Economic Instability and Ethnic and Religious Unrest Term Paper

Pages: 10 (2638 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 7  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: History - Israel

economic instability and ethnic & religious unrest in Turkey

Despite its glorious past and the individual strengths of the different peoples who have been brought together in the modern nation of Turkey, the country is currently faced with a number of problems. Among the most important and daunting challenges currently facing the country are growing ethnic strife, religious discord that - in the wake of the events of last September seem all the more terrible - and substantial economic structural weaknesses. This paper focuses on the last of these three problems - while recognizing that economic instability and ethnic and religious unrest are of course in fact intimately related to each other. In particular, this paper examines recent economic conditions in Turkey, how the particular nature of these economic conditions has brought about a number of measures that attempt to reform the country's economic structure. The statistical description and evaluation of the country given in This paper should allow the reader to understand the background against which current and recent economic reforms have been deemed necessary and have been implemented.

Brief Historical and Political Background

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Before beginning to look specifically at the nature of the country's current economic problems, it will be useful to provide the briefest sketch of its current cultural and political structures. Ironically, many of Turkey's current political and even cultural problems - which feed into and in many cases worsen its economic problems - a are actually the result of genuine constitutional reforms made two generations ago.

Term Paper on Economic Instability and Ethnic & Religious Unrest Assignment

While we in the West like to think that constitutional reform that results in a more genuinely representational government must be a good thing, in fact in the case of Turkey such reform had unintended but still deeply troubling consequences. The constitutional reforms that went into effect in 1961 produced a system of electoral policy and governance that made it difficult (and in actual practice nearly impossible) for any one political party to gain the majority needed to enact effective legislation. With little real possibility of the government's being able to take decisive action on the many important issues facing the country, people have often resorted to direct, violent "reform" in the streets (Ibrahim, 2001, p. 38). This continuous political civil unrest has made it increasingly difficult for the country to maintain a stable economic program and has made it unattractive to foreign investment. The inability of the government to create a stable economic situation has led in turn to more civil unrest, which has in turn led to a poorer showing by the country's economy, leading to more unrest - in an infinitely downward moving spiral (

We can see that the country's political and social problems worsened dramatically in the late 1970s (even as its economy also continued to weaken and to become more subject to increasingly dangerous fluctuations) as extremists on both the left and the right end of the political spectrum increasingly turned to violence - including political assassinations - as the only way in which they felt that they might get their message across and win followers amongst the people at large. Finally, the level of disorder had become so great that civil governance and law had essentially been abrogated and the military (in this case not without justification) took over the reins of government on September 12, 1980, by the army of the government. The constitution was suspended indefinitely, martial law imposed, all open political activity was banned, the press was severely restricted, and thousands were jailed, some for legitimate reasons, others on the mere suspicion of being dangerous to political stability as the army envisioned it. (Rittenberg, 1998, p. 61).

In the last dozen years, the country's political situation has improved, with the first civilian head of state since 1960 being elected in 1989. However, despite the fact that the central government has grown increasingly stable over the last decade as well as increasingly committed to Western ideas of democracy (which of course belong to all people throughout the world and not to the West alone), the country has continued to suffer economically during both the 1980s and 1990s and now into the 21st century. These economic problems have a number of different and complicated causes, but the most important are the continuing large deficits incurred and sustained by the government, a continuing weak currency, and continuing economic losses that have resulted as an indirect effect of the United Nations trade embargo of Iraq. All of these factors continue to have significant and detrimental effects on the country's current economic condition. These weakness in the economy have left the nation subject to Islamic nationalist movements that many Turks believe to be disruptive, especially in the current post-September 11th geopolitical situation. And while the great majority of Turks are themselves Muslims, many also find recent Islamic militant movements to be foreign to their own interests because these militant groups are in general backed by Arab interests. Turkey is a Muslim nation, but not an Arab one, and the Islamic militants are not as sensitive as many Turks want their nation to be to their country's unique position at the crossroads of the East and the West (Abramowitz, 2001, p. 81).

These political and cultural concerns, along with the natural desire of all Turkish citizens to see their economy on a more reliable and healthier standing, have lead to a number of recent economic reforms, or at least attempts at economic reforms.


The country's current demographic situation is not dissimilar to other nations that lie on the border between the First and Third Worlds.

Population Estimates

Turkey, 2002

Population (in millions)




Population by age and gender (in millions)

Male Female Source to 14 Years

15 Years and Older


We can see the country's high birthrate by comparing this population figure to an estimated July 1998 population of 64,566,511. The country's young population accounts in part for its high birthrate, as does the subservient position of women who often have little control over their own fertility. The figures below offer further insight into the nation's demographic state:

Population growth rate: 1.6% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 21.38 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 5.35 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.85 male(s)/female (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 38.27 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 72.82 years male: 70.38 years female: 75.39 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 2.47 children born/woman (1998 est.)

Structure of the Turkish Economy

The overall structure of the nation's economy continue to be substantially influenced by the relatively high percentage of its population that continues to live in rural areas and to pursue traditional economic activities such as farming as well as the relatively high degree of involvement by the governing in central planning for the economy. The relatively low degree of technological involvement coupled with poor decisions made on the part of the government - as well as simple bad luck - have had important deleterious effects on the nation's economy.

In early 1995, after an impressive economic performance through most of the 1980s, Turkey continues to suffer through its most damaging economic crisis in the last 15 years. Sparked by the downgrading in January 1994 of Turkey's international credit rating by two U.S. credit rating agencies, the crisis stems from years of loose fiscal and monetary policies that had exacerbated inflation and allowed the public debt, money supply, and current account deficit to explode (

It should not be assumed that the government has not tried to act responsibly; in fact it has done so by instituting a number of economic austerity plans over the last decade. These have not been enough to overcome the country's economic problems.

In April 1994, Prime Minister Ciller introduced an austerity package aimed at restoring domestic and international confidence in her fragile coalition government. Three months later the IMF endorsed the program, paving the way for a $740 million IMF standby loan. Although the economy showed signs of improvement following the stabilization measures, Ciller has been unable to overcome the political obstacles to tough structural reforms necessary for sustained, longer-term growth. As a consequence, the economy is suffering the worst of both worlds: at the end of 1994, inflation hit a record 126% (annual rate), and real GDP dropped an estimated 5% for the year as a whole, the worst decline in Turkey's post-war history (

In December 1997 the European Union denied Turkey's application for full membership because of the country's questionable record on human rights, another sign of one of the serious problems that it has to address in the years to come as it grapples with the problem of how to address the rights of minority Kurds (viz. Hershlag 1988 and Landau, 1997). This denial of entry into the EU further weakened the nation's… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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