On Ibn Khaldoun and Comte (out of the clear blue sky)

Turkish politics in recent years has become like a volcano that is constantly grumbling and spewing gases and dust and that can erupt anytime, creating a big tremor with a lot of pain and destruction afterwards.

The president’s recent comments about Ibn Khaldoun and Auguste Comte while receiving an honorary doctorate at a university did not quite shake the country or the world but they certainly did not go unnoticed. He usually dwells on more mundane, or for want of a better term, more current issues delivered in ordinary (read colloquial) but high and mighty language; however, this time what he referred to were not within the pale of Joe Schmo, stirring some debate and bewilderment among the illuminati. He basically stated something to the effect that it was unfortunate that Ibn Khaldoun was given short shrift, and that Comte was problematic. He also added that Ibn Khaldoun’s ideas were almost condemned [to extinction]. From his speech, at least to the extent it was covered in the media, it was not clear how and why he considered Ibn Khaldoun a rather neglected or overlooked figure or how and why he determined Comte was “problematic.” One would expect that such assertions on the two great personalities of history and philosophy respectively should have been supported by solid evidence and scholarly references, considering that his talk was on the occasion of receiving an honorary academic title.
It was also curious that the president referred to Ibn Khaldoun in this manner because he and the party he is a member of often emphasize islamic principles and values that are antithetical to critical thinking and rationalism whereas Ibn Khaldoun was a historian and historiographer that derived his philosophical views within the rationalist tradition perhaps best represented by Averroes (that conservative/sunni muslims usually abhor because he considered reason and philosophy superior to faith and faith-based knowledge). Furthermore, and contrary to what the president claimed, the pinnacles of Western academia acknowledge the excellence of Khaldoun’s work that was not to be equaled for centuries to come. It is also known that the Ottomans that the president and his circles seem to be proud of being descendants of showed great interest in Ibn Khaldoun’s work during the 16th and 17th centuries. The great historian’s magnum opus, the Muqaddimah was also translated into Turkish in the 18th century, indicating that his significance as a historian/philosopher/sociologist was not ignored either in the West or in the Ottoman/Turkish realm.
Following in the footsteps of the “problematic” Comte (and Durkheim) and comparing their significance quantitatively would not be definitive, and more importantly, it would be absurd to do so. Nevertheless a simple and general search on Google Trends, much to the consternation of the president or his speech writer, indicates that since 2004 Ibn Khaldoun (represented by the blue line in the chart below) was on average searched more times than Comte  in the English Language and on a global scale. Measured in the category of Books and Literature, Ibn Khaldoun averages 18 against 11 for Comte. This seems to debilitate the president’s argument. Granted that these are crude methods to compare masters of intellectual achievement that left an indelible mark in the history of human civilization, but such quick and dirty ways of dealing with a problem sometimes can be quite telling (and fun).
Google Searches on Ibn Khaldoun and Comte
The moral of the story is, the president cannot be expected to be knowledgeable about everything; however, it goes without saying that he needs competent advisors.




Istanbul Temperatures: March 2017

As the disputes on global warming and climate change rage on at various levels, I checked the minimum, average and maximum temperatures in Istanbul in March 2017. This year’s temperatures seem to be higher than the 90-year averages (1926-2016).

March 2017 Temperatures Changes over Days

According to the State Meteorological Office, the historical minimum, maximum and mean temperatures were 4.2, 10.9 and 7.7 degrees centigrade. This year, however, these temperatures were 6.194, 14.19 and 10.23 degrees respectively.

March 2017 Temperature Differences


This year’s warmer temperatures may not seem to be very meaningful in and of themselves; however, considering that the overall context is a hot issue (no pun intended), there may be enough reason to worry about the higher temperatures of this year, as these may be evidence for the much feared global warming.

Data: NOAA



Dünya Beş’ten Büyük müdür?

Dünyanın Beş’ten büyük olup olmadığına karar vermek çok da zor değil. En basit tarzda mantık yürütecek olursak bir bütünün parçalarının bütünün kendisinden büyük olamayacağı varsayımıyla dünyanın Beş’ten büyük olduğu sonucuna hemen varırız. Ya da dünyadaki bağımsız siyasi birimlerin sayısının 195 olduğunu hatırlarsak, 5 birimin 195 birimin sadece %2,56’sı olduğu, yani çok ufak bir kısmını oluşturduğu hemen ortaya çıkar. Ancak,  kazın ayağı öyle değil.

Söz konusu Beş’in 2015 yılındaki toplam Gayrisafi Yurtiçi Hasılası 35.652.414.960.840,3 (yaklaşık 35,6 trilyon) dolar olup dünya toplamı olan 73.891.888.588.445,7 doların % 48,25’ini, bir başka ifadeyle yarısına yakın bir miktarını oluşturmaktadır.

BM Güvenlik Konseyi Üyelerinin GSYİH’sı ve Diger Ülkeler

Aynı yıl söz konusu Beş’in toplam nüfusu 1.968.682.249’dur; bu da dünya nüfusunun %26,8’ini oluşturur.

2014 rakamlarına göre Beş’in araştırma geliştirme harcamalarının Gayrisafi Yurtiçi Hasıla içindeki ortalama payı %3,74 olmuştur. Bu da dünya ortalaması olan %2,12’nin üzerindedir. Türkiye’de ise bu oran %1’in biraz üzerindedir.

2015 yılı SIPRI istatistiklerine bakıldığında Beş’in askeri harcamalarının Gayrisafi Yurtiçi Hasılaya göre ortalama oranının %2,86 olduğu, bunun da % 2,27 olan dünya ortalamasının üzerinde olduğu görülür. Yalnız ABD ve Rusya’nın toplam askerî harcamaları, dünya toplamının %40,5’ini oluşturmuştur. Buna Çin’i de dahil edersek üç büyük ülkenin harcamaları %53,65 olur.

Birleşmiş Milletler Güvenlik Konseyi Üyeleri ve Diger Ülkeler Nüfusu

2015 yılında her yüz kişi başına düşen internet kullanıcısı sayısı ortalama olarak 78,71 kişi olmuştur. Bu,  dünya ortalaması olan yaklaşık 44 kişinin epey üzerinde olan bir değerdir. Türkiye’de bu 54 kişi olarak gerçekleşmiştir.

2014 yılında Beş’in yüksek teknolojiye dayalı ihracatının toplamı, dünya toplamının %42,33’ü kadar olmuştur. Türkiye’nin bu tür ihracatının Beş’in ortalama değerine oranı ise sadece %1,3 olmuştur.

Yüksek Teknolojiye Dayalı Ürün İhracatı

Netice itibariyle dünya düzeninin değişmesini talep ederken rasyonel ve tutarlı bir mantık üzerinden gitmek gerekir. Bu tür bir talebi dile getirecek ülkenin ise Beş’i karşısına alabilecek güçte olması beklenir.


The Economic State of Affairs in Turkey: Growth and Inequality

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has maintained its popular support since coming to power in 2002. The government and the circles associated with it claim that the AKP governments have performed much better than previous governments, pointing out enrichment of masses, its mega projects and never-seen-before privatization schemes that it undertook rather zealously. Arguing for an unprecedented economic success in the history of the Republic, they proudly point out the unwavering electoral support they have been receiving in most local and national elections. In the framework of authoritarian, increasingly repressive and blatantly extra-legal practices of the government, one consequently feels it necessary to go beyond aggregate statistics and see if their high-fluted discourse is justifiable.

When comparing economies or speaking of change in the size of an economy it is conventional to refer to aggregate measures such as Gross National Product (GNP) or Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, we know that these are simply average figures that conceal a lot more than they reveal. For a crude comparison among economies, or to get a rough idea about how a particular country is doing in the world economy, these figures have some practical utility but beyond that they are almost useless. Even in per capita terms such statistics are not very informative. Therefore, alternative measures have been created to overcome the limitations of the conventional measures of economic growth. The Purchasing Power Parity, for instance, is one of them. Additionally, measures of poverty and inequality have been created in recent decades to understand social and economic phenomena better. Moreover, the Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations is an attempt to measure the level of development, a composite measure that consists of a number of basic indicators, reflecting development, rather than simply growth.


Using the conventional measures of economic growth, it can be seen that Turkey’s Gross Domestic Product, according to the World Bank, rose from 13,995,067,817.5092 in 1961 to 718,221,078,308.824 current US dollars in 2015. The increase is an impressive 5032 percent. The same figure for 1961-2001 was 1301 %, for 2002-2015 208.86 percent. GDP per capita, on the other hand, rose from $508 in 1960 to $9130 in 2015.


Between 1961 and 2015 the annual rate of increase in per capita GDP, including all the ups and downs in the 54-year period, was 2.53 percent on average, which can only be considered a modest rate of growth. The per capita rate of increase in GDP in the 2002-2015 period turned out to be 3.33 percent on average, which is somewhat higher than the average for the pre-AKP period but is not all that impressive. What makes the GDP growth rate during the AKP period “shine” is perhaps the meager growth of 1.777 percent in the immediately preceding 10-year period during which an economic crisis wreaked havoc in Turkish economy.

However, as indicated above, the aggregate measures are never adequate; they conceal crucial facts such as income differentials or poverty rates. Therefore, we will have to look at the picture from the perspective of social justice and equity, criteria that should be of prime concern for the party in government.

The Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality, was 39.3 in 2013 (OECD), indicating a high degree of income inequality. In fact, Turkey has one of the highest levels of inequality in the OECD area. Similarly, the poverty ratio was 17.2 % for the same year. Income shared by the top 10 % of the population between 2002-2013 was on average 30.54 % with minor fluctuations over the period. On the other hand, the income share of the lowest 20 % in the same period was on average 5.67 percent. As one can realize, these indicators manifest a high degree of inequality and poverty, that is not captured by the aggregate measures of economic growth. An unemployment of 10.7 % in July 2016 as announced by the Statistics Office of Turkey testifies to the mere fact that poverty and inequality are not negligible. In the 15-24 year age group unemployment is 19.8 %, indicating that a major portion of the jobless is among the youth, which happens to be one of the largest demographic groups in the country (median age being 30, half of the population is 30 years old and younger).

Considering the regional disparities in incomes and development, and the fact that 66.5 % of the population having non-mortgage debt, the policies of the AKP government can hardly be considered a success. Chronically low rates of savings, inadequate flow of foreign investment (unfortunately seen as panacea for low rates of savings in liberal economics), and moreover, the flight of capital due to recent political instability, terrorism and wars, not to mention the exceptional ineptitude of the policy-makers, the economy is on the brink of collapse, despite feeble efforts of government officials to calm public anxiety. It has to be pointed out that the economic growth the government is so proud to emphasize has been due to services and the construction sector, not to industrial production. The manufacturing sector was able to maintain itself through borrowing excessively and producing mostly for the domestic market. Even exports are based on importation of goods to a large extent, indicating serious structural problems with the economy. With a long-term debt in excess of $200 billion, the private sector is in dire straits. With a dwindling economy, the government is hard-pressed to increase its tax revenue not only for regular expenditures but also for financing the military operations in the east of the country and in Syria. With the national currency rapidly eroding against the US dollar and the panic on the part of the government pathetically calling for “de-dollarization” of the economy, the picture is quite bleak and the collapse seems imminent (ironically, most of the savings in foreign currency are located in provinces that have overwhelmingly voted for the conservative/nationalistic AKP, recently calling for reversion to the “national” currency and gold).


According to the UNDP, Turkey’s Human Development Index increased by 1.26 % in the 1990-2000 period. During the ensuing 10-year period, which corresponds to AKP rule, the figure was 1.23. That simply indicates that the AKP-period’s economic growth did not translate into any more development than the previous period. In fact, it was slightly lower. During the 2010-14 period Turkey registered an HDI growth rate of 0.79, resulting in an average growth of HDI of 1.17 percent for the 1990-2014 period. According to the 2014 figures, Turkey is in 72nd place in the community of nations. This clearly is not concomitant with its economic size, which the bureaucrats and politicians are often proud to point out for being among the top 20 economies in the world. Compared to countries with even a lower per capita income, such as Serbia, Cuba and Costa Rica, just to name a few, Turkey’s overall development is incompatible with its income level or with the size of its economy.

The conclusion we can draw from all this is that economic growth in Turkey has not resulted in the kind of economic development one would expect. The governments in recent history have not been successful in creating the necessary conditions for a structural transformation of the economy, and the AKP governments of recent years have not been any more successful than the preceding ones.


Last year, exactly on this date, I posted an article about women on this site ( https://lassietecolinas.wordpress.com/2015/03/08/on-women-on-a-womens-day/ ). Today I have decided to look at things from a somewhat light-hearted point of view. Even though women’s plight in the world has not changed since last year, and that it may even be worse, I do not feel like dramatizing things, so let’s keep on reading..

As it would be expected in any developing economy, the number of motor vehicles in Turkey has been steadily increasing. The Statistical Institute of Turkey reports that the numbers went up from 8,521,956 in 2001 to 19,994,472 in 2015. This is not only due to the expansion of the economy, but also because of the increase in the population, which, according to the World Bank, grew from about 64 million in 2001 to almost 76 million in 2014. The number of divorces also increased, parallel to the population increase during this period. In the face of such sharp increase in numbers, and out of curiosity, one might very well be interested in looking into this. The following plot displays what is explained above. The correlation coefficient r = 0.9359 as calculated by R, is highly impressive. However, let’s face it, despite the rationale one might think of regarding the increase in individual variables and their covariation, this is one of those cases of spuriousness.

Motor vehicles and Divorces in Turkey (2001-2015)
Motor vehicles and Divorces in Turkey (2001-2015)

It should be obvious to anyone with a minimal understanding of socioeconomic phenomena and statistics, that it just does not make any sense to think of divorces somehow being linked to the number of motor vehicles. One cannot possibly cause the other, so we will have to think of confounding factors (variables in technical lingo) such as development of economy, emancipation of women, economic crises causing unresolvable disputes between spouses, etc. that actually play a role in the background, affecting our variables of interest. As this exercise illustrates, one can find a relationship and calculate a correlation coefficient between almost any two variables (factors or phenomena in ordinary language) in life. However, the question is whether or not that seeming relationship will be meaningful.

Briefly, the moral of the story for the newly initiated is that looks can be deceptive, we would be well advised to delve into the matter and look for hidden factors.

Türkiye’de Bilişim ve Telekomünikasyon

Birleşmiş Milletler’e bağlı Uluslararası Telekomünikasyon Birliğinin (ITU) her yıl oluşturduğu Bilişim ve Teknoloji endeksi (IDI), ülkelerin bilişim ve teknoloji açısından karşılaştırılmasını sağlıyor.

Endeks üç gösterge grubundan oluşuyor. Birinci grupta olanlar a) her 100 kişiye düşen sabit telefon aboneliği, b) her 100 kişiye düşen mobil telefon aboneliği, c) internet kullanıcısı başına düşen uluslararası internet bandı (bit/s), d) Bilgisayarı olan hane sayısı, ve e) Internet erişimi olan hane yüzdesi. İkinci grup göstergede a) Internet kullanan kişilerin yüzdesi, b) her 100 kişiye düşen sabit geniş bant aboneliği, c) her 100 kişiye düşen aktif mobil geniş bant aboneliği sayısı. Son grupta ise a) Yetişknlerde okur-yazarlık oranı, b) Orta eğitim düzeyinde okullaşma oranı, ve c) Yüksek öğrenimde okullaşma oranı.

Fotograf: http://www.artelys.com/en/solutions/telecommunication

Söz konusu örgütün en son istatistiklerine göre Türkiye 2015 yılında dünya sıralamasında 69. sırada bulunuyor. Özellikle 5G teknolojisinin test edilmekte olduğu ve 2020 yuılına kadar 5G’nin yaygınlaşmasının beklendiği bir zamanda Türkiye’nin bu yerinin gelecek için hiç de ümit vermediğini görmek gerekir. 2010 yılında 67. sırada iken 5 yıl sonra iki sıra geriye gitmek, Türk hükümetlerinin bilişim konusunu ve bilişim teknolojilerini yeterince ön planda tutmadığını, bu konuda ciddi bir vizyon eksikliği içinde olduğunu gösterir.

Çağımızın bilişim çağı olduğu ve bilişimin hayatın her alanına gitgide artan bir hızla nüfuz ettiği düşünülürse, bu konuda dünya birincisi olan Kore’den dersler alınmasını tavsiye etmekten başka bir tavsiyemiz olamaz.

Crisis with Russia

The downing of a Russian fighter-bomber on Nov 24 along the Turkish-Syrian border is considered by many observers as an act of war. The Russian administration, claiming that their SU-24 never violated Turkish air space, called the incident “a stab in the back.” While the USA, France and NATO seem to back Turkish claims that Turkey has the right to defend its territorial rights, Russia has immediately proceeded to impose economic sanctions on Turkey, ranging from a ban on Turkish imports to visa restrictions.

Kremlin’s tough and unwavering stance will certainly have an impact on Turkish economy. For example, in 2014 the number of Russian tourists that came to Turkey reached 4.5 million. This amounts to almost 4 billion dollars in revenue, comprising a major portion of Turkey’s earnings from foreign visitors. Leaving aside Turkey’s dependence on Russia for its natural gas, another critical issue that needs to be resolved, its exports are likely to plummet if the Russians stick to their words. In 2013, Turkey’s exports to Russia were in excess of $7 billion, making it one of its major export partners.

Turkey’s Exports to Russia (2013)

On the other hand, Turkey imports from Russia mostly petroleum products, raw aluminium, scrap metal, various chemicals and wheat. The value of total imports from Russia exceed $14 billion, more than 30% of which being refined petroleum.

Turkey’s Imports from Russia (2013)

It is clear that in the short-term both Turkey and Russia are likely to lose from the current stand-off. It needs to be emphasized, however, the reckless foreign policy of Turkey does not serve Turkey’s long-term interests; neither does it serve peace in the region.

Data source: AJG Simoes, CA Hidalgo. The Economic Complexity Observatory: An Analytical Tool for Understanding the Dynamics of Economic Development. Workshops at the Twenty-Fifth AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence. (2011)


November 2015

This year in November the weather in Istanbul has been quite warm – unusually so. Whether it is due to the hotly debated climate change/global warming or it is simply because we are having a warmer November is beyond my pale. The political climate is certainly reaching the boiling point but that is not what I intend to show here, although I am very much tempted to do so. The United Nations Climate Change Conference started in  Paris, and some of the leaders have already made striking statements, indicating the imminence of taking serious measures such as the use of sustainable technology, energy efficiency and innovation. We will have to wait and see, however, if the participants can reach a binding and universal agreement on climate.

In a previous post, “Climatic Anomalies“, I had shown the increasing global temperatures. Given the anomalies that are reported and the Conference being held, I researched the average temperatures in Istanbul. According to the State Meteorological Office mean temperature in November between 1950 and 2014 was 7 degrees Celsius, mean maximum temperature 12.8 degrees and mean low 2.4 degrees Celsius.

Maximum, mean and minimum temperatures in Istanbul (November 2015)
Maximum, mean and minimum temperatures in Istanbul (November 2015)

This year, however, mean temperature has been 14.17 degrees Celsius, mean maximum temperature 17.13 and mean low temperature 11.27 degrees Celsius. The chart below shows the course of temperatures throughout the month of November.

Temperature fluctuations - November 2015
Temperature fluctuations – November 2015

Given that in many countries total carbon dioxide emissions and per capita emissions have increased in the last couple of decades, and in the face of empirical data, we seem to have good reasons to worry about global warming and its devastating consequences, as already stated by some of the conference participants.


Tough Road Ahead

Despite the increasing liberalization of its economy since the 1980s, presented as a reform by the ideologues of neoliberalism and by market fetishists alike, Turkish economy still suffers from serious structural problems, which continue to render the economy highly fragile.

As often stated, the manufacturing sector mostly produces commonplace (one might argue mediocre)  goods that have low value-added, not generating the wealth that would be expected in a thriving liberal economy. One of the problems that seems to continue over the last few decades is the stagnating level of value-added in the manufacturing sector in general. Another difficulty has been the low levels of savings that are well below the world average. Without adequate savings, economic growth will be difficult to achieve unless the gap is closed with foreign investment or borrowing. Interestingly, investment rates have also been lower than the world average, and the country has been unable to attract high levels of foreign investment (whether this is a good thing or not is beyond this purpose of this article) despite a lot of lip service.

A notable weakness in the economy is the fact that the exports have been dependent on the imports of capital and intermediary goods as well as raw materials.  In spite of a continual increase in exports and the emphasis placed by recent governments on bringing them to “record” levels, the manufacturing sector has not reached the technological efficiency or sophistication that would make the country more competitive.

Data: The World Bank
Data: The World Bank

The exports as a share of GDP were higher than the imports as a share of GDP only in 1988, 1994, 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2002 in the 55-year period ranging from 1960 to 2014. In relation with this, the high level of current account deficit continues to be a problem, even though the official rhetoric tends to disregard it.

Clearly, without a structural transformation, the Turkish economy will gradually lose ground, and the country eventually end up in the lower middle income bracket. Unless critical sectors are specified and strategically supported through a mixture of incentives, Turkey cannot avoid becoming peripheralized. As history shows, an underdeveloped economy without direction based on planning and a necessary level of protectionism cannot generate development.

The governing Justice and Development Party that has been in power since 2002 emerged with a clear victory in the elections of November 1, 2015 and faces a real challenge to overcome in the economic sphere.

The Human Development Index (HDI)

The Index is generally viewed numerically, and countries are compared on the basis of their numeric distance from each other (UNDP Data ). While this is usually sufficient to get an idea about the differential levels of development, one might also be interested in a visual inspection of the data. Here’s a nifty study on the HDI of the United nations: Clusters in the Human Development Index

As I have indicated in a previous post, cluster analysis comes in handy in many situations where categorical differences are of interest.