2012-12-11

Turkey's rank improves in global transparency report

Progress is cited by the government as some officials call for a stronger and more consistent approach, including judicial independence.

By Alakbar Raufoglu for SES Türkiye -- 11/12/12

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Turkey has been ranked 54th in a recent global anti-corruption survey, improving from its ranking of 61st in the same survey one year ago.

  • Traders work at the Istanbul stock exchange. Turkey said its pro-business approach and anti-corruption efforts work hand-in-hand. [AFP]

    Traders work at the Istanbul stock exchange. Turkey said its pro-business approach and anti-corruption efforts work hand-in-hand. [AFP]

Turkey finished in the top third of the review, which was conducted by the Berlin-based watchdog organization Transparency International and issued earlier this month.

Five EU members -- Slovakia, Romania, Italy, Bulgaria and Greece -- lag behind Turkey in the scoring.

Denmark, Finland and New Zealand are the most virtuous countries in this year's report, while two-thirds of the 176 countries ranked below 50.

"These results showing that public institutions need to be more transparent, and powerful officials more accountable," Transparency International said in a statement, adding that it has "consistently warned euro zone countries to deal with corruption as they tackle a financial crisis."

Turkey has in the past faced periodic criticism for corruption, but the ruling AK Party officials pride their government as "pro-business" and said they are committed to rooting out corruption.

"Development cannot step forward with corruption," Hasan Fehmi Kinay, AKP MP and the party's vice chairman for economy affairs, told SES Turkiye. "Our target is to get among first 20-30 countries in the Transparency International's list in the near future."

Transparency has been one of AKP government's " main economic goals during the past 10 years," according to Kinay.

"We've followed an honest policy," he added.

Only during the past several years, he said, major international anti-corruption conventions have been signed and ratified. Besides that, "an anti-corruption action plan has been adopted in 2010 and the government has implemented reforms aimed at reducing red tape and related opportunities for corruption as well as improving the country's business environment."

"Almost every government project is being announced through the public tenders and 30 percent of the tender winners are among the private hands," he added. "It's absolutely in government's interest to further increase public awareness [of the project] and promote public supervising of the administration which handled the task."

This approach has influence since the public sector "gets its lesson by looking at politicians," Kinay said.

"We see now that a job done for 3 liras before is now done for 2 liras," he said. "So, now there are no more taps."

In spite of these measures, for many economic analysts, such as Erol Tuncer, head of the Social Economic, Political Research Foundation, progress in the fight against corruption remains limited, and concerns have been raised in a number of areas.

"Transparency in public administration so far has failed … This is about the understanding of the business, the regulatory work and the political will," he told SES Türkiye.

Tuncer said there is no nationwide central body in Turkey that is in charge of developing and evaluating anti-corruption policies. Also, there is inadequate coordination of the various institutions involved in the fight against corruption, he said.

"Any business member could tell you that the country has an unhealthy government control on them and the rules are being changed very rapidly," he said. "For example, the Public Procurement Act organised on the basis of transparency has been changed a lot of times. Unfortunately this is undermining the end of corruption in public administration."

As for the Transparency International's report, Tuncer said, "the criteria of such surveys might not be debated, but they certainly don't express Turkey's reality." For Ali Riza Ozturk, a CHP MP and member the Turkish delegation to the Black Sea Economic Co-operation Parliamentarian Assembly, Turkey has "a long way to go" in terms of openness and being corruption-free.

"[The] Transparency list doesn't explain anything," Ozturk told SES Türkiye.

"The important thing is how our society feels about Turkey's economic reality," he said. "Nothing has changed during the past years."

Ozturk also said improving Turkey's transparency and business climate would also require the government to guarantee independence of the nation's legal system.

"How can one talk about transparency in the country where judiciary is subject to government influence, and judges are not well trained for commercial cases," he said.

Ozturk said he believes the condition of transparency in Turkey is "a political problem."

"For example, prosecutors' investigating the theft of Zakat being dismissed in our country, but the government doesn't open the case against the perpetrators," he said.

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