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Can the rubble of history help shape today’s resilient cities?

David Sislen's picture
Ruins of the Church of Saint Paul, following the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Ruins of the Church of Saint Paul, following the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Did you know that, in 1755, Portugal suffered a catastrophic disaster so severe that it cast a long shadow over politics, religion, philosophy, and science?

During an All Saints’ Day mass in Lisbon in that fateful year, an 8.5-magnitude earthquake collapsed cathedrals, triggered a 20-foot tsunami, and sparked devastating fires that destroyed nearly 70% of the city’s 23,000 buildings.

The death toll was estimated between 10,000-50,000, leaving the center of a global empire in ruins, with losses equivalent to 32%-48% of Portugal's GDP at the time.

Never in the European history had a natural disaster received such international attention.

The “Great Lisbon Earthquake” had a resounding impact across Europe: Depictions of the earthquake in art and literature – the equivalent of today’s mass media – were reproduced for centuries and across several countries. Rousseau, influenced by the devastation, argued against large and dense cities in the wake of the disaster, while Immanuel Kant published three separate texts on the disaster, becoming one of the first thinkers to attempt to explain earthquakes by natural, rather than supernatural, causes.

In the years to follow, careful studies of the event would give rise to modern seismology.

Phones, Drones, and Stones – Forced Displacement and Technology

Omer Karasapan's picture
 Paul Prescott | Shutterstock.com

There are currently 66 million people forcibly displaced across the globe, 26 million fleeing their countries as refugees and 40 million internally displaced - the worst such crisis since World War II. The Middle East is among the most affected regions with over half the Syrian population forcibly displaced...

Information-driven voter disagreement over more authoritarianism: Experimental evidence from Turkey: Guest post by Ceren Baysan

This is the third in this year’s series of posts by PhD students on the job market.

Globally, civil liberties and political rights have been declining for eleven consecutive years (Freedom House, 2017). The erosion of these measures runs counter to a priori expectations that circumstances would improve: the number of democracies had doubled within the past five decades and information is increasingly available to voters due to a growing and diverse set of media sources. The presence of more accessible information has been linked to improved political accountability, a fundamental factor of development (Drèze and Sen, 1989; Besley and Burgess, 2002). On the other hand, increased access to information is also believed to polarize voters, offering a possible explanation for the backsliding of democratic norms (Downs, 1957; Gentzkow and Shapiro, 2011). In my job market paper, I show that experimentally varied exposure to the same information in a partisan campaign polarized vote choice on weakening the system of checks and balances in Turkey.

Accelerating and learning from innovations in youth employment projects

Namita Datta's picture
Rapid progress in digital technology, behavioral economics, evaluation methods, and the connectivity of youth in the developing world generates a stream of real-time insights and opportunities in project design and implementation. (Photo: Arne Hoel / World Bank)


Innovations in youth employment programs are critical to addressing this enormous development challenge effectively. Rapid progress in digital technology, behavioral economics, evaluation methods, and the connectivity of youth in the developing world generates a stream of real-time insights and opportunities in project design and implementation. Part of the challenge is the sheer number of projects (just in Egypt, there are over 180 youth employment programs). And even without being aware, projects often innovate out of necessity in response to situations they face on the ground. But innovations need to be tested in different country contexts to be able to make an impact at scale.

Through the new Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) report, our team ventured to curate a few such ongoing innovations as they were being implemented through S4YE’s Impact Portfolio — a group of 19 youth employment projects from different regions being implemented by  different partners across the globe. This network of youth employment practitioners serves as a dynamic learning community and laboratory for improving the jobs outcomes of youth globally.

A timely report on mobilizing Islamic finance for PPPs

Clive Harris's picture


Photo: Artit Wongpradu / Shutterstock.com

Islamic finance has been growing rapidly across the globe. According to a recent report by the Islamic Financial Services Board, the Islamic finance market currently stands around $1.9 trillion. With this growth, its application has been extended into many areas — trade, real estate, manufacturing, banking, infrastructure, and more.
 
However, Islamic finance is still a relatively untapped market for public-private partnership (PPP) financing, which makes the recent publication Mobilizing Islamic Finance for Infrastructure Public-Private Partnerships such an important resource, especially for governments and practitioners.  

From Istanbul to Manila—different fault lines, similar challenges

Elif Ayhan's picture
 “It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” This was the response given by Sir Edmond Hillary when asked how he and his companion Tenzing Norgay became the first to summit Mt Everest, when so many before had failed. He believed we could all overcome our biggest challenge simply by deciding to act.

Is it possible for the same sentiment to be applied by government leaders – leaders who have the privilege and responsibility to preside over some of the world’s largest and most dynamic cities, especially those that share a common challenge in terms of seismic risk? Metro Manila, the megacity of the Philippines, the seat of government, and the engine of the national economy, has been destroyed numerous times over the last 500 hundred years by earthquakes, and currently sits upon a fault that is overdue to move. Istanbul, with world-class cultural heritage sites treasured by all, also sits near major fault lines expected to move any day. Tokyo and Wellington, the heart of government, culture, and history, also share exposed locations close to major fault lines.

In Wellington, decades of work – including the current Get Ready week! – have aimed to prepare the city for the next “big one”; but compared to the burgeoning megacities of Manila, Tokyo, or Istanbul, it is a small hill to conquer. How do you prepare these megacities with population of up to 15 million people? How do you climb the mountain of needs to build resilience? According to Sir Hillary, the answer is simple, you need to take the decision to accomplish something extraordinary.

In September 2017, the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) through the Japan-World Bank Program for Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Management in Developing Countries supported a knowledge exchange between Turkey and the Philippines focused on the challenge of building seismic resilience in megacities with high urbanization. For the World Bank, it was clear from the start that seismic risk is a priority on the Urban Resilience Agenda, when Johannes Zutt was able to explain to the visiting delegation the technical details of how base isolation is used to protect critical hospitals in Istanbul. The delegation saw impressive progress made by Turkey and Istanbul, from revised institutional frameworks, strengthened preparedness and response capabilities, and retrofitted schools and hospitals to adapted municipal e-services that ensure that the construction of resilient new buildings are approved fast and with the right safety checks. While massive seismic risk still exists within Istanbul, visible and concrete actions are also underway to improve the safety of its citizens.
 
 

 

Chart: An Over 30-Fold Increase in Turkey's Power Generation Capacity

Tariq Khokhar's picture

Since 1970, the electricity generation capacity of Turkey has increased more than 30-fold to reach 70,000 MW in March 2015. In a country of nearly 80 million people, demand for electricity has risen about 7 percent annually in recent years, requiring steady efforts to expand the sources of reliable and clean power. Starting in the early 2000s, through a series of interlinked measures supported by the World Bank Group, the country has worked to meet this growing demand, while spurring private-sector investment and innovation. Read more.
 

Can debt managers save the world?

M. Coskun Cangoz's picture
© Thinkstock
© Thinkstock

It was ten years ago, right before the global crisis when Lehman Brothers had not collapsed, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had not been placed into conservatorship. For debt managers, the markets were less volatile and the future was less uncertain. In Turkey we were dealing with the implementation of the post-crisis reform agenda.
 
One day, I got an invitation from my son’s eighth-grade teacher to speak at the school’s “careers day” which aims educate children on different types of jobs.  I accepted the invitation but I was a little worried because, as a debt manager I have a “different type of job” that was not necessarily an “exciting” one.

Boosting access to market-based debt financing for sub-national entities

Kirti Devi's picture



Many countries are experiencing urbanization within the context of increased decentralization and fiscal adjustment. This puts sub-national entities (local governments, utilities and state-owned enterprises) in the position of being increasingly responsible for developing and financing infrastructure and providing services to meet the needs of growing populations.
 
However, decentralization in many situations is still a work in progress. And often there is a mismatch between the ability of sub-nationals to provide services, and the autonomy or authority necessary to make decisions and access financing—often leaving them dependent on national governments. Additionally, they may also contend with inadequate regulatory and policy frameworks and weak domestic financial and capital markets. 


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