As international security threats and global economic crises threaten defense and fiscal structures, countries are seeking to secure geostrategic and economic importance to better weather the storm. As an emerging economy with high geostrategic value, Turkey is attempting to redefine its foreign and economic policies and increase their position as an international actor. Sitting at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East, Turkey’s value has historically been defined as geostrategic. However, Turkish leaders have undertaken bold plans, both domestically and internationally, to develop the economy and raise Turkey’s position as a political leader. This is not an easy task as Turkey faces many challenges. The Turkish economy has grown at a rapid pace placing huge demands on infrastructure, energy supply, and agriculture. Threats from Kurdish separatists and Islamic extremists have threatened the on-going process of democratization. Strained relations with the European Union (EU) over Turkey’s treatment of the Kurds and Greek Cypriots have threatened to derail a decade’s long pursuit of membership in the EU. These challenges have necessitated social, cultural, and economic reforms.
To better understand the economic challenges Turkey currently faces it is important to first understand the Ottoman influence that paved the road for the Republic of Turkey. History, particularly in Turkey’s case, still informs the modern environment. This paper will address the Ottoman influence on the Turkish economy and will then proceed with a comprehensive examination of the present economy. The paper will conclude with recommendations and rationale for economic improvement.
The Ottoman Empire
The history of the Ottoman Empire spans over 700 years (1300-1918) and its territory spread throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa. It would be unnecessary to address the entire Ottoman history however; a thorough examination of the Turkish economy would be remiss in not examining key components of the Ottoman economy that still inform modern Turkey. The following section will provide a brief overview of Ottoman economic structure.
The Ottoman Influence
The vastness and diversity of the Ottoman Empire was a challenge to rule. Ottoman territory encompassed a large amount of land and as a consequence, a wide array of ethnicities and religious affiliations were under Ottoman control. Realizing the difficulty of trying to impose a homogenous national identity, the Ottoman sultans choose to recognize, rather than ignore ethnic differences. Governmental institutions and provincial rule allowed sultans to maintain control within separate provinces. Rule was applied with regard to ethnic and religious affiliation; as a result, tensions were lessened within conquered areas which increased the empire’s ability to maintain peaceful conditions without a large occupying presence. Within the large confines of the Ottoman Empire, Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived...