Sustainable Policies


Economic Policies

As it struggles with a currency-driven economic crisis, 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.

Turkey entered the pandemic at a point of economic fragility. Due to decreasing confidence in the sustainability of the country’s debt, the foreign capital flows crucial to financing liquidity requirements had diminished. Gross national debt rose to nearly 37% of GDP in 2020, with small increases thereafter.

Nonetheless, GDP increased by 1.7% in 2020, followed by very strong growth in 2021. The unemployment rate in August 2021 was 12.1%, with a labor-force participation rate of just 42.2%. The rate of unregistered employment was 31.4%. Refugees without job security are displacing native workers.

The value of the lira fell substantially against the dollar in 2021, and inflation rates were high. The depreciation of the lira since 2018 has put the country’s payment obligations at risk. Very large public-private partnership projects have exposed the state to further fiscal risks. The country has been categorized as a potential site of money laundering.

Social Policies

With the pressure of refugee care stressing social budgets, Turkey scores relatively poorly (rank 32) 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 enrollments rates are quite low, but primary enrollments are now above 97%. PISA scores are rising, but remain low in international comparison. Income inequality is very substantial. The currency shocks are likely to increase the poverty rate in the short run.

Near-universal health insurance coverage was achieved in 2014. The country generally had sufficient hospital capacity and protective material supplies during the pandemic, but nearly 79,000 people had died by December 2021. The vaccination rate was above 80%, but largely with lower-quality Chinese vaccines.

The employment rate among women is very low. The government’s conservative family-affairs stance harms gender equality in the labor market. Soaring inflation has left pension amounts under the poverty threshold. Around 3.6 million Syrian refugees live in Turkey, along with 400,000 from elsewhere, creating massive financial burdens. Much of this is defrayed through international support.

Environmental Policies

With relatively underdeveloped conservation regimes, Turkey falls into the SGI 2022’s lowest position (rank 41) with regard to environmental policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.5 points relative to 2014.

Turkey has established ambitious goals in areas including pollution control, waste management and combating climate change. However, enforcement remains weak. Management of the ongoing economic crises has taken precedence over efforts to achieve a sustainable economy.

Energy consumption produces 72% of the country’s emissions, with industrial enterprises and product use contributing another 13.4%. Turkey is building its first nuclear power plant. The government tends to disregard judicial decisions on environmental impact when pursuing controversial projects, such as the construction of the Canal Istanbul connecting the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara.

Turkey ratified the Paris Agreement in 2021. Although the country struggles to manage its own waste, it has become a collector of waste from industrial countries, including some Southeast Asian countries.

Robust Democracy


Quality of Democracy

As it drifts in an increasingly authoritarian direction, Turkey takes the SGI 2022’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 country’s transition to a presidential system was imposed by decree. The ongoing restructuring of the public administration has increased uncertainty. Political parties rely on state subsidies. The election oversight board has not published information on parties’ accounts since 2015. Donations are rarely systematically recorded.

Most mainstream media companies, including the state-owned services, are directly or indirectly controlled by the government or self-censor. Journalists and media organizations critical of the government have faced threats, physical attacks and fines. Many journalists have been imprisoned. New fines and bandwidth restrictions have been imposed on internet sites.

The pandemic was used as a justification to ban anti-government demonstrations. Gender-based disparities and even violence is widespread. The LGBTQ+ community faces serious discrimination.
Judicial staff are still being dismissed or forcibly transferred. The risk of corruption is high particularly in the public procurement field, where frequent rule changes benefit figures close to the governing party.

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 1.8 points since 2014.

The newly established presidential model is highly centralized. There are 16 line ministries and nine policy councils. The head of strategy and budget is a part of the Presidential Office, while a head of administrative affairs coordinates with public institutions. Informal groups of senior party members develop proposals in consultation with experts and ministers.

RIAs processes are rarely followed. Ex post monitoring is not systematically performed. Top policymakers tend to consult only with pro-government actors. A number of serious communication failures emerged during the pandemic and economic crisis. COVID-19 measures were implemented swiftly and efficiently, but economic policy, particularly regarding the currency, has been less efficient.

President Erdoğan is in control of the government and governing party, and actively intervenes in appointments and electoral decisions. The central government is the major source of funding for local governments. Trustees have been appointed in numerous municipalities in place of elected mayors. Regulations are often implemented so as to benefit business figures close to the ruling party.

Executive Accountability

With oversight mechanisms having been significantly weakened in recent years, Turkey takes the SGI 2022’s lowest position (rank 41) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure has declined by 1.4 points relative to 2014.

The government does not adequately inform citizens about the content development of policy. News coverage and debates are mainly one-sided in the pro-government media, while self-censorship is common in the neutral media. Voices critical of the government are fined. Pro-government oligarchs own a number of media organizations. Opposition journalists are frequently threatened and attacked.

The 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. The ombuds office does not react to widespread infringements of rights. The data protection authority began operations fairly recently.

Parties are centralized. An ideological divide hampers cooperation between secular and Islamic trade unions. The government has created a network of loyal civil society groups. Protests by environmental groups are regularly suppressed and are subject to criminal investigation.
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