Corruption in Turkey: Perceptions and Perspectives

On 16 June 2016, the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV), in collaboration with the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV) held a conference to present the SELDI Corruption Monitoring Results 2016. A total of 50 people attended the event including representatives of the Bilgi University, Ticaret University, Kadir Has University, Marmara University, Kemerburgaz University, Japanese Consulate, US Consulate İstanbul, British Consulate, Consul General of Brazil, Transparency International Turkey, Atlas Conceptia, Turkish-American Business Development Council, Dialogue for Common Future Association, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation, TESEV Executive and Trustee Board and journalists from Sözcü and Cumhuriyet newspapers.

Prof. Dr. Aydın Uğur, Chairman of the Board of TESEV analyzed the concept of corruption and highlighted the importance of remaining hopeful that the fight against corruption will be effective. Prof. Dr. Hasan Kirmanoglu, Former Faculty Member, İstanbul Bilgi University presented the results of the SELDI victimization and perception corruption survey in Turkey. Bekir Ağırdır, Member of the Board, TESEV, Director General of KONDA, and a prominent opinion leader commented and analyzed the survey results.

During the discussion, TESEV’s former expert Ceren Zeytinoğlu and Evren Aydoğan, Project Manager at TEPAV made a presentation of the energy governance deficits and related corruption risks. Representatives of civil society (Ali Ilıcak, Member of the Board, Transparency International Turkey), public sector (Bülent Tarhan, Former Prime Ministry Chief Inspector), and private sector (Gönenç Gürkaynak, Managing Partner, ELIG Attorneys at Law) discussed the present corruption trends and the best counter-measures. The participants agreed that corruption is a systematic and institutional problem, which requires changes in the mechanisms, laws, and practices that produce it.

The head of the survey agency Infakto, Emre Erdoğan, prominent economics professor Asaf Savaş Akat, and former MP Hurşit Güneş also contributed to the discussions.

TESEV underlined the following results of the SELDI Corruption Monitoring System:
– Political conjuncture and political party choice have determining role in whether corruption is regarded a more urgent problem among other significant social problems.
– The most important examples of corruption are ‘administration officials accepting money for tax evasion or tax reduction’ and ‘giving money to a police officer so that your license’s driver is not suspended’.
– As perceived causes of corruption, opposition parties’ voters, as opposed to AKP voters, are more likely to mention that ‘there is a moral crisis in our society nowadays’ and ‘corruption is a specific characteristic of our culture’.
– Younger people, as opposed to older people, are more likely to think that ‘corruption in Turkey can be substantially reduced’, whereas there is no statistically significant difference on this issue in terms of political party choice.

The participants reached to several main conclusions:
– Rather than blaming societies for chronic corruption, relevant stakeholders should examine the root causes and take measures accordingly.
– Only a small part of the society makes savings and tax evasion is a widespread habit. Besides institutional solutions, societal change is needed to tackle corruption.
– Good governance deficit, impunity of public officials in cases of malpractice, and deviation from democracy give rise to corruption.
– Commodification of labour and nature also leads to corruption. Corporations tend to focus on reaching their targets rather than setting goals to eliminate corruption. This tendency might lead to creation of closed economies, which creates and reinforces rent seeking.
– Corruption is a systemic problem. It should be addressed with collective action. This could start with a small and feasible step like cleansing public offices, such as customs offices, which are notoriously identified with corruption.

The participants provided the following policy recommendations:
– Citizens’ awareness should be increased regarding the importance of taxes and monitoring how they are utilized by public officials.
– Decentralization of the governance should be ensured in order for citizens to better participate in and monitor public spending and to better prevent central government’s excessive control over national budget.
– In order not to be overwhelmed by the large scope of the problem, small but effective and feasible policies should be developed to facilitate fighting against corruption.
– Political will, sustainable commitment, and transparency in policy-making are crucial in the fight against corruption.



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