Sustainable Policies


Economic Policies

With vulnerability to external shocks an increasing concern, Turkey falls into the bottom ranks worldwide (rank 37) with regard to economic policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.7 points relative to its 2014 level.

Growth rates have declined precipitously from recent highs, falling from 7.5% in 2017 to 0.5% in 2019. With market concerns rising about the sustainability of the country’s external debt, foreign capital flows have dried up, enhancing vulnerability to currency shocks. Inflation and interests rats are high. The central bank governor was fired after refusing to cut the main interest rate.

The fast-growing population complicates labor policy. The labor-force participation rate is just under 53%, due to low rates among women. Overall unemployment rates climbed following the 2018 currency crises, remaining around 14% through mid-2019, with higher rates in the non-agricultural sector. Informal employment accounts for more than one-third of total employment.

Income taxes account for 35% of government revenue, and taxes on goods and services another 34.3%. The fiscal deficit amounted to 4.6% in 2019, and is expected to climb further. Gross public debt is low by international standards at 30.1% of GDP.

Social Policies

With the pressure of refugee care stressing social budgets, Turkey scores relatively poorly (rank 30) with regard to social policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.9 points relative to 2014.

The country has made significant progress in increasing access to education. Pre-primary enrollments rates are quite low, but primary enrollments are now above 91%. PISA scores are rising, but remain low in international comparison. Income inequality is very substantial, but poverty rates are falling. An integrated social assistance system is geared toward helping welfare recipients out of poverty.

Near-universal health-insurance coverage was achieved in 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. Sexual assault is a serious problem.

Pension spending is modest, with more than half financed through budget transfers. The Syrian civil war has driven more than 3.6 million refugees to Turkey, and created massive financial burdens. The refugee population has been the object of increasing public resentment. Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria was ostensibly to create “safe zones” for resettlement, but this has been widely criticized internationally.

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 0.7 points relative to 2014.

Turkey has established ambitious goals in areas including pollution control, waste management and combating climate change. However, enforcement remains weak. The continued use of coal for energy production and the instance on being ranked as an emerging country for climate-policy purposes renders environmental policy efforts ineffective.

Energy consumption produces 72% of the country’s emissions, with industrial enterprises and product use contributing another 12.6%. The legislature has allowed thermal power plants to continue to operate without modern filters until the end of 2021.

Turkey has signed the Paris Agreement, but has not ratified it. Although the country struggles to manage its own waste, it has become a collector of waste form industrial countries, including some Southeast Asian countries.

Robust Democracy


Quality of Democracy

With the scars of the post-coup state of emergency still fresh, Turkey takes the SGI 2020’s bottom spot (rank 41) with regard to democracy quality. Its score on this measure has declined 1.9 points relative to its 2014 level.

The country is undergoing an unsettled political transformation, with the executive system transitioning from a state of emergency to a presidential system. The new system was imposed by decree, and the restructuring of the public administration will take some time and increase uncertainty. Numerous unconstitutional regulations have been adopted by parliament or issued by the executive.

Opposition party officeholders face the threat of being removed from office by presidential decree. Journalists and media organizations critical of the government have faced threats, physical attacks and fines. Many journalists who have refused to “adapt to the new political period” have been fired. Online media censorship remains significant.

Judicial staff are still being dismissed or forcibly transferred. The recruitment of a large number of inexperienced judges and prosecutors using fast-track procedures has further undermined judicial independence. The Constitutional Court has not performed consistently in terms of defending political stability, and human and civil rights. Corruption remains widespread.

Good Governance


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 1.7 points since 2014.

Under the new highly centralized presidential model, there are 16 line ministries and nine policy councils. The Prime Minister’s Office has been abolished, and all lawmaking powers have arguably been transferred to the president. While planning bodies do exist, there is no harmony between strategic plans and governmental decisions. The president make use of an informal coordination network.

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. Policy outcomes have been mixed, with public revenues increasing and other objectives fulfilled, but inefficiency widespread.

Ministerial compliance is high, with President Erdoğan in control of the government and governing party. Many Turkish municipalities are in debt to the central government; as a consequence, most local projects are run by the central government. New regulations have officially transferred many municipal powers to the central state, and many elected opposition-party mayors have been replaced by trustees.

Executive Accountability

With oversight mechanisms having been significantly weakened in recent years, Turkey takes the SGI 2020’s bottom spot (rank 41) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure has declined by 1.3 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.

The new presidential system has centralized power in the hands of the executive and significantly undermined the parliament’s legislative and oversight functions. The audit court reports to parliament but is not accountable to it. A recently created ombuds 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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