The Economic Rationale For Peace in the East

Forbes has just published an essay on the compelling economic driver for AKP’s recent peace deal with the PKK and reconciliation with the impoverished Kurdish east, which is growing demographically at a faster rate than the more developed western part of the country (the national fertility rate is 2.08, just at replacement levels, but skewed regionally). Forbes points out that

Growing national GDP ($786 billion in 2012), a relatively modest budget deficit (two percent), and comparatively low unemployment and public debt (9.4 and 37 percent, respectively) have already made Turkey the sixth largest economy in Europe, and the sixteenth largest in the world. But Turkish officials are thinking even bigger; by 2050, they hope, their country will rank as the third-largest economy in Europe, and tenth in the world overall.

But the conflict with the PKK has been a money-sink (officials estimate half-a-trillion dollars spent on counterterrorism over the past three decades), money that could be better used for development. Regional instability also hinders Turkey’s plans for future economic growth based on a partnership with the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in neighboring Iraq.

Earlier this spring, the Turkish government is believed to have hammered out a secret deal to dramatically expand energy ties with the KRG. The stakes are potentially huge; officials in the KRG estimate that the energy routes now being actively under consideration between Ankara and Irbil could carry as much as one million barrels of crude to Turkey by the year 2015—and as much as double that by the end of the decade.

Forbes represents the AKP-PKK rapprochement as a sound business model. I’m not sure about the article’s link to demographic trends, though, given PM Erdogan’s pronouncements that women should have three or more children. Maybe he means women in western Turkey, not Kurdish women.  When prosperity does come to the East, we can expect Kurdish birth rates there to fall as well, just as they have in the west. Women want to share in the new opportunities.


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