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Why Sometimes Small is Big: Finland V. Turkey

Why Sometimes Small is Big: Finland V. Turkey

In her celebratory remarks on the occasion of her country’s 100th Independence Day reception, Finland’s ambassador to Ankara, Paivi Kairamo, said that Finland has come a long way from a remote and poor country to “what we are today.”

“What they are today,” according to the World Economic Forum and other credible international organizations, is that Finland ranks as one of the world’s most stable, freest, safest and best governed countries, with one of the world’s most independent judicial system. In the latest Press Freedom Index, Ms Kairamo reminded, Finland ranks third best in the world (against Turkey’s ranking at 155th).

The “country of white lilies” is small compared to the “Great Turkey” in the making. Turkey’s population is nearly 16 times bigger than Finland’s, and its geographical size, 2.3 times bigger. But poor Finland does not boast as many luxury residences and splendid shopping malls as Turkey does: forests account for 69 percent of Finnish soil.

Turkey’s Islamists boast the world’s biggest airports, bridges and giant mosques under construction. Finland boasts to be the world’s second most stable country based on social, economic, political and military indications.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is proud to have made Turkey the world’s 17th biggest economy – compared to 17th before he came to power. But Finland’s per capita GDP (in 2015, at 2011 PPP) is $38,600 against Turkey’s $18.900.

Finnish citizens regard the police as one of the most reliable public institutions. Never mind abut what the Turks think about their police. Public confidence in the Finnish judicial system stands at 72 percent, and in Turkey, at 43 percent (2014-15, i.e., before the coup attempt in Turkey). Prison population per 100,000 people in (pre-coup attempt) Turkey was 220 against 57 in Finland. And homicide rates per 100,000 population were 4.3 in Turkey and 1.6 in Finland (which Finnish people consider “too high”).

Finland has ranked at the top of the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment in recent years, and Turkey at the bottom of the same list. Population with at least secondary education is 100 percent in Finland and 54 percent in Turkey.

In the United Nations’ Gender Inequality Index Finland ranks 8th globally and Turkey 69th. Mean years of average schooling for female population is 11.5 years in Finland and seven years in Turkey.

It is not surprising that Finland ranks 23rd on the UN’s Human Development Index and Turkey ranks 71st.

And the Turks keep running after “the biggest.” The biggest population, if possible, the biggest this or the biggest that, foolishly thinking that the “biggest” will automatically make their country the “best.”

They should sit down, think and understand why do millions of Muslim refugees risk their lives trying to reach the borders of small, Christian countries in Europe instead of running into the comforting lives of “huge” Muslim countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh – both of which, by the way, are “bigger” than Turkey, but not necessarily “better.”

About The Author

Burak Bekdil

Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based Turkish political columnist who wrote for Hurriyet Daily News [formerly Turkish Daily News] for 29 years. He has covered Turkey for the U.S. weekly Defense News since 1997. Previously, Bekdil worked as Ankara Bureau Chief for Dow Jones Newswires and CNBC-e television. He contributes to annual national defense sector reviews for anti-corruption institutions like Transparency International and Global Integrity. Bekdil is a fellow at the Middle East Forum and regularly writes for the Gatestone Institute and Middle East Quarterly. He also contributes to Perspectives, a journal of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University, Tel Aviv. James Cuno, art historian and President of the J. Paul Getty Trust, describes Bekdil as "a frequent critic of Prime Minister [now president] Recep Tayyip Erdogan." In 2001, a Heavy Crimes Court in Ankara sentenced Bekdil to a suspended, 20-month prison sentence for his column in which he satirized corruption in the judiciary. Bekdil's comments, quotes and articles have been published in international media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, BBC, The Guardian, Reuters, Associated Press, Bloomberg, Los Angeles Times, The Commentator, New York Times, Kathimerini, National Review Online, Algemeiner, NPR, Washington Times, Die Presse, Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, Toronto Star, Financial Times, Al-Monitor, Le Figaro, ABC, El Pais, Stern, Al-Arabiya, Helsingin Sanomat, Racjonalista, Defence Greece, Moyen-Orient, Courier International, ISN Security Watch and Coloquio (of Congreso Judio Latinoamerico) and the Jewish Chronicle (London). (Born: Ankara, 1966; Undergraduate: Department of Economics, Middle East Technical University, Ankara; Post-graduate: Department of Economics, University of Surrey, United Kingdom)

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