ABDuLKADIR – Systematic corruption in Turkey

Systematic corruption in TurkeyTwo weeks ago the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV), a leading think tank in Turkey, released its Corruption Assessment Report for Turkey.Over the last several months, Transparency International, PEW and the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmenand#39s Association (TuSIAD) — the association of the leading businessman of Turkey — have documented worrisome developments regarding corruption in Turkey.

Though the groups emphasize different aspects of corruption, all of the studies articulate a general process of deterioration in this regard in recent years. I will briefly summarize their findings.

Since corruption is a very difficult phenomenon to observe and even more difficult to measure, most studies focus on the perception of corruption rather than the corruption itself. Naturally, perception and the reality on the ground can diverge from each other significantly.

However, one can argue that, in the case of corruption, perception can be even more important than the reality itself because the main cost of corruption is that it leads to a deviation in the behavior of economic agents, consumers, producers, bureaucrats and politicians away from the necessities of economic life.Normally, in a well-functioning society, the combination of free markets and governance mechanisms can maximize social welfare in static and dynamic senses.

In other words, the scarce resources of the country are allocated to areas where they will be the most productive for the society. Moreover, with the appropriate incentive mechanisms, economic actors find ways to improve the productivity of all these resources with innovation.

However, the perception of corruption disrupts that coherence. Economic actors will try to satisfy the demands of decision-makers, bureaucrats or politicians rather than pursue the efficiency and innovativeness required by economic logic.

Similarly, bureaucrats and politicians will try to satisfy the demands of the highest bidders for their services. Thus the andldquoperception of corruptionandrdquo can have a very significant impact on the welfare of society, both in the short run and in the long run.

According to Transparency Internationaland#39s Corruption Perception Index (CPI), in 2014 Turkey ranked 64th among 177 countries with respect to perceived corruption. This is not a glowing recommendation for a country aspiring to be among the leading countries in the world.

However, I should note that Turkey has not ranked well since the indexand#39s inception.There was some improvement in Turkeyand#39s status on this index in the 2000s.

However, in 2014 there was a sudden drop in the ranking of Turkey. In fact, Turkey has experienced the biggest rise in perceived corruption among the countries ranked in the CPI.

That rise can be safely attributed to the Dec. 17 and 25 [2013] corruption investigations, which implicated high-ranking officials in the government.

In fact, according to PEWand#39s Global Attitudes Project 2014 survey, 62 percent of Turkish citizens say the corruption of political leaders is andldquoa very big problemandrdquo for Turkey. In 2007, the same ratio was 37 percent.

With that, Turkey registered one of the highest increases in concern about corruption.TESEVand#39s report mainly focuses on corruption among low-ranking public officials.

According to the survey results, 9 percent of the respondents reported that they had given either bribes or gifts to public officials in the previous year The report states that 44 percent of the population feels corruption is andldquothe most immediate problem to be tackled.andrdquo The corresponding numbers were 14 percent and 3 percent in the 2000 and 2008 studies.

One interesting question in the study asked about anticorruption activities.Approximately half of the population thinks that anticorruption activities can be diminished if any of the following becomes eminent: the rise of a religious-oriented government, a coup to the government, an opposition takeover of the government and a decrease in Turkeyand#39s geopolitical powerAll of these studies show a trend of deterioration in Turkey.

Corruption has become a bigger problem in recent years. However, the one finding I found most worrisome is from TuSIADand#39s study.

It indicates that in recent years corruption has become systematic and internalized by the business world and society. The report doesnand#39t spell it out explicitly, but it seems to imply that gains made through corruption are being used for the benefit of the incumbent political party.

Corruption is a problem for every society in the world, including the most aanced democracies, because corruptibility is a human trait. There are always many corrupt individuals and there always will be.

Normally, checks and balances in a governance system mitigate the negative impact of these corrupt individuals. However, if the system is corrupted, then the problem is bigger Societies with corrupt systems waste their resources.

Moreover, like all systems, corrupt systems have some self-protection measures. If indeed Turkeyand#39s corruption is becoming systematic, returning to a democratic and well-functioning system of governance might become a pipe dream for a very long time.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman