Kemal Dervis, Who Eased Turkey's Economic Crisis, Dies at 74

Kemal Dervis, Who Eased Turkey's Economic Crisis, Dies at 74

Kemal Dervis died in Bethesda on Sunday. He was 74. He was 74.

The Brookings Institution confirmed Mr. Dervis' death. He was the director and vice-president of the Global Economy and Development Program and a distinguished nonresident fellow. The state-run Anadolu News Agency in Turkey said that he died from an illness which was not specified.

Dervis was working for the World Bank in different positions for 20 years when in 2001 the prices in Turkey skyrocketed and the value of the Turkish currency, the Lira, plummeted. Andrew Finkel, a journalist, wrote in April 2001 that Turks carried 10-million-lira notes in their wallets, the highest denomination note in the entire world. However, after the recent crisis, these bills were worth less than $10.

A disagreement between Turkey's President, Ahmet N. Sezer, and Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit, about the pace of anti-corruption efforts was said to be the cause of the crisis. Banks and financial markets were not happy with the outcome. Dervis was seen at the time as a hero, since the meltdown happened quickly.

M. Hakan Yavuz is a professor of political science at the University of Utah, and an expert in Turkey. She said that 'Ecevit', the then prime minister, asked Dervis to help the country by becoming a minister. He agreed and came to his country. His economic policies laid the foundation for the major economic growth in Turkey between 2002 and 2020.

Mr. Dervis was appointed to the newly created position of Minister of the Economy. Even Dervis's name was enough to calm the crisis. This is what the headline of the newspaper Hurriyet read. It noted that the announcement about his appointment had boosted the markets and eased the interest rates for one day.

The crisis was far more complex than anyone thought. Dervis had to negotiate with the International Monetary Fund to get loans, to push for systemic change in the banking sector, to try and rein in corruption, and to inflict some pain at first through spending cuts.

Dervis told his audience in mid-April, 2001: 'Don’t expect me just to come up with policies that will save us today.' We can't destroy our future to save the present.

Professor Yavuz stated that his policies brought about an economic stability which lasted for a period of time until a few short years ago when President Recep T. Tayyip Erdoan retreated and allowed corruption flourish.

Mr. Dervis served in his ministry for just over a year, before running for a seat on Parliament. He won and served in this body until 2005. In that year, Secretary General Kofi Anan appointed him as the head of the United Nations Development Office. The office works to eliminate poverty and create sustainable economies.

The appointment was historic: Mr. Dervis is the first leader of the office to come from a nation that has received aid. The previous administrators were either American or British.

Yavuz, the professor, said that Mr. Dervis was "always focused" on the social effects of economic policies.

He said that as the head of U.N. Development Program he felt a strong sense of caring and helping the most vulnerable members of society. Mr. Dervis also wanted to protect this group from the adverse effects of economic policies.

He focused on the impact of globalization on poorer populations. He also highlighted the expected impacts of climate change.

Professor Yavuz said that 'his political identity was social democrat', since he wanted to create a "social market" in which the government plays an important role in helping those in need and the poor.

After working for the United Nations for four years, Mr. Dervis moved to Brookings where he worked on ways to improve economies so that they benefit all.

The institution released a statement saying that he had a 'robust research agenda' on how to strengthen the drivers of growth globally, making sure no one was left behind. He also proposed policies for the future of world governance, the technological transformation of the global economy, with a special focus on productivity and inclusiveness.

Kemal Dervis, born in Istanbul on 10 January 1949, is a Turkish national. In 1968, he earned a bachelor’s degree from the London School of Economics and in 1970 a master’s in economics. He received his Ph.D. in 1973 from Princeton University. During the 1970s he also taught at Middle East Technical University and Princeton University.

There was no immediate information on the survivors.

Professor Yavuz stated that Mr. Dervis had been criticized by many people, including merchants, who felt his 2001 changes were not enough. He was also criticized by leftists, who believed he was not leftist enough. And by Islamists, who viewed him as an agent of Western Imperialism. He said that Mr. Dervis always looked at the bigger picture.

He said that 'he cared about creating an economic system for every citizen to excel in their potential'.