Monday, 7 April 2008

The Myth of the Liberal Reforming AKP in Turkey: How the AKP blocks competitive procurement in the public sector

Myths 1. The neo-Islamist AKP government party in Turkey began a wave of economic and political reform in Turkey.
Myth 2. The centre-left secularist-republicans have been less reformist than the neo-Islamists.

I was at a seminar today in my university in Istanbul where I work. The paper from a guest speaker referred to developments in political economy in Turkey since 1980. The speaker addressed neo-liberalism and globalisation from a Marxist point of view.

Amongst other things it was pointed out that liberalising-globalising economic reforms began before the AKP government under the arch centre-left secularist republican Bülent Ecevit. This came out of a mixture of the EU adaption process and an economic program adopted after a currency crisis, under the guidance of the fiance minister Kemal Derviş who had been a Vice-President of the World Bank.

I was well aware of the points above. The speaker filled in my knowledge in a very significant way. The Ecevit government had adopted a measure to open up the public sector to competitive award of contracts and all procurement activity. The 'reformist' AKP tried to block this measure in power. They found that the weight of pressure from state technocrats and international institutions was too great to resist. However, they found a way around the policy, in order to satisfy their client and cronies in local and medium business. They introduced a minimum amount for procurement contracts to be awarded on the basis of open competition. They then carved up public procurement into chunks below the threshold level so that their friends could continue to benefit.

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