Corruption: The Turkish Challenge

By Baran, Zeyno | Journal of International Affairs, Fall 2000 | Go to article overview

Corruption: The Turkish Challenge


Baran, Zeyno, Journal of International Affairs


"When countries such as Turkey with weak law enforcement and lack of transparency undertake massive economic reforms that involve lucrative privatization deals, corruption may eat away at the system."

A Stanford political science professor starts her first lecture with this question: What is most important for developing countries--stability, participation, economic growth, equity or justice? Those who raise their hands for stability are exclusively from developing countries, while those who value participation and equity tend to be mainly from the United States or Europe. Being born in Turkey, I had also once raised my hand for stability

Throughout the Cold War, stability was indeed the most important consideration for the countries of the Western bloc. Human rights violations, military coups and massive corruption were not preeminent subjects for international consideration and action. During the past decade, however, as the world became more interdependent, a consensus gradually emerged that stability, without an institutionalized democratic system and the requisite checks and balances, is simply not enough. Consequently, corruption began to be viewed as the root of many political, economic and social problems.

In the old bipolar world, a crude division of "us" and "them" meant that membership in one bloc was sufficient. As long as rulers were able to deliver on their alliance obligations, they were free to do whatever they wanted domestically. However, globalization--based on free markets and the unrestricted flow of capital--requires rule of law and basic regulated markets that safeguard private property, enterprise and capital. The global market has no place for closed economies that hide behind walls of regulations and tariffs, privileged and politically connected elites or domestic cartels and entangled bureaucracies that have no interest in giving up traditional and lucrative access to wealth. In the past, to combat corruption, the World Bank and the IMF would prescribe macro and microeconomic policies to governments and the United Nations would develop other policy recommendations. Nevertheless, many countries, even some experiencing spectacular economic performance, became failed states due to their inability to tackle corruption. More recently; partly because of the work of Transparency International and the focus on corruption by other NGOs, both the World Bank and the IMF have begun to recognize that creating efficient practices that diminish corruption is integral to sustainable development. Similarly, increased application of the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the anti-corruption program under the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, has ensured greater attention to this cancerous issue.

This paper will focus on two aspects of corruption in Turkey First will be the corruption emanating from Cold War-era state structures. Residual and obsolete Cold War forces, whose related clandestine activities were once valued, have since become a part of the commercial underworld. A second, more widespread form of corruption relates to the abuse of broad, discretionary powers by public officials, with little accountability This involves an unhealthy recipe where commercial interests, resulting in biased government tenders and privatization processes, drive media, business and politics. When countries, such as Turkey, with weak law enforcement and lack of transparency undertake massive economic reforms that involve lucrative privatization deals, corruption may eat away at the system.

TURKEY'S CHALLENGE

Located to the south of the former Soviet Union, and at the crossroad of Europe and Asia, Turkey enjoyed a role as a key NATO ally throughout the Cold War. As a secular Muslim and democratic polity in the Middle East, Turkey has been touted as the model for the rest of the Islamic world. A few years ago, the United States identified Turkey as one of the top emerging markets, attributable to its economic growth potential, get-political location and its large and dynamic population of 63 million people--of which currently half are below the age of 30. …

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