Thursday, March 25, 2010

Contesting "Statism": More of a Thatcher Than a Khomeini?

AA Photo from Hurriyet Daily News

The BBC's Jonathan Head takes a look at Tekel workers and their continued efforts to resist receiving temporary working status and a reduction of their pay and benefits. (For background, see March 7 post.) From the story:
From its shiny new headquarters that towers over the squat, 1930s buildings of Ankara, the AK Party is projecting a very different vision of Turkey than the one envisioned by the country's founding father, Ataturk.

Often described as Islamist because of the conservative religious habits of its leaders, the party is actually driven at least as much by business as by faith.

Prime Minister Erdogan is more of a Margaret Thatcher than an Ayatollah Khomeini.

"The AKP is in favour of the market, against state enterprises - they have a prejudice that everything the market does is proper and just and successful", says Professor Burhan Sanatalar, an economist at Istanbul's Bilgi University.

"The revenue side is also very important to them", he says.

"From the 1980s to 2008 privatization generated around $36bn, and 70% of that has been received during the AKP's period in government."

The AKP's approach has helped generate impressive economic growth over the past decade, and spawned hundreds of successful new private businesses.

Tekel workers say they will no longer vote for the AKP
But in a country where the state has dominated so much of life since the founding of the Turkish republic 87 years ago, it has also come as a shock to many Turks.

Back in 1931 Ataturk announced his "Six Arrows" - the six principles that he believed should underpin the character of the nation.

One was "statism", a belief that the state should play a leading role in Turkey's economic development.

Even as late as the mid-1990s, more than half a million people were employed by state enterprises, about 20% of the industrial workforce.
See also my Feb. 9 post.

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