That corruption is an Ottoman legacy is a fallacy, panel notes

“People say that it is Turkish culture that allows corruption. The Ottomans used to give gifts to officials in return for facilitating public transactions. This is looking at the past through today’s glasses [norms]. Back then, the French also used to do the same,” said Bogazici University’s Sevket Pamuk, a well-known professor of economic history.

In addition, the scale of bribery was much smaller in the Ottoman Empire than today because the size of state bodies and the tax revenue system where corrupt relations are a common occurrence are much more sophisticated in the modern Turkish Republic compared to Ottoman times, Pamuk maintained.

“Corruption has become prevalent in the past 100 years,” Pamuk noted, defying the public perception that it is Turkish culture that facilitates corruption.

TI-Turkey’s event coincided with International Anti-Corruption Day, which has been celebrated since its designation by the UN in late 2005.

The conference was also attended by Gonenc Gurkaynak, an international lawyer and academic at Ankara’s Bilkent University, who opined that Turkey has well-established laws to avert corruption but that the country lacks an appetite to walk the talk, a problem that can only be solved by moral education for all age groups.

“Turkish regulations and the international treaties Turkey has its signatures on are enough to clamp down on corruption in all spheres of the public, but a desire to maintain a fight against it is missing,” Gurkaynak added. Later in his speech, Gurkaynak stated that moral education at universities as well as within companies is a must in the fight.

A year after sweeping corruption and bribery investigations were made public in December 2013, Turkey was listed as the biggest loser in TI’s 2014 corruption index as its score dropped five points from 50 to 45, dragging the country from 53rd spot to 64th out of 175 nations. However, several polls carried out in the recent past have highlighted the notorious public perception that “they [the government] steal but also work,” a reference to the ubiquitous construction projects across Turkey.

Ordinary citizens are often not aware of what corruption steals from their pockets, Gurkaynak said, adding that education could help them learn about this.