Posts Tagged ‘turkey’


education in Turkey

Wednesday 28 November, 2012

Batuhan Aydagul was invited to speak @ the 6th annual Patricia Blunt Koldyke lecture  about TURKISH EDUCATION: INNOVATION AND PARTICIPATION.  Aydagul is the coordinator & a board member of the Education Reform Initiative in Istanbul, Turkey.  He earned a master’s degree in international education administration & policy analysis from Stanford University.  He also learned best practices @ Arthur Andersen’s training center in St. Charles years ago.  His experience @ Stanford led him to work in educational development in Africa, in Liberia specifically.

Batuhan’s view of education is to liberate your imagination.  Education is in his blood-his grandfather & mother worked in education as well.  After graduating from Stanford, he wanted to open a think-tank.  Turkey has a demographic gift that can be enabled by education, but it needs western quality.  The problem is education, as it was set-up in 2003, is in the domain of the public sector.  There are numerous legislative & party issues as the people question decision-makers/politicians intentions.  They’ve started curriculum reform with more engagement from stakeholders.  Now critical thinkers are questioning their dogma & are opposed to working together.  Some have formed coalitions for advocacy & have partnered with business for technical education.  A strong bureaucratic culture gives the public a voice in education.  Policy advocacy is not a 0-sum game because with objective information, it’s not a win or lose situation.

Turkey has a number of challenges, including health, transportation, & education.  There is much inequality between schools, geographies, and a rural/urban divide.  There are quality issues-thank goodness for Mexico, keeping Turkey from the bottom.  Parliment passed & implemented 1 of the worst laws in the best manner possible & Batuhan took it personally.  He organized a Best Practices Conference to which groups drove all night to attend so that they could learn from & learn to  trust their peers.  International recognition helps, provides motivation & encouragement, & is humbling.  He received warm welcomes @ public schools.  Turks need to create a dialogue about these topics, but they aren’t taught to discuss such things.  They don’t know how to express disagreement-teachers must moderate these discussions.  They need innovation to try to live up the the expectations of his predecessors.


  • In rural areas, girls only have a 1% chance of attending high school, while boys have only a 17% chance.
  • Differences in languages, incomes, & many others must be resolved.  If students start in 1st grade without Turkish, it creates big problems later on.  It should be a bilingual system, but design varies.
  • Politicians want to remove private courses for entrance exams so that there are opportunities for those who don’t qualify for a university education.
  • They are trying to enhance opportunities for women to attend school by promoting vocational schools, building dorms for women so some can study away from home, expanding cash transfer systems, & changing prevailing attitudes against women, particularly by conservative fathers.
  • Although Turkish schools use many international benchmarks & indicators to measure critical thinking, they have little impact because they have neglected teacher development.
  • There are many barriers to dialogue on educational issues:  the constitution is very strict on language, religion plays a role too, many side with ideology rather than enter into a discussion, & differences have been disregarded after 90 years as a republic.
  • The EU has left the countries autonomous regarding education, while bringing up the issues of certifications & rights.
  • The focus in Turkey is on the teachers & developing public/private partnerships which provide feedback, engage principals, lessen curricula that are too demanding, & encourage investment in sustainable peer learning.
  • Private schools in Turkey are funded by & for the 3% most wealthy, & there is little transfer between public & private schools.

I had an opportunity to teach in Turkey, but had to turn it down because the bureaucracy slowed things down so much that they were only able to arrange the paperwork for work visas etc. for the 2nd semester rather than the whole school year.  Their slowness cost me, but I still hope to teach there @ some point in the future.

Sorry this is too late for Turkey Day.


President of Turkey on their economic & foreign policy priorities

Wednesday 20 June, 2012

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs hosted Abdullah Gül, President of Turkey.  Here’s a summary of his address:

Turkey is expanding it’s diplomatic forces by opening 21 embassies in Latin America, 34 in Africa, & more.  Turkey has the 2nd fastest growing economy in the world, trailing only China, with GDP tripling & trade volume quadrupling in the last decade.  Turkey joined NATO in 1952, but is it merely an ally of NATO?  They must balance the freedom granted its citizens with the rights given to those citizens.  It’s geography/location make Turkey a center of trade, literally as well as figuratively.  They have only recently reached out to countries in their own region to build bridges with them & have been quite successful @ it.  Many democratic reforms started in 2003 which enhanced human rights & the rule of law.  Have the Turks been too ambitious & independent?  It depends on how you see the values of the free world.  It’s in the interest of everyone to change in the right direction.  Turkey was elevated to the 3rd level of the G20.  Diplomatically, Turkey is most active in Syria & Yemen, where they are in touch with the opposition as well as those in power.  Dictatorships & democracies don’t change easily.  The highest priority is cooperation within the region.  They have no choice but to pursue a solution.  Turkey has a large assistance program for Afghanistan, opening hospitals, etc.  Afghanistan’s future lies in the hands of its own people.  Turkey gets along well with the US, & seeks a diplomatic multiplier in cooperation in the Middle East.  Turkey will be the President of the G20 2015-16.

Turkey must reform constantly.  Here are some of the reforms which are needed:

  • become more investment & trade-friendly
  • address the budget deficit that’s 1.4% of GDP & public debt that’s 39% of GDP
  • strengthen banks, which have already been growing @ 9%
  • create  jobs, on par with 4M the last 3 years
  • bring predictability to policy choices
  • new incentives for investment
  • increase productivity with vocational training (after the visit in Chicago, he’s off to Silicon Valley)
  • strive to become a virtuous power with mutual cooperation towards common goals, recognizing the value of partnerships,  & not by imposing things on people


  • Gül believes a 2-state solution is rational & realistic for Israel & Palestine
  • Women should be included in democracy, in Morocco & elsewhere
  • As Turkey approaches it’s 100 year anniversary, their vision for scientific infrastructure is to be 1 top 10 economy by 2023, therefore economic development must mobilize an R&D focus, indicated by an increase from 70 to 170 universities in the last 10 years
  • Turkey participated on behalf of NATO in evacuations of Libya with 2 ships & 6 planes
  • domestic violence exists in Turkey & the media loves to cover it, but it’s no worse than in other places

7th annual silk road conference

Friday 18 May, 2012

Harry Lepinske, of the Central Asian Productivity Research Center, hosted the 7th annual Silk Road Conference earlier this week at various locations in Chicago.  I was only able to attend the 1st day & moderated the panel discussion on Corporate Governance.

The focus of the morning’s presentations was on global entrepreneurship, a topic dear to my heart.  Michael Hennessy, President Coleman Foundation, Inc., led off.  He 1st explained that his foundation grew out of the Fanny May Candy Company, which led to their support of entrepreneurship education.  They issued their 1st RFP for $25K grants in 1995 & have issued $2.8M since then.  Since individual giving drives philanthropy, foundations only account for 7% of annual giving.  When working with colleges, high schools, & community colleges, they found there are lots of silos which are difficult to bridge.  Little research has been done on entrepreneurship education, but it is driven by students, not faculty.  Entrepreneurship education is no longer a stand-alone subject, rather it’s being integrated into other programs.  Venture capitalists benefit from this education on the back end, so the difficulty is figuring out who should pay for it.  There are many $3-5M foundations which need to be more effective & more checks & balances.  Their biggest issue is how to bring in alumni & collaborators.

Rol Dix of IIT was up next.  He noted that 30-50% of business is conducted in the underground economies in Poland, Italy, Russia, etc. & other countries which comprise 1/2 of the world’s workforce, which can be sources of ideas for entrepreneurs.  Strategic partners help define capabilities in finance, production, marketing, etc. so that entrepreneurs can hit up FFF (family, friends, & fools) for financing.  Think fast rather than slowly, but consider decisions overnight, not impulsively or immediately.

Joe Roberts of Webster University talked about financial components of global entrepreneurship, who simply made a comparison between traditional & entrepreneurial finance & global differences.  For example, some US models don’t work outside of the US, i.e. students doing market research or simply talking to business owners is considered espionage in some countries.  However, while all bankers are risk averse, non-traditional sources of funding like crowdfunding site Kickstarter are available.  Cash mobs can be a challenge in both finance & accounting.

Entrepreneurship in Tajikistan was next from Pulod Amirbekov.  Tajikistan has a 99% literacy rate for it’s 7.6M population which earns $629-716/ per capita.  Tajikistan now better protects foreign investors & the FDI is flowing in, making it the world’s 10th fastest growing economy, with GDP growth of 6.5%

Prof. Mehmet Baha Karan of Hacettepe University in Turkey discussed entrepreneurship there by essentially just presenting Turkey’s economic position.  It’s the 16th largest economy in the world according to purchasing power parity, & #6 in Europe.  GDP/per capita is ~$10K/person & the population is expected to reach 90M by 2030.  Despite a GDP growth rate of 7.5% last year, only 6% of Turks are entrepreneurs.  Bureaucracy, monopolies, intellectual property protection, & difficulties hiring & firing employees are impediments.  2.42 times as many men are entrepreneurs compared to women.  Many are 25-34 years old & 6% have post-graduate degrees.

The last presentation I caught was by Professor Ozlem  Ozkanli, Ankara University on energy in Turkey.  Liberalization & privatization are up, especially in the production & distribution of electricity.  It’s regulated by EMRA.  There is great potential for renewables, hydro, wind, & solar.  Electricity demand is increasing rapidly & constantly.  They have ambitious targets with high investment requirements, to there are investment opportunities there.

I asked my panelists on corporate governance for their presentations, but have not yet received them.   While I was moderating, I wasn’t able to take notes, but the highlights I can remember from the gist of each presentation was:

A. Crossin-Turkey is following the US model generally for corporate governance

D. Rinke-Chinese reverse mergers used to get around foreign investment restrictions are creating corporate governance issues there

T. Myers-believes that the Fed is complicit in protecting investment bankers by protecting their investments while others aren’t protected in the recent bailouts & financial crisis



turkey & the middle east

Wednesday 25 May, 2011

The Niagara Foundation invited us to lunch to listen to Kerim Balci, Journalist & Chief Executive Editor of Turkish Review, talk about TURKEY AND THE RESTRUCTURING OF THE MIDDLE EASTERN REGIMES.  Turkey is changing.   9/11 marked the beginning of the 21st century with the death of liberal capitalism & a return of Islam to history.  World War I took hope from the Muslim world.  Change is now accelerating, as Tunisia’s leader left in 3 days, much to the surprise of protestors there.

In Turkey, the Justice & Development Party has more potential to contribute to change.  They’ve set new policy objectives, such as the “No problems with neighbors” policy, which the EU mandated as a condition to apply for membership.  Historically Turks were educated to believe that they were surrounded by enemies in Greece & Bulgaria, & other nearby countries differ in religions, Iraq’s Kurds & Iran’s Sunni’s vs. Turkey’s Shia.  Turks were led to believe that the world was against them & that they have no friends, so there was no cooperation with anyone.  It bred a fear of an us vs. them mentality.  His daughter is now Facebook-educated, so her generation knows that they have plenty of friends, on Facebook & elsewhere.

Social mobilization occurred horizontally & vertically in Turkey.  Rural populations moved to urban areas in the 1980’s & this changed their understanding of the world.  The periphery moved to the center as villagers moved to the cities, which changed the perception of what Turkey can do.  They entered productive dialogues with the Greeks.  In 1998 Turkey almost went to war with Syria, but is now in a common market with them that’s growing.  The EU was the best peace project in history.

Turkey has turned into a moderator & bridge-maker between east & west as there has been an axis shift from west to east.  They won’t leave the west because it’s attractive to the Muslim world.  Support for EU membership is higher in Kurdish Iraq than it is in Turkey.  EU allies are less willing to accept Turkey, but that”s OK because the EU is sick financially & socially.  Turkey will be the biggest economy in the EU if it enters the EU by 2050.  Turkey has good relations with the Middle East, India, & China, which gives it more bargaining power with the EU.

The current regime made 2 major mistakes lately:

  1. it’s decision to abstain on the nuclear issues in Iran
  2. Arab states need Turkey to talk with Israel.  They don’t trust Americans & Turkey can talk to both.  As moderator, Turkey needs to talk with all sides.


  • Turks don’t use the term Ottoman empire, which is simply an ethnic identification. It was more of a multinational alliance. Turkishness became a creation years later & they’ve lost the feeling of belonging for an identity.  Turks were not even in the majority of the Ottoman regime.
  • Turkey’s decision to not allow the Americans to enter Iraq from the north reflected the national sentiment.  A closed vote was taken twice & rejected.  There were domestic incompatibility & capacity issues as they did good without knowing it after seeing the results.  In the Arab view, March 1 is the day American imperialism was resisted.  They are hopeful that the Arab Spring will flow into central Asia, but legitimacy is lost when western powers bomb opponents in those areas.
  • Egypt is in an embryonic stage of democracy.  As bridge-maker between east & west, they were 1 step ahead of the Oslo negotiations between Israel & Syria.  Turkish multi-party democracy is a good example to follow while single party bureaucracies must change so that governments can govern.
  • The Arab world can learn from Turkey’s mistakes.  There is no new world order; it’s a new human order.  Turkey has been active in Ireland moderation between the Catholics & Protestants.

new middle class key to islamic capitalism

Friday 14 May, 2010

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs sponsored this event THE RISE OF ISLAMIC CAPITALISM: WHY THE NEW MIDDLE CLASS IS KEY TO DEFEATING EXTREMISM featuring Vali Nasr @ Tufts U.  Here’s what he had to say:

Is changing religion necessary for Islamic reform?  If so, does everything else change too?  Nasr is not convinced.  Early Protestantism was very rigid, not unlike the Taliban today.  Economics is at the heart of the problem.  Closed systems don’t create jobs, & keep the few @ the top & many @ the bottom.  It’s not that Muslims have too many poor as much as they have too little middle class.  Trade & commerce in the forms of market reforms & entrepreneurship, not reformation, will lead to change.  No other religion is outside of the global economy (excluding oil) & not a part of global supply chains.

A couple of countries are adopting some western values which could serve as examples for other countries, Dubai & Turkey.  Dubai, which is a cross between Las Vegas, Rodeo Dr., & Disneyland,  has grown by opening to the world, accepting foreign direct investment,  & creating a business-friendly environment.  Part of the reason for Dubai’s success was they had the least oil of all Arab Emirates, so they had to figure out other ways to make money.   They created the right regulatory environment & provided a proof-of-concept for capitalism for Muslims.  Their failures today are failures of management, not faith or culture.  Dubai was the most desired country to visit up until 2009-there they can pray @ 5-star mosques.

Turkey grows through old-school secularism, although religion is returning.  Turkey is integrated into the European Union economically if not politically, & hence into the global economy.  The country is like Greece many years ago-they got an IMF package & made some big changes then too.  The Anatoli tigers outside of Istambul are religious capitalists-1 small town in Turkey makes 7% of the world’s denim blue jeans.  Pious businessmen line up their Mercedes outside of the mosques to pray.  Religion is creating value, not jihad.  Market forces have forced change in religion & business from the bottom-up.

The middle class is growing in Pakistan as well.  It owns industry, the media, & politics.  The military has taken action against leaders who focused too much on religion.  The government now must listen to the middle class.

Education is moving from seminaries to other middle class locations.  Cultural consumption is changing & catering to the middle class.  Self-help evangelists now preach in halls in London, while they were too threatening in Egypt.  Problems will disappear with market forces & a middle class anchor.  Tony Blair said Muslims will learn to share our values as they become part of the global economy.


  • Economic reform must preclude democratization.
  • Extracting minerals & oil does not help the middle class.
  • Although a few terrorists came from the middle class in the U.S., the key is to get the middle class as a whole to be less interested in terrorism.
  • Islamic finance is growing, but not everyplace @ once.
  • Indonesia is leaving OPEC because their oil exports are down, but as they are opening up, their economy is continuing to grow.
  • Although more Turkeys will create a bandwagon effect, there will be reversals.
  • Muslims are large & diverse-we tend to help the poorest:  maybe we should help the successful become more successful & set better examples.
  • Saudi Arabia is not a trendsetter:  Egypt, Morocco, Jordan are better examples.
  • A middle class has developed in 15 years, & Turkey’s & India’s middle classes started in the 1980’s.
  • While there is political resistance to a growing middle class in some countries, international pressure helps.  We don’t understand Islam, but we do understand capitalism & business.
  • There are distribution of wealth & environmental issues with a rising middle class.
  • Ideology is not unchangeable.  India used to be an opponent-now they are a partner.

invest in south eastern europe?

Wednesday 21 April, 2010

I attended this seminar Business and Investment Opportunities in Southeast Europe organized by the SouthEast Europe Chamber of Commerce @ Baker & McKenzie.  The presentations & handouts are on the webpage, so here’s what you can’t find there:

Baker & McKenzie is working on international projects related to infrastructure, logistics, supply chains, & climate change, often in the CIS.  They have no offices in south eastern Europe, but work through partners in those countries.  International client relationships are funneled through the Chicago office.

The state of Illinois exports $200M to the countries of south eastern Europe.  As a student, Mary Roberts navigated Sofia, Bulgaria by going from Dunkin Donuts shop to shop because the map wasn’t in English, but she could recognize the donut shop locations from the icons on the map.

When investing in this region, experience in 1 country is not sufficient in another.  You can acquire 100% in some countries, but real estate is typically more restricted.  Companies can buy land, but citizens of foreign countries cannot.  Don’t scare your local partner with a 100 page legal document, but do choose the legal forum for your contracts.  Art George of Baker McKenzie makes 3 observations:

  1. tax planning is still needed
  2. you still need to do due diligence on corporate compliance, local laws, etc.
  3. typically civil law reigns rather than common law, making HR/labor law a challenge with volumes of sheer paperwork


  • Croatia, Macedonia, & Serbia hope to accede to the EU by 2012-14
  • Wireless networks cover the region, & have relatively well-educated technology workers employed by Microsoft, HP, Oracle, Siemens, etc.
  • The world basketball championships are coming to Turkey in 2010.
  • Religions are mixed:  Bosnia-Herzegovina is 44% Muslim, 33% Christian, 17% Catholic & has welcomed Afghan immigrants. Croatia is 90% Catholic & has sizable Hungarian & Italian populations.  Macedonia is 65% Orthodox, 25% Muslim.  Romania is 90% Orthodox.    Turkey is 98% Muslim.
  • North Africa is close-by & these markets are opening up to them, not just in oil. It’s been a focus of Turkey since 2008 & these exports helped them through the financial crisis.
  • Europeans don’t need residence & work permits here.

invest in Turkey?

Wednesday 16 December, 2009

I was invited by the Association for Corporate Growth in Chicago to attend this breakfast briefing Investment Climate of Turkey in the Aftermath of the Global Economic Downturn featuring the President of Turkey’s Investment Support & Promotion Agency, Alpaslan Korkmaz.  He didn’t give a presentation, but here’s what he had to say:

Foreign direct investment has ballooned in Turkey from $1.8B in 2002 to $18B in 2008, & attracted more than India in 2007.  Turkey has the 6th largest economy in Europe & 15th largest in the world.  It has a large population of 72M which is quite young.  The average age is 28 & 50% of the population is 24 years old or younger.  20M are students, so education is Turkey’s top budget item.  The young population is interested in new technologies, so GSM penetration reaches 66M & the internet reaches 30M.  Although Turkey is not part of the BRIC nations, it is part of the N11, or Next 11.  Productivity growth is the highest in Europe @ 7%.  Turkey’s main competition for FDI these days is eastern Europe, but offers other advantages, such as a large market of 72M & per capita incomes of $3-10,000.  They expect growth of 3-4% next year, the highest expectation in Europe.


  • Turkey has a secular government which is distinctly separate from Islam.
  • Turkey is an economic partner with the European Union, but not yet a full member.  This means Turkey’s agricultural products do not work under Europe’s common agricultural policy& Turks require visas to travel in Europe.  Turkey is a logistics hub for the EU & Europe has contributed 70% of FDI in Turkey.
  • A SWOT analysis of 400 Turkish companies led to changes in how to set up businesses in Turkey.  A telephone hotline was created to facilitate permits.  Set-up can happen within 1 week in 270 industrial zones, but it takes longer outside of those zones because of land ownership issues
  • Inflation is now under control in single digits, so Turkish businesses can finally plan 3-5 years & not worry about plans falling through.
  • Private equity/investment bankers are investing in renewable energies (2nd best wind map in Europe) & automotive.  Istanbul airport renovations were 100% privately funded.  Financing is available for middle-market companies.
  • Turkey’s biggest challenges are matching the last 6 years’ growth, resisting bureaucracy, & sustaining education.
  • Labor laws are more liberal than the European Union & eastern Europe.  They work the most hours/week in Europe, 53, with the lowest absenteeism.  There have been 0 automotive strikes in 30 years.