Ferhat Tomo

Local governments are very prominent means for providing service and public welfare to the residents. In time, interesting ideas and essential theories have been developed for regions, countries, and territories. Local and regional development policies are very important to reflect the demands of local people and to alleviate urban poverty in order to attain the objectives of reducing development disparities among regions. For this purpose, in the year of 2006, it was decided to establish development agencies which aim to mobilize local action potential in Turkey with the impact of the European Union accession process.

In this article, I will try to describe efficiency and historical evolution of regional development agencies which have an important role for social development process. I will address the structures of development and planning organizations as well as the idea of local governments that is shaped in the late Ottoman Empire period and early Turkish Republic period. I will approach the historical context from 1839 onwards.

Since 1839 Ottoman Empire realized that modernization is needed in order for the development of the empire and tended to take its steps towards modernization. Therefore, some movements of thoughts were revealed by the movers and shakers. Especially evolving of local administration structures is one of the fundamental milestones in history. In 1829, some neighborhood units were constituted in the districts of Eyup and Uskudar within the surrounding of Istanbul that is called as “Dersaadet.” Advisory councils were set up in these districts. These councils came into effect with 1871 and 1876 Regulations and this constitutes a very important step towards modernization in Ottoman history. With these regulations, sub-districts obtained self-governing rights in some areas and started to take their own decisions.

Without going into details, we can leap briskly at the early era of Turkish Republic. In 1924, draft self-government systems were developed specially for Ankara and Istanbul (ancient and current capital cities) until 1930 when governing mechanisms became centralized with the Municipal Law No. 1580.

Local government structures in the late Ottoman Empire and early Turkish Republic era were discussed above. Now, I desire to give historical development of Turkish development and planning organizations.  

In 1930s, the newly established Turkish Republic focused on its industrial revolution to support high volume growing rate and employment jointly with the state bodies. In 1936, it obtained a model of planning of development from USSR. This plan was applied for five years. However, the main planning process started in 1960 with the establishment of the State Planning Organization which was applying its plans for every five years. The Organization was composed of 3 departments; Economic Planning, Social Planning and Technical Planning. It was located in Ankara, the capital city of Turkey. The organization adopted and applied 9 five-year-plans including economic, social and technical analyses in history. Then, Ministry of Development was established in 2011 and took over the responsibility of the State Planning Organization. From time to time, political actors and populist policies of the multi-party era especially after 1960s had an impact on the Organization and its activities.

Turkish Republic has become a party to the Assembly European Regions (AER). The Assembly has started to foster autonomy and self-government at the local level for both the members and non-members of the European Union. Therefore, European Union has developed a NUTS system which has been identified by population as well as social and economic structures. According to this system, Turkey has been divided into 26 different local areas in 2006 by the Law No. 5449 on the Establishment and Duties of Development Agencies.

Semantically, the meaning of the words “development” and “growth” has vital importance. The idea of development reflects improvements in quality and quantity of a country for a certain period of time. It contributes to sustainability, social development and maintenance of daily lives on a fairly basis within a country with the support of the numbers of growth. Especially, Latin American Theories of Development (ECLA) is one of the most prominent theories in this regard and was applied in Turkey as well. With supply oriented economic policies and Washington Consensus, new regulations and policies were started to be applied towards 1980s. In the post 1980 era, most of the countries have tried to adapt their economic programs in line with the “Structural Adjustment Programs.” The competitive approach shaped by the idea of globalization has emerged in high levels and generated pressure on the local level. Hence, the concepts such as regional development and regional growth have gained significance.

The experience of development agencies in Britain was mainly maintained for 11 years and could not end up with successful results. Although development agencies could not ensure the enhancement of social and economic structures, especially AER, which is affiliated with the European Union, also supports the idea of improvement of the regions equally. Development agencies, by their organizational structures, are formed as supporters of decentralization. Nevertheless, they mostly work as branches of the central authorities. Both in Britain and Turkey, generally the budgets of Development Agencies were provided by the central governments.

In conclusion, development agency systems work as strong representatives of the central governments with minimum and indecent budgets and could not make economic or social plans and policies solely on their own. The development agency model is frankly not the most convenient model to tackle the economic and social challenges of the regions.

Ferhat Tomo

The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of the author, and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of ALDA and the European Union.