Transforming Turkey: the 1950s
Here at ESI we have done a lot of work on Turkey today and its recent past. On this literary walk we have quite a few pages about its Ottoman past as well. We selected this book by Andrew Mango because Mango is one of the best known western scholars of Turkey and he won much acclaim for his biography of Ataturk. In the last few years Turkey has undergone a major transformation spurred by an economic boom. This extract recalls the events of the 1950s when, says Mango, it was also transformed, but clearly under very different circumstances.
The area under cultivation increased from 14 million to 23 million hectares, the number of tractors from under 2,000 to 42,000, the amount of fertilizer used from 42,000 to 107,000 tonnes. The length of metalled roads rose from under 2,000 to 7,000 kilometres; 14 dams, 15 power stations and 20 harbours were built. Private entrepreneurs were encouraged to invest in factories producing consumer goods. But, far from being reduced, the public sector grew in size. Not only was the state responsible for the building of dams and roads, it continued also to produce goods both for investment and for consumption – iron and steel, cement, textiles and cheap clothes, sugar, cigarettes and alcoholic drinks. Electoral considerations dictated the choice of sites for new state factories. Private companies flourished by working as subcontractors to the state, whose agencies took on more staff. The government thus bought more support among entrepreneurs and also among the public at large. It became an employment agency creating jobs and generating profits, in the first place for its own supporters. This policy could only be sustained by deficit financing – that is by printing money at home, and accumulating debts abroad. But until resources and the patience of foreign creditors – in particular, the United States – were exhausted, it was a popular policy. In the ten years of the Democrats' rule the gross value of the national product (GNP) rose by an average of 6 per cent a year. Allowing for the increase in population, this was equivalent to a rise of nearly 3.5 per cent per head.
The Turks Today. Andrew Mango. 2004.
[p. 47 / John Murray]