Observations of a Turkish student studying abroad

Published 04.12.2019 02:01

Studying in a foreign country gives you the chance to see your homeland with fresh eyes and assess the pros and cons from an outsider's perspective

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan mentioned the importance of good governance at the Second Istanbul International Ombudsmen Conference on Nov. 18. He also emphasized that the Turkish ombudsmen play a crucial role in listening to the voices of the people on all levels. This way, there will be checks and balances through state investigative channels and, in turn, this would increase the trust of the people in Turkish institutions. Erdoğan highlighted that the current administration pays close attention to Turkish citizens as individuals and their relations with the state. In this respect, I would like to share my recent experience in the health care sector as well as my thoughts on how to improve the system.

This is my third time visiting Turkey in seven years. After suffering from ill health for a couple of months in Malaysia, I decided to return to Turkey for better treatment and arrived on Sept. 18; however, my journey left a lot to be desired.

After landing at the new airport in Istanbul, I flew to İzmir; then from İzmir I traveled to Manisa by car to visit dermatologists at Manisa Hafsa Sultan Hospital. I met with five or six different doctors over 30 days. However, I was unable to consult with them for follow-up appointments even though each had prescribed me medication. As a result, I was unable to learn where my disease was heading. During the process, I emailed one of the doctors to schedule a follow-up appointment but received no reply. Let me reiterate, I had traveled all the way from Malaysia to Manisa, Turkey, to explain the symptoms I was experiencing in Turkish and was still left without answers.

I am detailing my experience with the aim of providing feedback that may lead to increased inspections and promote accountability to enhance the confidence of Turkish citizens in Turkish institutions. The purpose of this article is not to complain but instead to inspire everyone to speak out since this event at the hospital could have happened to someone else.

People suffering from any type of disease want to feel that they are in the hands of the right specialists. In fact, many travel from one city to another to see specialists for better treatment. For entertainment purposes, we often see TV programs featuring doctors who visit villages, or instances in which doctors invite patients from other cities to come for special treatment. However, in order to provide proper medical care, it is imperative that well-equipped hospitals are built in every possible location. Furthermore, official alternative medicine centers for more natural treatment could also be opened in some cities in Turkey.

In this case, public and state relations are very important, as President Erdoğan reiterates frequently. Therefore, we should be able to evaluate our institutions and officials. Since we are able to elect our president, mayors and parliamentarians, why do we not elect or rate officials who work in our districts and hometowns? There should be a strong system established to enforce a check, balance and improvement cycle, which could go hand in hand with public and state organizations.

I personally believe that in order to facilitate efficient and effective public-state relations, officers should not work in their hometowns.

Turkey could create a system through the online government portal e-Devlet where citizens could rate officials and institutions. In doing so, citizens would feel they have a strong voice. Luckily, we have the Communications Center of the Presidency (CİMER) and the Prime Ministry Communications Center (BİMER), both very good tools that reach the highest level of the state. However, the difference between them and my suggestion is that assessment and ratings will be directly accessible for officials and institutions at the local level. This way, it would be faster and easier to get results at the local and national levels. It would also lead to less bureaucracy.

A move to the international sphere

Turkey, with its unique local and national products, should promote itself in the international arena. To achieve this, it could employ official marketing representatives from around the country to introduce special and unique wares such as handmade centuries-old rugs, fruit and other local and national products to the world both online and through exports. In our high-tech world, people in search of organic, natural and healthier lifestyles would be able to find what they need in Turkey.

These touring representatives could then provide guidance for locals on the correct steps for marketing their products. For example, residents of a town may not know how to apply for and get patents; thus, these officers would be able to properly guide them.

Turkish television series are now being watched globally. However, other than a few TV programs, I am limited to the number of TV channels I watch due to the content of many of the programs and series. I strongly advise the authorities to encourage TV channels, at least the state-sponsored channels, to broadcast more family-oriented programs. Otherwise, we may find ourselves in a society that is very alien to our traditional, national and religious values. In other words, we should not produce something that looks glorious but is, in reality, empty and has nothing of value for the viewer.

Local Administrations

I would like to say that I am very fascinated by the libraries in Üsküdar, Istanbul. I even had a chance to visit the Nevmekan and Şemsipaşa District Public Library, as well as a few others. This type of public service initiative may be a great example for other cities and provinces. It does not mean that they must open libraries; instead, they could initiate a useful program that would contribute to their society locally and nationally. For instance, Sındırgı, a district of Balıkesir, initiated Hanımeli Bazaar for ladies, which contributes tremendously to the local residents. In this bazaar, there are around 300 ladies who work for their own livelihood.

Local administrations should promote productivity, internationalization, inspiration and policies that pave the way for Ankara to make fast and appropriate decisions that affect locals. A system based on checks and balances as well as the ability to provide feedback should be included to facilitate efficient decision making at the local level.

I honestly expect local administrations to be quicker, more creative, productive and viable to catch up with Ankara's vision. We should be able to develop what we have. We should try harder to utilize our power and imagination. We should also set our differences aside and focus on the big picture. Local authorities should not waste their time in vain.

* Ph.D. candidate in international relations at the University of Malaya, Malaysia

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