Policy Performance


Economic Policies

With its economy hobbled by uncertainty, Turkey falls into the bottom ranks worldwide (rank 36) with regard to economic policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.4 points relative to its 2014 level.

Turkey has been struggling to manage a currency crisis triggered, but not ultimately caused by, U.S. sanctions. This led to a devaluation in the lira, which put pressure on entities with foreign-currency debt, at a point where government spending has led to increased deficits and growing public debt. The crisis was caused in part by investors’ uncertainty regarding the country’s ability to service its debt.

The 7.4% GDP growth rate of 2017 fell sharply to a still-robust 3.8% in 2018. Inflation has risen to an annualized rate of nearly 25%. The budget deficit rose to 4% in 2019, and is expected to exceed 5% in 2019. Gross public debt is low by international standards, at 28.3% of GDP in 2017 and an expected 32.3% in 2018, but is rising steadily.

The fast-growing population complicates labor policy. The labor-force participation rate is just under 54%, due to low rates among women. The overall unemployment rate rose to 10.2% in mid-2018, with higher rates in the non-agricultural sector. Informal employment accounts for about one-third of total employment.

Social Policies

With the pressure of refugee care stressing social budgets, Turkey scores relatively poorly (rank 33) with regard to social policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.7 points relative to 2014.

The country has made significant progress in increasing access to education. Pre-primary education and higher-education enrollment rates are increasing rapidly. The gender-based enrollment gap has nearly disappeared at the primary level, and narrowed at the secondary level. Income inequality is very substantial, but poverty rates are falling.

Health care quality is steadily improving, with near-universal health-insurance coverage having been achieved by 2014, but cost pressures are growing. The employment rate among women is very low. The government’s conservative family-affairs stance has provoked ongoing debate on gender equality. The rising incidence of homicides against women is a serious concern.

Pension spending is modest, with more than half financed through budget transfers. The Syrian civil war has produced around 3.5 million refugees in Turkey, along with massive financial burdens. Though only about 20,000 work permits have been issued, an estimated 1.5 million Syrians are working informally. The refugee population has been the object of increasing public resentment.

Environmental Policies

With relatively underdeveloped conservation regimes, Turkey falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 40) with regard to environmental policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.5 points relative to 2014.

While improvements have been made with regard to emissions controls, the use of renewable energy, and energy efficiency, the country is still rated poorly in terms of climate performance. It has expressed a need to continue using coal for energy production, undermining official commitments.

Enforcement measures remain weak, especially on the issues of waste management and industrial pollution. Overall, policy changes aimed at strengthening environmental sustainability have been rather superficial.



Quality of Democracy

Despite the end of the post-coup-attempt emergency period, Turkey takes the SGI 2019’s bottom spot (rank 41) with regard to democracy quality. Its score on this measure has declined by 2.0 points relative to its 2014 level.

The state of emergency imposed following the 2016 coup attempt remained in force throughout July 2018. During that time, the state engaged in serious civil rights violations, massive judicial interference, mass dismissal of civil servants, the closure of civil society organizations and media outlets, torture during pretrial detention, private-property expropriation and more.

The parliamentary and presidential elections in 2018 were held without electoral-board oversight. The government controls the public and much of the private media. Journalists are often threatened or even attacked, and censorship is widespread.

Gender-based violence and discrimination, and hate speech and human-rights violations against minorities (e.g., LGBTI persons) are a serious concern. The transition to a presidential institutional model was implemented by decree rather than through legislation, as required by the constitution. Corruption remains widespread.



Executive Capacity

Despite its increasingly powerful central government, Turkey falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 36) with regard to executive capacity. Its score on this measure has declined by 1.6 points since 2014.

Following the April 2017 referendum and June 2018 elections, the governmental system was changed to a highly centralized presidential model. There are 16 line ministries and nine policy councils, which address long-term strategy. Four offices produce projects in broad policy areas, which are transformed into policies by the councils. The Prime Minister’s Office has been abolished.

Neither RIAs nor ex post evaluations are used to any substantial degree. Draft policies and laws are not subject to public consultation. The government tends to consult only with pro-government actors. Governmental inefficiency is widespread, especially in relation to the economy.

Ministerial compliance is high, with President Erdoğan in control of the government and governing party. Following the coup attempt in 2016, numerous democratically elected mayors and municipality staff were replaced with pro-government appointees. Regulatory enforcement is oriented toward increasing central power.

Executive Accountability

With oversight mechanisms being increasingly undermined, Turkey takes the SGI 2019’s bottom spot (rank 41) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure has declined by 1.1 points relative to 2014.

The government often fails to publicize policy plans before implementation. Media freedoms have been badly undermined, journalists have been imprisoned and threatened, and the largest media organization was sold to a pro-government media conglomerate in 2018. These factors make it difficult for citizens to find objective and substantive information on government policies and decision-making.

Parliamentarians have moderate resources, with capacity development a persistent problem. The ability of parliament to oversee the new presidential system remains uncertain. The audit court reports to parliament but is not accountable to it. A recently created Ombudsman office has seen a low level of compliance with its decisions. A data-protection authority is newly operational.

Parties are centralized. Economic-interest organizations develop proposals that the government claims to take under consideration. An ideological divide hampers cooperation between secular and Islamic trade unions. The government has excluded opponents from decision-making processes, and created a network of loyal civil-society groups.
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