Public Integrity Index: 6.52

Turkey has fast turned from an achiever into a backslider in the last ten years, despite an administration which had made progress on reducing red tape and transparency. The regress is due to the lack of autonomy of the judiciary and the repression of the free press. Both have come first under fire due to top corruption investigations. Turkey is a captured state by a party and its group of businessmen, but being a large and diverse country, with numerous e-citizens and some tradition of autonomy from politics of both administration and army more struggle for return to pluralism and better governance lies ahead.

See Turkey on Index of Public Integrity

Selected trends from the Public Integrity Index

Trends in Judicial Independence, Administrative Burden, Freedom of the Press over the past 13 years

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2 responses to “Turkey”

  1. Current diagnosis – Is corruption an exception of rather the norm?
    The Republic of Turkey is an upper middle income country , member of the OECD and EU accession candidate . Due to that, there is plenty of data and international scrutiny placed on various levels of governance in Turkey. Expert perception of corruption, as measured by the Control of Corruption Index (CCI) by the World Bank, gives Turkey a value of -0.29 on a range from 2.5 (not corrupt) to -2.5 (very corrupt), placing it into the bottom 50% of the 204 countries covered. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) also places Turkey on the lower half of 198 scored and ranked countries, namely on rank 91 with a score of 39 out of 100. In the latest Global Corruption Barometer by Transparency International from 2016 people in the countries were asked about their experiences with corruption rather than assumptions, as is often the case with the other indices. In Turkey, 18% of households reported to have paid a bribe when accessing basic services in 2016. The respondents evaluate the government’s anti-corruption as mediocre and perceive members of parliament as very corrupt. Those indices and reports do not measure corruption itself though but only opinions about it. Especially with expert accounts, there is the possibility that these accounts reflect preconceived notions, for instance, from theories about the causes of corruption that they know of or mere prejudices. Accounts like the Global Corruption Barometer are closer to giving an account about actual incidence of corruption in some realms as the researchers directly asked people from those countries about their personal experience, instead of merely focusing on perception questions. However, concerns over selective recollection or self-censorship remain and might skew results.
    Perception and subjective accounts already indicate that Turkey might have a corruption problem. Objective indicators confirm this notion. The Index for Public Integrity (IPI), which focuses on measuring opportunities (or resources) and constraints of corruption (see Figure 1) , gives Turkey a score of 6.53 and ranks it on spot 59 of 117 in 2019.

    Figure 1: Index of Public Integrity by Category and Indicators, in Mungiu-Pippidi and Dadašov, 2016
    Looking into the composition of the score, Turkey is most profoundly lacking in press freedom and judicial independence. Interestingly, this is also a conclusion that the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report (GCR), albeit not an objective indicator, alludes to. Turkey holds a stable 61st spot in this report. Despite belonging to one of the biggest markets in the world (13th) and advancing in ICT adoption and infrastructure (especially air connectivity) a combination of high inflation, security threats such as terrorism as well as deteriorating freedom of press and checks of balances inhibit Turkeys’ competitiveness. This mirrors conclusions from the IPI component scores. Turkey’s low performance is based on its poor constraints on corruption, despite scoring relatively high on the resources side.

    Figure 2: IPI score and rank of Turkey and its components
    In fact, the freedom and independence of the press took a dire hit in Turkey in the last decade (see more on the trend below). Journalists covering government-critical protests face intimidation and threats by authorities and government supporters. The majority of mainstream media is owned by either allies or relatives of President Erdoğan. In the Reporters Without Borders ranking, Turkey ranks 154 out of 180, below countries like Russia and Belarus. Under such conditions, it is hard for the remaining independent bodies in Turkish society to safely and openly fulfill their oversight function, leaving no one behind to hold the AKP government accountable.
    This context provides the stage for developments in public procurement. Traditionally, the Turkish economy has been dominated by family conglomerates operating in a variety of sectors, constituting elites close to Kemalist circles that became rich around the founding years of the Turkish Republic in the 1920s. Their offspring is still well represented among the ranking of Turkey’s richest people (i.e. the Sahenks are the heirs to the Dogus Holding). Those traditional elites are, however, closer to old Kemalist elites and the biggest oppositional party, the CHP. The AKP elite around Erdogan is culturally rooted in a new socially conservative, economically neoliberal middle-class that developed in the 1980s and 90s following economic liberalization. Conscious of his limited backing in Turkey’s traditional, economic elites, Erdogan tweaked procurement law to use it as a tool to reward and strengthen new, AKP-loyal business circles, mainly in the construction and infrastructure. Those sectors also belong to the ten rent-seeking sectors identified by the Economists’ crony-capitalism index. More than half of Turkish billionaires’ wealth (3.4 of 6.2) comes from crony sectors. Erdogan has considerable extra-budgetary, public funds under his disposal that he can allocate without oversight or accountability. No-bid government contracts and bid-rigging as well as exhaustive amends to procurement law allowed him to funnel large, prestigious infrastructural contracts to allied businessmen. For example, the new construction contract for the new Istanbul airport, which was in excess of 29 billion dollars, was won by a five-company consortium belonging to the close circle of the AKP leadership.
    The politicization of big governmental procurement projects as well as the poor state of constraint factors such as judicial independence and freedom of the press are congruent with what perception indicators already posited: Despite relative trade openness, corruption is the norm and can be enacted quite publicly due to the inability of independent actors to hold the respective political leaders accountable.
    Trend diagnosis – What is the trend over the last ten years (2009-2019)?
    From 2012 onwards, Turkey’s value in the CCI fell, most dramatically from 2013 to 2014 and again steeply from 2017 to 2018. A similar downward trend is depicted in the data from the CPI, which is only covering the years from 2012 onwards. Overall, it is hard to derive any substantive meaning from the change of a few scores from year to year (even lesser so with the merely comparative values of percentile ranks and ranking spots). Both, the CPI and the CCI changed their sources and methodology slightly over the years which accounts for small changes in scores and rankings. However, the authors of the CPI Report 2019 attest Turkey a significant decrease (-10 points) from 2012 to 2019, pointing out the severe crackdown on civil society as a cause. Taking also into account how the GCP points out the state of checks and balances and freedom of the press , expert perceptions paint a coherently grim picture of corruption constraining factors. In accordance with this, the IPI (see Figure 3) also documents a downward trend for judicial independence and freedom of the press.

    Figure 3: Trend of Judicial Independence, Freedom of the Press and Administrative Burden of Turkey by IPI
    In 2016, Turkey hold the tragic record of most jailed journalist in the world, following the crackdown on journalists and academics after the coup attempt in July 2016. Following the 2017 constitutional referendum, the AKP leadership introduced a presidential system, which weakened the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judiciary branches. This strengthened the executive and undermined the other branches’ independence. Under a co-opted judiciary, the space for civil society shrunk considerably, making it harder for them to fulfill their oversight functions. This means that corruption constraining factors have been becoming weaker in the last ten years.
    While the deterioration of constraining factors is a defining trend of Erdogans reign, crony capitalism is a more ambiguous field. While overall wealth increased from 2014 to 2016, slightly more of Turkish billionaire’s wealth comes from crony sectors than from non-crony sectors. However, Erdogan did not invent the Turkish blend of crony capitalism, he only introduced new actors benefitting from it and used public funds to build up a base of powerful supporters as well as enriching his own family. What is new however, is that the crackdown on constraining factors of corruption opened the floodgates for the rapid enrichment of new, AKP-loyalist elites and the Erdogan family.
    As the forecast on ERCAS shows, Turkey is a very pluralist society and this pluralism survived despite the recent crackdowns. It is in this pluralism, in which potential for future positive change lies. Turkey is “a captured state by a party and its group of businessmen”. The state of the freedom of the press and judicial independence deteriorated considerably in the last years and so did the ability to hold leadership accountable. This deterioration, however, has been the result of a very specific set of regulation put in place in the last years. It is also important to note that this downward phase follows a phase of remarkable improvement in the decade before. In 2015, Turkey scored 3.57 in IPI freedom of the press component score and plummeted to 2.57 in 2019. These rapid shifts show the irreversibility of any type of trend once the right political conditions are given.

  2. In Turkey, corruption is the norm – it is enabled through the systematic deterioration of constraining factors, namely judicial independence and freedom of the press. Additionally, Turkey always had an economy with strong crony capitalist tendencies, a tradition, that the current president Erdogan used and built upon with new procurement laws and practice, which enabled him to enrich himself, his family and a close circle of allied businessmen. All these developments, however, are the result of specific policies made in the last ten years. As the rapid achievements in the decade before and the dramatic backsliding in the last decade show, those developments are irreversible, especially, as Turkey can rely on a civil society that is immensely plural and remains vibrant despite the targeted efforts of the government.

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