This is how many new Turkish millionaires there are since 2007

The troubling stats under the protests.

The world’s eyes are on Turkey this week. While we see images of tear gas drenched streets, armoured policemen, headscarfed protestors, charred vehicles, banners and flags and a humiliated president, the world thinks “Arab Spring”. Such are the parallels that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was forced to announce this morning that the protests that stopped Turkey over the weekend were "not Turkish Spring".

But comparing protest with protest is not really very helpful. Turkey’s Taksim Square, where protesters gathered last week, is not Tahrir in Egypt and neither is it Deraa in Syria (where the Syrian uprising began), Syntagma in Athens nor Wall Street, where Occupy emerged. These comparisons can be dismantled by their causes – Turkey is not a dictatorship, children were not imprisoned for anti-government graffiti, the country is not going bankrupt and nor is it symbolic of greed and capitalism.

Actually, it appears that one uniting current of all these protests is absent from Turkey’s – employment. Turkey’s protests are strange enough when you think that they arose out of an opposition to the development of Taksim Square into a shopping mall. But throw in a few stats about the Turkish economy and they seem even more incomprehensible: Since Erdoğan was elected ten years ago in 2003, per capita income and GDP have both at least doubled. Infrastructure, schools and healthcare have weaved their way out of Istanbul and Ankara and wealth has risen too – the number of millionaires in Turkey has risen by 7.4 per cent since 2007 and Istanbul is the world’s seventh most popular city for billionaires according to WealthInsight.  All this has been achieved despite problematic neighbours in Syria, Greece, Iraq, Georgia and Iran. 

You would think Erdoğan’s achievements deserve national applaud, but people abhor him instead. Progress, it seems, is not progress in everyone’s eyes and Istanbul’s controversial shopping centre is not the only symbol of this. Plans for a new airport, a new bridge spanning the Bosporus and an immense hilltop mosque to shadow Istanbul’s ancient minarets are other projects of hullabaloo. This is not to mention anger about new alcohol restrictions and associated Islamic laws.

So, although Turkey’s protests appear similar to the Arab Spring in image (nearly all modern protests seem visually unanimous), it appears to be oppositely motivated. Rather than protest against the incompetence of their leader, many in Turkey’s cities today are calling for an end to over competence. As David Gardener writes in today’s FT, “Mr Erdogan’s critics insistently accuse him of aspiring to become a neo-Ottoman sultan, but Pharaoh would be just as near the mark”.

Protesters in Turkey. Photograph: Getty Images

Oliver Williams is an analyst at WealthInsight and writes for VRL Financial News

Photo: André Spicer
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“It’s scary to do it again”: the five-year-old fined £150 for running a lemonade stand

Enforcement officers penalised a child selling home-made lemonade in the street. Her father tells the full story. 

It was a lively Saturday afternoon in east London’s Mile End. Groups of people streamed through residential streets on their way to a music festival in the local park; booming bass could be heard from the surrounding houses.

One five-year-old girl who lived in the area had an idea. She had been to her school’s summer fête recently and looked longingly at the stalls. She loved the idea of setting up her own stall, and today was a good day for it.

“She eventually came round to the idea of selling lemonade,” her father André Spicer tells me. So he and his daughter went to their local shop to buy some lemons. They mixed a few jugs of lemonade, the girl made a fetching A4 sign with some lemons drawn on it – 50p for a small cup, £1 for a large – and they carried a table from home to the end of their road. 

“People suddenly started coming up and buying stuff, pretty quickly, and they were very happy,” Spicer recalls. “People looked overjoyed at this cute little girl on the side of the road – community feel and all that sort of stuff.”

But the heart-warming scene was soon interrupted. After about half an hour of what Spicer describes as “brisk” trade – his daughter’s recipe secret was some mint and a little bit of cucumber, for a “bit of a British touch” – four enforcement officers came striding up to the stand.

Three were in uniform, and one was in plain clothes. One uniformed officer turned the camera on his vest on, and began reciting a legal script at the weeping five-year-old.

“You’re trading without a licence, pursuant to x, y, z act and blah dah dah dah, really going through a script,” Spicer tells me, saying they showed no compassion for his daughter. “This is my job, I’m doing it and that’s it, basically.”

The girl burst into tears the moment they arrived.

“Officials have some degree of intimidation. I’m a grown adult, so I wasn’t super intimidated, but I was a bit shocked,” says Spicer. “But my daughter was intimidated. She started crying straight away.”

As they continued to recite their legalese, her father picked her up to try to comfort her – but that didn’t stop the officers giving her stall a £150 fine and handing them a penalty notice. “TRADING WITHOUT LICENCE,” it screamed.


Picture: André Spicer

“She was crying and repeating, ‘I’ve done a bad thing’,” says Spicer. “As we walked home, I had to try and convince her that it wasn’t her, it wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her who had done something bad.”

She cried all the way home, and it wasn’t until she watched her favourite film, Brave, that she calmed down. It was then that Spicer suggested next time they would “do it all correctly”, get a permit, and set up another stand.

“No, I don’t want to, it’s a bit scary to do it again,” she replied. Her father hopes that “she’ll be able to get over it”, and that her enterprising spirit will return.

The Council has since apologised and cancelled the fine, and called on its officials to “show common sense and to use their powers sensibly”.

But Spicer felt “there’s a bigger principle here”, and wrote a piece for the Telegraph arguing that children in modern Britain are too restricted.

He would “absolutely” encourage his daughter to set up another stall, and “I’d encourage other people to go and do it as well. It’s a great way to spend a bit of time with the kids in the holidays, and they might learn something.”

A fitting reminder of the great life lesson: when life gives you a fixed penalty notice, make lemonade.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.