While the political effects of the July 15 coup attempt are still a major topic of discussion, its implications on regional politics and political economy are other dimensions. Daily Sabah spoke with Istanbul's Medipol University economics professor, Kerem Alkin, about the coup attempt from the political economy perspective, the future of Europe and world economy. Professor Alkin believes that some global actors wanted to prevent Turkey's increasing independence in the economy and foreign policy throughout the last 14 years. Therefore, the Gülenist terror cult, FETÖ, was nurtured and used by these actors to force Turkey into a downward spiral in regards to the economy and politics. Regarding world economy, Alkin asserts that a powerful faction of the global economy tries to obstruct or eliminate certain economic developments that are not in their best interests by utilizing various mechanisms and tools, and he adds that the same mastermind is currently focused on German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Commenting on the future of Europe, Alkin said that the rise of extreme right movements in Europe is shaking Europe's foundations and he claimed that due to the lack of a leader who could take the initiative, the West is in a state of depression. Touching upon speculation about German and Italian banks, Alkin said that the EU learned a lesson from the Lehman Brothers incident and will at least try to prevent Deutsche Bank's bankruptcy via possible bailout packages and mergers.
Ali Ünal: From the political economy perspective, how do you evaluate the July 15 coup attempt?
Firstly, I should state that I couldn't fathom the coup attempt in Turkey, which is one of the leading economies in the world. We, as the people of Turkey, do not brainstorm or predict Turkey's role in the next 10 years or so. However, as a professor of economics who follows developments in the global economy, I can say there are certain groups that brainstorm how Turkey will be shaped and what effects economic and foreign policy developments will have on global politics. I believe some global actors wanted to prevent Turkey's increasing independence in economy and foreign policy throughout the last 14 years. The Gülenist terrorist organization, being nurtured and used by these actors, undertook the coup attempt to force Turkey into a downward spiral in regards to the economy and politics.
Gülenists are like Trojans, in cyber-defense terms, which have infiltrated the army, the judiciary and economic institutions, trying to incapacitate the whole system, which is Turkey. July 15 was an attempt to hijack Turkey.
A.Ü.: You have signified that certain actors are using the Gülenists. President Erdoğan is always underscoring that there is a "mastermind" behind this attempt. In your opinion, who or what is the mastermind?
I believe that a powerful fraction of the global economy tries to obstruct or eliminate certain economic developments that are not in their best interests by utilizing various mechanisms and tools, so to speak.
We can think of this as the extension of a fraction that emerged in the U.S. during the 1990s. For instance, the Monica Lewinski scandal. If one looks at the incident, they will notice that the scandal was revealed long after the relationship, significantly while then U.S. President Bill Clinton was working on a peace plan that could have led to the establishment of a Palestinian state. This indicates that it is more than just a political scandal.
I believe that the same mastermind is currently focused on German Chancellor Angela Merkel. I think that politicians like Merkel, who are aware of a force trying to disrupt the European economic model and values via nurturing the extreme-right and racist notions, are being targeted. Something similar is also happening in Brazil. If you remember, Turkey and Brazil were working together to integrate Iran in the global economy as temporary members of the UN Security Council in 2010. The two countries were even able to persuade Iran to sign an agreement that is very similar to the one that was signed between the P5+1 countries and Iran last year. Former President of Brazil Lula da Silva, who contributed to the agreement and is the leading actor in Brazil's development for the last 15 years, is caught up in a fairly controversial corruption charge. Similarly, Dilma Roussef, who replaced Lula da Silva, was impeached.
On the other hand, we have witnessed the Gezi Park protests and the Dec. 17-25 judicial coup attempt in 2013, while experiencing the July 15 armed coup attempt this very year.
A.Ü.: There are many conspiracy theories about the similarities between the processes in Turkey and Brazil, along with the global actors who are responsible for these processes. As an academic, what differentiates your analysis from these conspiracy theories?
I have to ask. Why didn't Turkey and Brazil suffer from similar processes during the 1990s, during which both countries were economically unstable and had political crises? As I have said, both countries were in bad shape and didn't even think about having a greater role in global politics. However, after 2000, both countries transformed politically and economically, becoming active both regionally and globally.
A.Ü.: Are you claiming that Turkey and Brazil are being punished, because of "stealing the show" from global actors by persuading Iran in 2010?
I believe that Turkey and Brazil tried to be more active in global politics by taking the initiative and therefore were punished by an elitist group of global actors to be reminded of their place in the international order.
As developing countries were able to increase their commodity prices, while achieving crucial reforms, the current global system and its institutions, such as the IMF and UNSC, which was established after WWII, started to be criticized. They wanted Turkey and Brazil to lose their emergent self-esteem as global actors. We are observing that Russia is in a similar situation, while India and China are forced to undertake a more passive role in global politics.
For instance, nowadays developing countries are criticizing that a European leads the IMF, while the head of the World Bank is elected from the U.S. On the other hand, deteriorating relations between Turkey and Austria are due to this criticism. There is an ever-increasing enmity against Turkey in Austria. This is actually due to a decision made by the G20 four years ago, which foresaw that countries should be appointed to IMF posts according to the size of their economies. After two years of resistance, Turkey replaced Austria as group president on the IMF executive board, quite rightfully I must say. Since this event, Austria has an increasing enmity towards Turkey.
A.Ü.: If the July 15 coup attempt had been successful, how would it reflect on both Turkey and the region's political economy?
Turkey is not a country consisting of only its borders. It is an influential actor in the Middle East and Eurasia. In this sense, if the coup attempt had been successful, it would have first caused a significant loss of self-confidence. The possible political turmoil would have forced the skilled workforce to immigrate to other countries, as is the case in Syria. All of these would have triggered an economic crisis, rendering Turkey as a third world country. Moreover, Turkey would have not been able to complete its megaprojects in Eurasia. We would have seen an isolated Turkey.
On the other hand, Turkey would not be able to participate in G20 summits. Erdoğan's bilateral meetings and the treaties signed at the G20 summits indicate the important role Turkey plays in global politics.
A.Ü.: Turkey is playing a more active role in foreign policy now, since the coup attempt. How will these developments affect regional political economy?
The Turkish people were successful in defending Turkey's democracy, while also conveying a message of defiance against the forces that tried to obstruct Turkey's economic and political growth.
When we address the question why this resistance didn't happen during 1980 coup or the Feb. 28 1997 post-modern coup, we can say that it was due to the large share of public assets in the economy. In 1980, 75 percent of the economy was under the control of the state; even at the beginning of the 2000s, this share was around 50 percent. Today, 75 percent of the economy is under the control of private enterprises. Thus, we are talking about an economy that has an export volume around $140-150 billion and a consolidated middle class. This boosted Turkey's self-confidence, allowing people to successfully resist against the coup attempt.
On the other hand, I believe that there are deliberate systematic efforts that aim to undermine this emergent self-confidence since the Gezi Park protests of 2013. One of the easiest ways of undermining is to cause large-scale incidents that create a great schism among people. During the Gezi Park protests, the democratic demands of the people and their expectations were manipulated. Again, during the Dec. 17-25 incidents, abusing people's perception of the judiciary and its independence, certain forces tried to depose the government by utilizing the judiciary. Lastly, with the July 15 coup attempt, they were trying to completely disintegrate society, thus causing a sharp decline in Turkey's political power. However, this was not the case. Still, we have to assure the harmony among people from different walks of life.
A.Ü.: As you know, many decisions are made during G20 summits; however, implementing and enforcing them is problematic. What is your take on this situation? Also, in your opinion, how fruitful was the summit in China for Turkey?
Firstly, the process of transformation from G7 to G20 must be understood. G7 countries realized that if the developing countries tried to force their will in global politics and economy, there might be dire consequences. Moreover, they were not able to resolve certain global issues such as poverty, terrorism and immigration without the cooperation of countries like Turkey. For this reason, the G20 was formed.
Turkey and China's consecutive term presidencies helped the future of SMEs to become a topic on G20's agenda. The future of SMEs is not only important for Turkey, but for the whole world as they have a significant role in increasing employment and production effectiveness.
Another topic that became a part of the G20's agenda is increasing public and infrastructure investments to achieve worldwide economic growth. Similarly, the subject of inclusive growth, which will help poverty to decline, is also important and is being discussed. The clearer road maps and solutions proposed by the developing countries, rather than developed countries, indicate that the developing countries have the right mindset for resolving the said issues.
About the G20 summit in China, Erdoğan's presence as a special speaker on issues regarding terrorism and immigration and the decisions taken afterwards indicate that Turkey is in a much better shape than the forces behind the coup desired. In the following years, Turkey will become a country that will have a say in both global matters and the future of Eurasia.
A.Ü.: Does becoming more involved in Eurasia mean Turkey distances itself from Europe?
Turkey doesn't have a desire to distance itself from Europe. However, there are certain developments that cast shadows on the notion of Europe as a center of attraction. The rise of extreme right movements in Europe is shaking Europe's foundations. Due to political movements that are against the most essential rights and freedoms, along with economic issues in various European countries, the Eurozone is like a patient connected to the life support unit now. Moreover, there aren't any visionary leaders in Europe who can salvage the situation. Therefore, due to the lack of a leader who could take the initiative, the West is in a state of depression.
The exacerbation of the crisis would cause a decline in Turkish people's desire to become a member of the EU. This may cause Turkey to become politically distant from Europe, while economic interests may be pursued.
A.Ü.: There are speculations about the future of banking in Italy and Germany. Do you believe that Deutsche Bank will declare bankruptcy, as Lehman Brothers did in 2008 and trigger a Eurocentric economic crisis?
A banking crisis during this period of hardships for European SMEs will have destructive effects on Europe. Allowing Deutsche Bank to become bankrupt and the increasing need of Italian banks for bailout packages might be the beginning of the end for the EU.
However, I believe that the EU learned a lesson from the Lehman Brothers incident and will at least try to prevent Deutsche Bank's bankruptcy via possible bailout packages and mergers. In fact, the rumors about a merger between Commerz Bank and Deutsche Bank indicate that Germany is trying to prevent a banking crisis.
Such a crisis would affect Turkish banking system as well. The first effects would be the inability to rollover almost 30 percent of the loans used by the Turkish banking system. This would result in the shrinking of the loan market, which in turn would affect economic activities, employment and growth negatively.
Lastly, the fourth industrial revolution has become a subject of heated discussion since last year's Davos Summit. In fact, it was also discussed at the most recent G20 summit. Is Turkey ready for this and how would this affect Turkey?
We can define the fourth industrial revolution as a process in which production becomes digitalized and machines have control over production. This process will achieve global communication between machines and have artificial intelligence decide on production, Turkey has to become a country that produces smart technologies and artificial intelligence. Currently, the share of high-tech product in exports is around 6 percent. We have to increase its share and implement reforms and incentive packages that will help its development.