Turkey is unlike stock exchanges. Results of the past are no guarantee for the future, as any broker will always warn you. This seems not to apply to Turkey, a country that has been through many difficult periods, situated in a region with endless conflicts. Standing in the shoes of Turkey one has to acknowledge that it faces more than its fair share of challenges. It is easy to be very negative about Turkey’s prospects, but why is it that some observers are not? Including myself?
Is the Netherlands a good country for business? Is my country in good shape to attract foreign investors? To interest start-ups and high-tech investments to move to the Netherlands? To interest talented students to study here? When I look at the World Economic Forum’s International Competitiveness Index (NL went from #8 to #4 over the last two years), The World Bank’s Ease to do Business (NL #28), the Global Innovation Index (#9), The World Justice Project with its Rule of Law Index (#5), the Start-up Index (with Amsterdam on #19), Corruption Perception Index (#5) then the answer is of course a whole-heartedly ‘yes’.
Universities are quick to point the relative use of indices out when they are not included in the top-200 of ‘best universities worldwide’ (fortunately all 13 Dutch academic universities are on that list). The Corruption Perception Index is another example of a ranking which results are often disputed. The lower a country is ranked, the more (apologetic) explanations are given: ”it is perception only, which is impossible to measure; in our country we talk about this topic a lot, creating the perception that we are corrupt – which we are not of course”.
Personally however I am a strong ‘indices and rankings’-believer. Rankings might not constitute the absolute truth, but put together they give a pretty good picture of the actual situation in a country. If the Netherlands ranks no. 1 on the UNICEF list of children’s happiness and well-being, one can safely say that the situation for children in my country is rather ok.
When foreigners compare events in Turkey with the situation in their own countries, they tend to be (very) pessimistic. They see worrisome political developments, acts of terror, wars in neighbouring countries, millions of refugees, a declining tourism sector and a tense relation with the EU, its main trading partner. This all might be true, but it underestimates the unique strength of Turkey: its capacity to adapt, absorb, to be flexible and to quickly change course, never giving up.
“The failed 15th of July-coup has been my 5th coup and I am convinced that we will also survive this one” as was pointed out by one of my (older) guests during a recent business seminar. After the terror attack on its main international airport in Istanbul (killing 45), flights were resumed the next morning. I saw with my own eyes, taking an 8 o’clock flight to Ankara (half an hour delayed), how among the debris the regular work was quickly resumed. By some this rapid reopening was criticised, which is also understandable, but the fact remains that the immediate re-opening not only felt like the right answer to terror, but also indicated that Turkey is very resilient indeed. Another issue concerns the refugees. In five years, Turkey received approximately 3 million refugees, without deep tensions in Turkish society so far. In our Dutch context this would, by the way, have been the equivalent of 600.000 refugees arriving to The Netherlands over the same period.
For these reasons one index should be added, one that might better explain why some foreign observers have confidence in this country for the long-term, in spite of its occasional (deep) economic crisis and present political challenges. And on this new ‘Resilience and Capacity to Recover and Adapt Index’ Turkey for sure would rank #1. I have been to over 100 countries so far and no country continues to amaze me as Turkey does; no day without a major event that would shock other countries to the core. Shocks that Turkey absorbs faster than others as in Turkey results of the past seem to be good indicators of the future