NYT: Exodus of brains, talents, wealth from Turkey due to Erdogan’s policies

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A report by published The New York Times on January 3 has highlighted the anguish of the Turkish people who are leaving the country in large numbers due to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policies, especially after the failed 2016 coup.

According to the report, for 17 years, Erdogan won elections by offering voters a vision of restoring the glories of Turkey’s Ottoman past, but after the 2016 he embarked on a sweeping crackdown.

Also the deteriorating economy, which has led to the Turkish currency plunging, has made Turks take a different approach by leaving the country in droves and taking talent and capital with them, in a way that indicates a broad and alarming loss of confidence in Erdogan’s vision, according to government statistics and analysts.

More than a quarter of a million Turks emigrated in 2017, according to the Turkish Institute of Statistics, an increase of 42 percent over 2016, when nearly 178,000 citizens left the country.

At least 12,000 of Turkey’s millionaires — around 12 percent of the country’s wealthy class — moved their assets out of the country in 2016 and 2017, according to the Global Wealth Migration Review, an annual report produced by AfrAsia Bank.

Turkey protests
Turkey protests

Turkey has seen waves of students and teachers leave before, but this exodus looks like a more permanent reordering of the society and threatens to set Turkey back decades, said Ibrahim Sirkeci, director of transnational studies at Regent’s University in London, and other analysts.

“The brain drain is real,” Sirkeci said. According to The New York Times, the flight of people, talent and capital is being driven by a powerful combination of factors that have come to define life under Erdogan and that his opponents increasingly despair is here to stay.

They include fear of political persecution, terrorism, a deepening distrust of the judiciary and the arbitrariness of the rule of law, and a deteriorating business climate, accelerated by worries that Erdogan is unsoundly manipulating management of the economy to benefit himself and his inner circle.

The result is that, for the first time since the republic was founded nearly a century ago, many from the old moneyed class, in particular the secular elite who have dominated Turkey’s cultural and business life for decades, are moving away and the new rich close to Erdogan and his governing party are taking their place.

Exodus of wealthy

Most of them moved to Europe or the United Arab Emirates, the report said. Turkey’s largest business center, Istanbul, was listed among the top seven cities worldwide experiencing an exodus of wealthy people. Erdogan has reviled as traitors businesspeople who have moved their assets abroad as the Turkish economy began to falter.

“Pardon us, we do not forgive,” he warned in a speech at the Foreign Economic Relations Board, a business association in Istanbul in April. “The hands of our nation would be on their collars both in this world and in the afterlife.” “Behavior like this cannot have a valid explanation,” Erdogan added.

His comments came amid reports that some of Turkey’s largest companies were divesting in Turkey. Several such companies have made significant transfers of capital abroad, amid fears they would be targeted in the post-coup crackdown or as the economy began to contract.

One is the Turkish food giant Yildiz Holding, which came under fire on social media as being linked to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen’s movement. Soon after, Yildiz rescheduled $7 billion of debt and sold shares of its Turkish biscuit maker, Ulker, to its London-based holding company, essentially transferring the family’s majority holding of Ulker out of reach of Turkish courts, the report says.

However, Yildiz representatives later told The New York Times that its companies were in no way associated with the Gulenist movement, which it called a “terrorist” group, and that the transfer of its debt and shares to its London-based holding company had no impact on its company’s commitment to and operations in Turkey.

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