‘Peace Dividends’ By Vahap Coskun – Perspektif 29.04.2022

Vahap Coskun, one of the speakers at the ‘Mapping the Dividends of Peace in Turkey: Shared Economic Interests as the Base for Peace’ event organised by the Democratic Progress Institute (DPI), together with the Diyarbakır Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DTSO), wrote an article:

At a meeting held with businesspeople, politicians, journalists and academics, the report ‘The Impact of Four Decades of Conflict on the Economy of Turkey,’ prepared by İzzet Akyol for DPI, was discussed. I have previously evaluated Akyol’s report on these pages. In this article, I will try to convey my impressions of the meeting.

A point underlined in both the report and the meeting with thick lines is that Turkey is suffering from a very serious mentality problem; this is the failure to develop a vision that accepts citizens’ moral and legal equality. When the social and state order is built on inequality, polarisation and ultimately conflict will inevitably emerge.

Segregation and conflicts arising from inequality make economic and political life in a country fragile. The Kurdish issue negatively affects Turkey’s political and economic performance and predictability, pushing social segments to opposite ends.

Loss of $4.5 Trillion

Conflicts, in general, destroy economic and physical capacity; they increase military spending and reduce an appetite for investment;they undermine tourism revenues;and they hinder foreign capital. There has been conflict based on the Kurdish issue in Turkey for 40 years. Consequently, several generations were exposed to all of these negativities mentioned.

Akyol stated that approximately every year,1 per cent of Turkey’s economy was destroyed in the conflicts between 1985-2021. If this resource had not been lost in the conflict environment, Turkey would have an economy that is 4.5 trillion dollars larger today. Even if everything else was the same, if the resource evaporated in the conflict remained in the economy, national income would have increased by 35 per cent.

‘Do you know the cost of a bullet?’

The embedding of material opportunities in the arena of conflict that can be instrumental in development and prosperity puts the governments in a difficult position and, on the other hand, provides opportunities. It makes it difficult because the deterioration of the living conditions of the people increases the complaints against  government and raises the voices expressing discontent. It also offers opportunities because governments show the existence of a conflict as the reason behind all kinds of negativity. The high prices, low wages, and poor quality of services are always attributed to the existence of conflict, and the public is asked to accept it as such.

For example, in February 2019, President Erdoğan asked the opposition criticising the increases in vegetable prices in Aydın, ‘I am calling out to potato and tomato sellers, do you know the cost of that one bullet?’. Even if there is a problem in the supply of basic foodstuffs, no one should make a sound, and the people should put up with it even if they suffer from various grievances.

“Did you calculate what the investments were made while our helicopters were flying here to Gabar and Cudi? Mr. Kemal, stop talking about this. Do you know the spirit of Çanakkale on March 18, 1915?”

Non-Partisan Civil Society

Conflicts make it difficult to question the preferences of governments and thus pave the way for authoritarianism; it also reduces the options for politicians. In moments of polarisation, each group withdraws into its own cultural basin. Due to the social tension, the possibility of doing business together for the actors is likely to come to disappear. Therefore, it becomes more difficult for new political understandings and movements to emerge.

At the meeting, the participants highlighted three important points in this regard, as far as I can see:

First, they pointed out that the Kurdish issue crystallised Turkey’s political and economic predicament. Second, economics alone is not enough to persuade people to peace. And third, Kurdish phobia/obsession in Turkey prevents the implementation of rational policies.

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