proxy reasons for improvement or decline. The Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI) classifies countries along three main indices: 1) Democracy, 2) Economy, and 3) Governance. In the figure below, I juxtapose Turkey’s performance in the year the pandemic erupted (so as not to account for post-pandemic effects on economic and political indicators) with that of the rest of the OECD world. Each of the three indices includes sub-indicators, and each country’s ranking is the result of aggregate scores, spanning a spectrum from 0 (lowest) to 10 (highest).
The 2020 ranking includes a total of 137 countries. Turkey performed worst on the Governance index, with a score of 4.72/10 in 2018. Importantly, the country’s score was low principally due to its performance on key sub-indicators such as consensus-building (3/10), ’cleavage/conflict management’ (2/10), civil society participation (2/10), and reconciliation (3/10). Heightened polarization and deep cleavages in the country’s social life play a very important role in accounting for these results. Conversely, Turkey scores highest in Governance with reference to the question on ‘International Cooperation’ (5.7/10), as it has demonstrated an increased willingness to devote more of its gross income to foreign aid.
Figure 12: Bertelsmann Transformation Index 2020, Turkey Scores and Comparison
Source: Bertelsmann Transformation Index 2020
Democratic values correlate with peace as well as the ability to promote sustainable development. Democracies tend to enjoy higher incomes, and democratic institutions appear to be necessary for the maintenance of economic growth over time. The reverse, however, ought not always to be true, since high incomes do little to promote the formation and consolidation of democratic regimes, while democracy does not in and of itself lead to higher incomess.
Turkey is currently classified on the Democracy Index (2020) of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) as a ‘hybrid regime’, defined […] as those regimes which combine authoritarian with democratic features.
Turkey is currently classified on the Democracy Index (2020) of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) as a ‘hybrid regime’, defined by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) as those regimes which combine authoritarian with democratic features, i.e., the ballot box with a rather uneven competition for power and/or major deficiencies in basic political rights and civil liberties.
There can be little doubt today that Turkey is one of a growing number of states scattered around the world which fall into this category. The hybrid nature of Turkey’s democracy is reflected in an overall score of 4.48/10 and its rank of 104/167 in the EU Democracy Index for 2020. In recent years, Turkey has held largely free elections, but their fairness has been hotly disputed both domestically and abroad, while the decision to repeat the Istanbul municipal election was lambasted. In Turkey, airtime for governing candidates is disproportionately higher on both state and private media outlets, while opposition candidates have occasionally been threatened or coerced. The lifting of parliamentary immunity for members of Parliament has deepened worries concerning the extent to which the electoral playing field remains level, not least among the members of the Council of Europe.
Figure 13: EIU Democracy Index, Turkey and Western Europe, 2020
Source: Economist Intelligence Unit 2020
The quality of Turkish democracy regarding fundamental rights and freedoms and citizen engagement in governance is now back to, or lower than, the levels in the mid-1980s.
The relationship between democracy, growth and poverty reduction is complex, and no easy solutions exist for countries like Turkey—or, indeed, any other. One of the most important governance challenges in this respect is identifying which aspects of democracy really matter in facilitating the sustainable growth required if a qualitative leap forward is to be achieved. Democracy dimensions assessed through the V-Dem index show that Turkey’s democratic performance improved between the mid-1980s and mid-2000s on all five categories (deliberative, egalitarian, liberal, electoral and participatory; see below for more details). Since then, however, decline has been consistent across all categories and most pronounced in recent years in the deliberative and participatory democracy categories. Turkey’s electoral democracy continues to perform best, though it, too, is in decline. Longitudinal data confirms these findings. The quality of Turkish democracy regarding fundamental rights and freedoms and citizen engagement in governance is now back to, or lower than, the levels in the mid-1980s, marking a major step backward for a state that had begun negotiating its accession to the European Union. Turkey’s backsliding is notable and unambiguous, inviting a set of bigger questions as to what sort of mechanisms and dynamics could potentially reverse the trend of the last decade.
Figure 14: V-Dem Index, Turkey 1986–2020
Source: V-Dem index
Figure 15: Liberal Democracy Index
Source: V-dem index
Although there are no institutional silver bullets, and country context matters greatly, economic institutions are critical in shaping the incentive structure of key actors and in introducing predictability into decision-making. In addition, political instability and weak state institutions are negatively correlated with investment and growth. Moreover, extensive civil rights and freedoms plus an active civil society tend to correlate with lower levels of economic inequality and higher levels of economic prosperity, while high corruption levels siphon resources away from those that need them the most and exacerbate mistrust of the state and its capacity to deliver essential services.
Turkey’s reform drive in the first decade of the 2000s delivered important results. Increased employment and incomes enlarged the middle class, turning Turkey into a high middle-income country by the end of the first decade of the 21st century. Over the last two decades, Turkey’s population has enjoyed higher levels of prosperity, which has translated into higher life expectancy and been accompanied by improved access to, and delivery of, essential services such as primary education enrollment and universal healthcare coverage. The average life expectancy of 71 years in 2002 has increased to 77.9 years in 2020. In 2020, during the COVID-19 epidemic, the Turkish economy grew by about 0.5 percent but, fueled by a surge in domestic demand, registered growth in 2021 was an impressive 11%.
Institutions matter, and that in Turkey’s case they have stopped functioning as intended over the last decade. The result has been detrimental to the country’s goal of raising living standards, enhancing prosperity and demonstrating solid governance credentials.
Nevertheless, the goals of the 11th Development Plan which Turkey announced in 2019, and which sought to make Turkey one of the world’s ten largest economies in a short space of time, are nowhere near being met. The pandemic and the global crisis that has followed the war in Ukraine have undoubtedly been a factor, but they are an aside to the larger story discussed in this paper—indeed, statistics relating to the post-2020 period have largely been omitted here. Instead, my main argument is that institutions matter, and that in Turkey’s case they have stopped functioning as intended over the last decade. The result has been detrimental to the country’s goal of raising living standards, enhancing prosperity and demonstrating solid governance credentials.
A notable decline in the capacity of economic and political institutions to function impartially and efficiently has been noted over the last decade. This deterioration has resulted in a decline in Turkey’s score on a series of relevant indicators, a process which has accelerated since 2014. Similarly, corruption—and accountability—perception indices point to a worsening picture over the last few years. Civil society is largely absent from policy design and implementation, although election turnout rates remain very high and suggest that the population continues to trust in the democratic process. In addition, recent changes have undermined trust in the judiciary in terms of how it is perceived by the public, its efficiency at administering justice, and its image as an impartial institution.
2023 will see Turkey celebrating the centenary of its nationhood in a political and economic environment characterized by unprecedented challenges coupled with few concrete policy plans for addressing them. The country’s past record suggests that it is possible, though it would be far from easy, to reverse the declining trend in institutional performance demonstrated in this paper.
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World Bank (2021). Global Economic Prospects, Washington, DC: World Bank.
“V-Dem Codebook v9”. Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Project. https://www.v-dem.net/en/data/data/v-dem-dataset-v111/ Gothenburg: Department of Political Science.
 A 2008 initiative by open data advocates, the Barometer assesses the extent to which governments make data accessible and transparent to everyone. It assesses 30 countries, either G20 members and/or those who have adopted the Open Data Charter. It aims to make open data a governance tool (Web Foundation (2018). Open Data Barometer – Leaders Edition. Washington DC: World Wide Web Foundation).
 The Motherhood Pay Gap measures the pay gap between mothers and non-mothers aged 25-50.
 A multidimensional and disaggregated dataset measuring democracy and covering developments in 202 countries and territories. V-Dem works with thousands of experts to collect and analyze data results with a view to investigating the qualitative aspects of democracy beyond the ballot box. Democracy is assessed along 5 analytical categories: a) deliberative b) egalitarian c) liberal d) electoral and e) participatory. Accessed via: https://www.v-dem.net/en/
 Structural comparators include: Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Panama, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Panama and Uruguay.
 The EIU Democracy Index assesses democratic standards among 167 states. It classifies them based on 5 standards: a) electoral process and pluralism, b) functioning of government, c) political participation, d) political culture, and e) civil liberties (The Economist 2020).