“More importantly, people in the region feel abandoned to the forces of underdevelopment and abjection, and consequently find it difficult to see themselves as equal citizens of a just society and to feel a connection of trust to the state.”
~ Executive Summary, “Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia: Socio-Economic Problems & Recommended Solutions”.

The hevals at KurdishInfo posted a socio-economic analysis of Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia, which was put together by the southeastern municipalities with the backing of Amed’s (Diyarbakır) DTP mayor, Osman Baydemir. The results are really nothing new. The region is depressed and things are getting worse. Here’s the executive summary:

Despite longstanding discussions on regional underdevelopment, the fact remains that the East and Southeast Anatolia are still the least developed regions of Turkey, and almost no progress has been achieved to alter this situation. This ‘ill fate’ renders Turkey the most regionally unequal country among OECD and European Union members. It is particularly a great obstacle to Turkey’s membership to the EU.

More importantly, people in the region feel abandoned to the forces of underdevelopment and abjection, and consequently find it difficult to see themselves as equal citizens of a just society and to feel a connection of trust to the state. This feeds an increasing social tension and polarisation. The way to overcome these collective feelings of abandonment and distrust is to introduce remedial economic and social policies as soon as possible.

Underdevelopment is not endemic to the East and Southeast. It is also present in the Eastern Black Sea, Central Anatolia, and even some Aegean and Mediterranean provinces. Nevertheless, in almost all socioeconomic indicators, Eastern and Southeastern provinces occupy the lowest 21 ranks among all of Turkey’s 81 provinces, and this shows that underdevelopment is uniquely widespread and dominant in these provinces. Therefore, underdevelopment of the Regions (of East and the Southeast) takes precedence over all other regional issues in Turkey.

The international expansion -or ‘exposure’, so to say- of the country after the 1980s drastically affected the East and Southeast, which, until then, were simply trying to survive with the help of social state support. Unconditional surrender to the IMF and World Bank demands to downsize the state and suspend public investments cut public investments and social support to the region, accelerating the deterioration of the regional economy. Having continuously struggled with structural issues and underdevelopment because of macroeconomic measures taken after the Republic, the region suffered an even deeper recession because of expansion and export-based growth strategy. The region’s contribution to national income was dwarfed due to privatisation, the closure of public enterprises, and the decrease in subsidies for agriculture and animal husbandry. Receding agriculture and animal husbandry, together with the climate of violence, started a massive outflow. Labour force, wealth-capital continued bleeding at increasing rates, while urban centres and metropolises were left to face grave issues of social concord.

However, in the results of the 2007 census, we see a stop in this outflow, especially in the Southeast, and this despite growing security and poverty issues. Moreover, some migrants re-migrated and found shelter in urban centres of the region. This decision to return was taken both because of the lack of possibilities of subsistence in the Western metropolises, as well as an increasing atmosphere of intolerance, amounting to mob violence and extralegal killings.

More than half of the region’s population is below the poverty level. As of 2008, Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia shelters 46 percent of the 9.4 million green card owners in Turkey, an indicator of poverty.

The non-agricultural unemployment rate is much higher than other regions of Turkey, as is the consumer price index.

The introduction of state development incentives had little effect in the region, mostly because the list of 50 development priority regions also included a number of cities that had much higher levels of social and economic development. The 21 cities of the Region could attract only 4.4% of subsidised investments between 2002 and 2006, whilst Bursa alone attracted the same amount.

Bulk of the resource transfer to the Region has been allocated to ‘defence and security’,which does not respond to the livelihood and employment expectations of the Region’s population. The already limited public spending pivots mostly on the energy sector, which does not respond to the public demand for employment and enterprise prospects. Further, environmental degradation and destruction of cultural assets caused by these investments are wilfully ignored.

Sheltering 16 percent of the country’s population, the Region not only does not receive its fair share of public spending, but also is treated as an ‘other’ in terms of the budget distribution for local administrations. The Region’s urbanisation rate is close to 60 percent, above the Turkish average in some cities. However, while urban issues get grimmer each day, the Region’s share of the central budget attributions remains low. In spite of the 16 percent share of the population, the Region’s local administration budget share is only 8.5 percent.

Having governed the country for the last seven years, AKP has turned the year 2008 too into a lost year regarding both the looming economic crisis and the Southeastern problem, one of the most important issues of the country. AKP does not address the question of underdevelopment, apart from keeping the political playground busy with minor actions to keep the agenda occupied. Since there is no other special reserve for the Southeast in the 2008 budget, it could be said that the projected GAP (Southeastern Anatolia Project) investments will be presented as new investment initiatives.

[GAP investments presented as new investment initiatives has already been promoted by the colossal ignoramuses known as Western journalists. As an example, see this NYTimes article–Mizgîn]

GAP investments have kept the agenda occupied for a long time, yet it can now be seen that GAP addresses not the particular problems of the Region, but the energy demands of the more developed regions. It has not lead to radical changes in the Region apart from some local development opportunities, and while energy investments are soon to be completed, agricultural components have come to a halt. It has come to surface that ‘the GAP Magic’ has primarily been designed to meet the energy requirements of the West. As of 2006 the Region’s 21 cities had used only 6.8 percent of the country’s energy produced, including hydraulic and other resources in the Region. Per capita electricity use is considered to be an indicator of development. Turkey’s average per capita electricity use was 202 kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2006, but it was 78 kWh in the Region the same year, which is 38 percent of Turkey’s average. Electricity use is dense particularly in Marmara and other Western regions, to an extent that 75 percent of electricity was used by 15 developed provinces in 2006. That year, İstanbul used 18 percent of the electricity produced, while it was followed by İzmir (9.5%), Kocaeli (6%), Bursa (5.4%) and Ankara (5.1%). 47.5 percent of the electricity produced is used in industrial activities, yet this percentage is down to 17 in the East and Southeast, deprived of industry.

Energy projects receive top priority within GAP; however, agricultural investments, which are of great interest to the Region’s people, have low rates of implementation. Only 261,000 hectares of land, 14 percent of the target, could be opened up to irrigation as of 2006. The remaining 86 percent is still waiting for water.

Comparing the Region’s and its provinces’ social-economic data to provinces that have similar populations provides us with even more meaningful and striking results. According to the SPO research of 2003 entitled “Research on the Socio-Economic Development Ranking of Provinces and Regions”, among the cities that have approximately similar populations, Diyarbakır ranks 63th, while Samsun ranks 32nd, Mersin 17th and Kocaeli 4th. Despite its low rank, between 2002 and 2007 Diyarbakır received the lowest amount of public investment of the four cities: Diyarbakır with 766,585,000 TL, Samsun 954,991,000 TL, Mersin 1,173,544,000 TL and Kocaeli 1,588,333,000 TL. Given these budget shares, we can clearly see that with such a distribution pattern, development-level disparities between provinces/regions are not likely to decrease, but increase.

The same research reveals that Kars occupies the 67th rank in the development list, yet it receives less public investment than Bolu (14th on the list), Rize (37th) and Kastamonu (51st), cities that have approximately similar populations. This is an indication that the government tends to ignore the regional disparity factor in public investment plans, and does not have a policy concern to eliminate regional disparities.

The only apparent exception is Muş, a city that is at the bottom (81st) of the socio-economic development list. The city benefits from more public investment than cities with approximately similar populations, such as Giresun (50th), Isparta (28th) and Edirne (16th). However, appearances can be deceptive: 67 percent of the investments is actually one big energy investment (Alpaslan 1 Dam). It is worth recalling that energy investments -dams, hydro power plants- have no direct contribution to employment and income prospects in the region.

A similar analysis could be made for Batman. Assessing the sectoral distribution of public investment that Batman has received, the investment received by the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) –another energy venture—constituted 25 percent of the investment made in the province.

It requires a long-term comprehensive regional development strategy to tackle the socio-economic problems that the East and Southeast Anatolia Regions face, and to reduce regional socio-economic disparities. This argument is also valid for EU accession and the Ninth National Development Programme. The EU accession process in particular introduces a great opportunity for removing these disparities by developing the under-developed regions, including the East and Southeast, which are the least developed. The solution to this problem is also a requirement for EU accession, and is one of the most important among the negotiation chapters. Therefore, treating the development process parallel to EU accession will increase the likelihood of achievement.

The success of the regional development process requires an integrated approach that tackles all sectors together. Relying on the region’s resources, decreasing foreign-source dependency, providing an integrated approach among sectors and inner consistency of economic structure, preferring income maximisation instead of profit maximisation in order to provide better living conditions, developing an integrated approach based on participation and local mechanisms, will provide real social and economic development. This research recommends employment-oriented investment policies that a) focus on agriculture, tourism, trade, service and information technologies; b) include subsidies to private sector and financial support from the EU structural adjustment funds, and; c) are based on the leadership of the public sector. Also, investments for the improvement of the construction and industry sectors to be integrated into agriculture, tourism, trade, service and information technologies sectors. These, along with investments stimulating structural adjustments in the education and health sectors, will provide better living conditions and socio-economic development.

Solution of the socio-economic problems in the Region requires a proper development management, as well as a good development plan. 80 years of administrative experience, 40 years of SPO schemes and the 9 nine state development plans demonstrate very clearly that the development processes cannot be successfully governed through extremely centralist administration processes. Relevant world experience shows us that the success of a development process relies on a particular administrative perspective, which is based on the local and the local participation, therefore turning society into the main subject and actor of the development process. Enabling the proper diagnosis of the problems and priorities of the local, making sure that the local actors adopt and embrace the foreseen plans, and developing the capacities of the local actors are among the preconditions of a successful development process, and these all require a full emphasis on the local and the local participation.

Regional policies are among the main approaches of the EU administrative system. Through the perspective of a “Europe of Regions”, many regional policy steps are programmed as part of the EU integration process, such as the establishment of the NUTS (Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics) regions and the Regional Development Agencies. This research recommends subsidiarity (administrative and financial localisation), regionalisation, multi-central structure and society-led development as the basic tenets of the development management for the elimination of disparities in the East and Southeast Anatolia Regions.

However, the extreme dimensions of impoverishment and poverty in the regions demand not only the development of proper medium and long term planning, but also urgent short term interventions and policies. In this research, ameliorating the levels of poverty, increasing the levels of income and consumption capacity and improving living conditions are recommended as the main targets of such short-term interventions and policies.

The entire report is in .pdf and is available here. It’s quite extensive and offers policy recommendations ranging from investment policies to improvements that need to be made in educational, health, tourism, trade, agricultural, information technology and service, construction and industrial sectors. A .pdf slide presentation is also available.

The executive summary quoted above notes that AKP policies have neglected underdevelopment in the East and Southeast, referring to the fact that AKP has been “keeping the political playground busy with minor actions to keep the agenda occupied”. This is consistent with other news having to do with the global economic failure and its effects in Turkey:

Other indicators of the seriousness of the crisis are data on unemployment, a decline in exports, a decrease in domestic demand, an increase in bad loans and firms closing down, as well as an increase in bounced cheques.

Meanwhile the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is pretending that nothing is wrong and diverting people’s attention to the Ergenekon investigation, Davos and Gaza, etc.. However, their diversions cannot hide the fact that the crisis is becoming more serious.

[ . . . ]

TÜSİAD applauded the post-2002 economic policies which have resulted in Turkey being buried under such a serious currency deficit and an obligation to repay external deficits, and it was TÜSİAD which filled its cups from the flowing fountains. The AKP was convinced that the global liquidity of 2002 would continue forever; it did not create any mechanisms of control or warn those who indebted themselves or constantly increased imports with cheap currencies and thus made the current accounts deficit worse. Trusting promises of high interest rates, it was believed that the huge currency deficit could be closed with hot money.

The global crisis has served as a reminder that this extravagance is now at an end. Those who boasted that “Thank goodness, our finance system is very stable”, did not foresee that the global crisis would hit the industry rather than the financial sector in countries that are not self-sufficient.

Compare that quote with the crisis facing Turkey’s sixth largest export company.

Then we have the recent goings-on in Dersim (Tunceli):

Handing out goodies to voters before election day is a time-honoured tradition in politics, but critics say recent efforts by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan have reached a new dimension with the distribution of thousands of washing machines in a poor eastern Anatolian province where the prime minister wants to win big in next month’s local elections.

White goods with a combined value of 4.8 million lira (Dh10.8m) are being distributed free of charge to 3,300 families in need, the office of Mustafa Yaman, governor of the province of Tunceli, said in a statement last week. Pictures in Turkish newspapers showed people carrying new washing machines and mattresses on their backs. Tunceli ranks among the poorest provinces in Turkey. The yearly per capita income is about US$4,000 (Dh14,700) according to purchase power parity, compared with nearly $10,000 nationwide, official statistics say.

“In accordance with the welfare state principles of our government, a project for those of our fellow citizens who find it hard to meet their daily needs is aiming to meet the need for goods like refrigerators, washing machines, television sets, carpets and sofas,” the governor’s office said. The aid is being delivered by a foundation linked to the provincial administration. Computers, electrical ovens and vacuum cleaners were also among the goods that were handed out, the statement said. A total of 3,020 goods were listed.

Oh, BOO-HOO-HOOOO! You stupid pig of an AKP governor! What Baydemir said: “Having governed the country for the last seven years, AKP has turned the year 2008 too into a lost year regarding both the looming economic crisis and the Southeastern problem . . . ”

Turkey’s Higher Election Board (YSK) has warned about AKP’s actions in Dersim, but:

. . . newspapers reported yesterday that the distribution of white goods in Tunceli continued despite the YSK warning. Some washing machines ended up in villages that are not even connected to the water grid, reports said. The state prosecution in Tunceli said yesterday it had opened an investigation because of possible election fraud.

And I’m willing to bet a year’s salary that all the appliances being handed out are from the Fethullahçı Arçelik A.Ş.

More on YSK’s warning and the opening of an investigation.

It’s clear, then, that AKP is quite capable of applying a band-aid when election time looms near.


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