Category Archives: Europe

Unutilised Youth in Emerging Markets

I consider myself quite lucky that I can travel to many countries throughout the year for business and pleasure.

I had the chance to visit Athens after almost four years for a weekend and lately I was in Istanbul for a week. One of my latest observations is  that emerging countries, such as Greece and Turkey, are unable to utilise their very well educated youth not only in the labour force, but also in the social arena.

Consider Greece… Youth unemployment is close to 45 per cent and overall unemployment is around 25 per cent.

Consider Spain… Youth unemployment is close to 50 per cent and overall unemployment is around 22 per cent.

And finally Turkey… Youth unemployment is around 20 per cent and overall unemployment is around 10 percent.

A common point among all these countries—besides the fact that they are all Mediterranean—is that they have a highly educated minority youth population, whether they be not fully utilised in the labour force and inactive in the country’s social arena, or fully utilised in the labour force (very few of them), but again inactive in the social arena.

To be sure, a minority of the minority is active in the both arena and this is huge loss for these countries in closing the gap between them and highly developed nations.

Another common point among these countries is that there have been coup attempts and coups in their recent histories: a coup attempt in Spain in 1982, a coup in Greece in 1967–1974, and most recently, a coup attempt in Turkey in 2016.

Whether we like it or not, the common history of violence and coups has pushed the youth of these countries away from voluntary social  work and has made them completely apolitical, as well as more individualistic and disinterested in local/global issues.

Given that they are living in much better conditions than their peers, these groups of people live completely for themselves, make fun of everything and, more significantly, do not produce much.

It is no secret that all societies are becoming more individualistic, irrespective of the culture and countries that we live in, but it is always important to feed the soul as well as the stomach.

We should reincorporate these youths back into society and grow together! Unfortunately, I do not have a concrete plan to act upon, but I have the ambition to start somewhere!

All the best from a beautiful Mediterrean country.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Book Review: Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall

Whilst I was in London last month, one of the books that I bought was “Prisoners of Geography” by Tim Marshall. Tim Marshall tells us how the leaders of the world are restricted by their geographies and how their decisions are influenced by it. It is a great book that looks at historical turning points of different nations and helps us understand why they behaved in a certain way. His book is divided into ten sections: Russia, China, USA, Western Europe, Africa, the Middle East, India and Pakistan, Korea and Japan, Latin America, and the Arctic.

The book contains a lot of anecdotes about each region.

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Russia:

Russia covers eleven time zones and, even now, it takes six days to cross it by train. Russians were fighting on average in and around the North European Plain once every thirty-three years. By 2004, just fifteen years after 1989, every single former Warsaw Pact state bar Russia was in NATO or the European Union. Russia is the biggest country in the world, twice the size of the US or China, five times the size of India, twenty-five times the size of the UK. Although 75 per cent of Russian territory is in Asia, only 22 per cent of its population lives there.

China:

Xinjiang is the largest province of China. It is the twice the size of Texas, and you can fit the UK, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Belgium in it and still have room for Luxembourg. Xinjiang is too strategically important to allow an independence movement to get off the ground: it not only borders eight countries – thus buffering the heartland – but it also has oil and is home to China’s nuclear weapons testing sites.

Large-scale migration south to north can be expected, which will, in turn, give China more leverage in its relations with Russia.

China intends to become a two-ocean power. This is China’s way of reducing its overreliance on the Strait of Malacca, through which almost 80 per cent of its energy supplies pass.

USA:

By 1814 the British had gone and the French had given up on Louisiana. In 1867 Alaska was bought from Russia. Many US government foreign policy strategists are persuaded that the history of the twenty-first century will be written in Asia and the Pacific. Half of the world’s population lives there, and if India is included it is expected to account for half of the global economic output by 2050.

Western Europe:

There are unprovable theories that the domination of Catholicism in the south has held it back, whereas the Protestant work ethic has propelled the northern countries to greater heights.

France is the only European country to be both a Northern and Southern power.

Geographically, The Brits are in a good place. Good farmland, decent rivers, excellent access to seas and their fish stocks, close enough to the European Continent to trade and yet protected by dint of being an island race. There is a theory that the relative security of the UK over the past few hundred years is the reason it has experienced more freedom and less despotism than the countries across the Channel.

Africa:

We are all from Africa since that’s where homo sapiens originated 2,000 years ago. Challenge is the rivers ince parts of it navigable by shallow boats, but there are parts that do not interconnect, thus limiting the transportation of cargo. The ethnic conflicts within Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Mali and elsewhere are evidence that the European idea of geography did not fit the reality of Africa’s demographics.

About a third of China’s oil imports come from Africa. South Africa is one of the very few African countries that do not suffer from the curse of malaria, as mosquitoes find it difficult to breed there. Is it a coincidence that European colonialists chose to settle there and that South Africa is the biggest African economy today?

Middle East:

Prior to Sykes-Picot, there was no state of Syria, no Lebanon, nor was there a Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Israel, or Palestine. Lebanon’s most recent civil war lasted for fifteen years and, at times, it remains close to another one. Syria may suffer a similar fate.

The Mongols were the last force to make any progress through Persian territory in 1219–1221 and since then attackers have ground themselves into dust trying to make headway across the mountains.

Turkey granted its women the vote two years ahead of Spain and fifteen years ahead of France.

India – Pakistan:

There is an approximately 1,900 mile long border between the countries. Pakistan received just 17 per cent of the financial reserves that had been controlled by the pre-partition government.

In the spring of 2015, the two countries agreed to a USD 46 billion deal to build a superhighway of roads, railways, and pipelines running 1,800 miles from Gwadar to China’s Xinjiang region. This would make it possible to bypass the Strait of Malacca.

The Afghan-Pakistani border is known as the Duran line. Sir Mortimer Durand, the Foreign Secretary of the colonial government of India, drew it in 1893 and the then ruler of Afghanistan agreed to it.

Korea – Japan:

Satellite images and witness testimony suggest that at least 150,000 political prisoners are held in giant work and re-education camps.

The territory of the Japanese islands together make up a country that is bigger than the two Koreas combined, or in European terms bigger than Germany.

Latin America:

The Latin American population, including the Caribbean, is over 600 million, and yet their combined GDP is equivalent to that of France and the UK, which together comprise about 125 million people.

In 1914 the newly built, 50 mile long, American controlled Panama canal opened, thus saving an 8,000 mile journey from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans and leading to economic growth in the canal region.

The Texas-based geopolitical intelligence company stratfor.com estimates that Brazil’s seven largest ports combined can handle fewer goods per year than the single American port of New Orleans.

The Arctic:

The Arctic Ocean is 5.4 million square miles; this might make it the world’s smallest ocean but it is still almost as big as Russia, and one and a half times the size of the USA.

I highly recommend that you have this book on your bookshelf, as it will not only enhance your vision, but also make you understand where the world is going. Prisoners of Geography is the kind of book that you could easily go back to many times as a good source for references.

All the best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

 

 

 

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Trip Notes: Italy (Bologna, Florence and Chianti)

After great days spent in London, it was the family choice of destination this year: Italy.

The route was Bologna, San Marino, Florence, Castelnuovo Berardenga in Chianti and then back to Bologna. I drove around 850 km during these 10 days and as a person who hates cars and driving, this was enough for me this year.

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We landed in Bologna from London after a flight of just over two hours. The airport is a small traditional European airport with only two migration officers working when we landed.

After smoothly getting our car from Europcar, we headed to San Marino from Bologna. It is a very nice town and, to be honest with you, the only reason I dragged all my family there was to tick the box of visiting another country! 🙂

When we checked in to Grand Hotel San Marino at 9 p.m., I immediately asked if we would have enough time to go around in three hours the next day. The receptionist replied: “Two hours is enough, three hours is more than enough!”

Then I relaxed. 🙂

San Marino is a mountainous city state and “the country” is built inside the walls. Since there is no tax, you can buy cheap sunglasses, perfumes, etc. In other words, you can regard the country as an open air duty free shop. It is almost impossible to get San Marino citizenship. The view from the top and the air quality is great.

San Marino’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism and they have very nice ceramics that you may wish to buy during your visit as a souvenir.

Then we headed to Florence. It took me another 3.5 hours to drive there and we checked in at Grand Hotel Villa Medici. It is a very nice hotel and everything is within walking distance. This was my first trip to Florence and I can assure you that it won’t be the last!

I felt a little bit embarrassed since I hadn’t done my homework properly about the city. Three days were definitely not enough for this beautiful city.

Since it is very popular, it is a challenge to getting into certain museums or you risk to losing hours and hours waiting in the queues.

I recommend that you visit Florence Cathedral, Piazza Della Signario, Palazzo Vecchio, Palazzo Pitti, Piazza Di San Croce and Ponte Vecchio if you have limited time. Ponte Vecchio is a very crowded tourist attraction but, still, you cannot really avoid it.

If I were to make only one restaurant recommendation it would be l’Parione Ristorante on Parione Street. It was “the” restaurant for us. I will not write in detail exactly what we ate, but I can assure you that everything was great – especially the fillet steak. When I compare the final bill with London and Singapore prices, it was real value for money!

We had been recommended many restaurants but we had some disappointments with many restaurants since it was August and many restaurant owners preferred to take 15 days or a full month’s holiday and did not leave anyone behind.

One of the reasons for this trip was to drink good wine so it was time to head to the Chianti region. We checked in to Castel Monastero.

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View from my room in Castel Monastero

Castel Monastero used to be a monastery and was converted into hotel in 2009. Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant and Contrada (Tuscany) are two restaurant choices inside the hotel. Even though it is not me, I refused to go anywhere outside the hotel since I really wanted to chill. Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant, as many of us would know from London, offers fine dining with a great outfit and Contrada is inside an old cellar with Tuscan food. We ate on three nights at Contrada and on one night at Gordon Ramsay.

I can truly say that all of the food and the wines were great and reasonably priced.

I arranged a full day wine tour at Chianti and that cost me a bit but it was worth it. We initially visited Tenuta Casanova where a gentleman pursued his dreams rather than conventional corporate life and bought the land and started producing balsamic vinegar and wine. His wife cooked for us and we enjoyed a tremendous amount of red wine and very good food.

Have you ever tasted balsamic vinegar with ice cream? I know it sounds very weird but it tastes great! (I am not sure a regular balsamic vinegar off the shelf will do the same job, though!)

My favourite wine from Tenuta Casanova is Chianti Classico Casanova Riserva. It is the cheapest wine out of their selection.

After spending almost 3–4 hours in Tenuta Casanova, we headed to the winery of the Mazzei family. The Mazzei family have been in the region for the last six centuries and 24 generations. Since then, they have always produced wines.

I strongly recommend you test Siepi Toscana, Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Castello Fonterutoli and Mix36 from this winery and my favourite one was Mix36.

Eventually it was time to go to back to Bologna where I headed back to London. We stayed at i Portici Hotel.

This hotel was recommended by a two good friends of ours. It is central but, most importantly, it is a beautiful building that used to be a theatre. It has a very nice garden where you can eat snacks and drink.

What to do in Bologna?

Bologna is a beautiful city with a university and many magnificent churches. A day or two would be more than enough to discover the hotel city. Piazza Maggiore and San Petronio Basilica are the main attractions. Don’t forget to taste the famous Bolognese pasta here!

Venice Feeling in Bologna
Taste of Venice in Bologna

Even though it was a ten-day trip, it went really fast – if you need more tips, you can always contact me via Twitter.

All the best from Singapore,

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Trip Notes: London

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I had a chance to spend part of my summer holidays in London—six days, plus a day and a half on the way back to Singapore—and met quite a few people from different industries such as finance, law, higher education, food and government.

First of all, I can say that London is still London and nothing really has hammered its good mood.

Since the referendum on June 23rd, nothing much has changed except for the fact that EU citizens living in London are preparing themselves to apply for British passports.

Restaurants are full, theatres are colourful and, most importantly, there are tourists all over London, despite what’s going on in continental Europe.

I went to see a dramatised version of George Orwell’s 1984 and it was absolutely great. (Tip: read the book to understand the play better.)

People had apparently had a real shock on that frightening Friday with the referendum results, but it looks like that initial reaction has soon dissipated. With the new government in place very quickly, confidence levels are coming back, though they are still nowhere near the desirable level.

Of the people I spoke to, I can say that none of them showed any intention of leaving the UK following the Brexit vote.

During my stay in London, the only thing that really bothered me was the persistent helicopter hovering over central London, but unfortunately that’s a new normality and we will have to live with it for some time.

Since I have been living in Singapore for the last three years, I keep comparing London with Singapore, and I must admit that the level of service in Singapore is much better than that in London right now. If you are looking for a single example, try to call the British Airways hotline and then call Singapore Airlines.

Another example could be the fantastic BA ground staff at Heathrow Terminal 5. On the way to Italy, the check in process took us 40 minutes due to an incompetent member of staff.

Fintech is growing very fast and I visited level 39 at 1 Canada Square to see how these people are doing. It looks like they are doing okay-ish, in that they are now situated on levels 39 to 42.

Canary Wharf management had to decide how to fill up the vacant space after banks began to pull out (or simply went bankrupt, like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers) and they decided to divide the space into pieces and rent the space to fintech companies, since they are growing very fast.

It would not be a surprise to see many fintechs in Canary Wharf in the near future.

Even though Brexit looks ugly and frightening right now, a nation with great negotiation skills demonstrated over the course of centuries makes me feel quite comfortable.

With a proposal to reduce the corporate tax level to 15 per cent and possible personal income tax reductions, it would be very attractive for many people to stay or even to return to the UK.

London is really unique and it has its own vibe compared with the rest of the country. Sometimes I think that it would make sense for London to have a special zone status within the rest of the UK.

From my point of view, the biggest challenge ahead for the UK is how to educate the uneducated and low skilled parents to make sure their children are part of the country’s future success. Access to education in the UK is free for everyone, but unfortunately a proper education is only enjoyed by a fraction of the population.

Last but not least, I paid visits to many book stores, including my favourite, Daunt Books at Marylebone, and bought some more books. These are Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall, Germany by Neil MacGregor, This is London by Ben Judah, An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Education by Tony Little and When Breath becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.

I have already read Prisoners of Geography and I really like the book. I will be writing a book review on it in the coming weeks.

If you are looking for a restaurant tip, go to Oka for sushi on Kings Road.

I may still be biased but, having travelled to 53 countries now, nothing can really beat London.

All the best from Singapore,

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Cannes and South of France: What would I do?

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I love the South of France and I have been going there for my summer holidays for the last ten years or so. Unfortunately, this year is an exception since my wife has won the battle and we are going somewhere different (Italy!)

A lot of people who know me well keep asking me to give them some tips for their trip to the South of France, so I thought it would be beneficial to write this post.

Since I always use Cannes as the centre of my summer trip, I prefer to stay at the Eden Hotel, a four star hotel just a street away from La Croisette and a relatively cheap option. It is located on Rue d’Antibes.

Alternatively, I would stay at the Martinez Hotel on La Croisette. It is definitely the more expensive choice, but you can sometimes find good prices depending on when you book. Martinez has a great beach club called ZPlage, where a drink at sunset is another must!

I booked a house last year for a week on La Croisette, which was also great since it gave us a real sensation of how we would feel if we were to live there. It is definitely the best option if you are going with your extended family.

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Cannes is a great town with many restaurants, my favourite being Astoux et Brun, towards Le Suquet. It is a restaurant famous for its seafood menu, particularly the oysters.

You really should have a coffee and ice cream at the Carlton Terrace, and you should visit the old town (Le Suquet) where natives party.

Another favourite restaurant is Le Caveau 30, which is also famous for its seafood. The crowd here is mostly over 40 and very chic: that’s exactly you want from Cannes during your holidays!

If you fancy a two-starred Michelin restaurant, you should try La Palme d’Or which is under the Martinez Hotel.

La Table du Chef is one of the hidden spots of Cannes. It is a small restaurant, and the menu is constantly changing.

Towns in the region

There are many places to travel around the South of France and one of them is the village of Èze. This beautiful village is almost a border village between France and Monaco.

I would recommend taking a walk around the village and visiting Château de La Chèvre d’Or, which has a magnificent view and a Michelin-starred restaurant. Even if you don’t feel like eating anything, you should go and drink a beer in front of the breathtaking view.

Saint Jean Cap Ferrat is another main place to visit. Paloma Beach is a must go, with a great beach restaurant. If you fancy touring a villa in this beautiful town, you should consider visiting Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.

Hotel du Cap at Eden Roc is another place to stop by and drink champagne, or simply tea.

Plage de Passable and Plage de la Mala at Cap d’Ail just near Monaco are my favourite beaches. If you need to choose just one, I would go for Cap d’Ail.

Honestly, St Tropez is not my favourite since it is a rip-off and there are too many people. I personally have always found the St Tropez crowd irrelevant. If you really want to see St Tropez, I would go to Club 55 to party for a day in the beach club.

Monaco is good for a day trip, but I would not recommend that you stay there. If you want to party in Monaco, Jimmy’s and Buda Bar are the most famous options. If you really want to stay in Monaco, Le Meridien is relatively cheap and a good option by the beach.

 I was planning my wedding back in 2012 in the South of France, but it did not happen there. Since I was planning, I would recommend the Château de La Chèvre d’Or as the expensive option and the Château de Robernier as the more economical choice.

If you have more time and a car, I would also recommend that you visit Grasse, the perfume capital of the world. This small elegant village is a great place to see and you should visit the factory at Fragonard to get a sense of how perfumes are produced. You can also buy discounted perfumes at the factory shop.

Generally speaking, the train (TGV) that runs along the coast to Monaco is good and convenient. The only problem is the waiting time between the two trains, which may be longer than 30 minutes. Make sure you get your ticket and time stamped—otherwise, even with a ticket, you may be considered a free rider!

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After going to Cannes for many years, this town is the main reason that I started learning French from scratch in 2010.

Je rêve d’acheter une maison à Cannes!

P.S. If you speak to a native French person, they will tell you to avoid Cannes and recommend some other place in the south. With all respect, you can ignore them! 🙂

Best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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How EU lost Turkey?

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I was lucky to attend one of the most established schools in Istanbul, Nisantasi Isik Lisesi, from Kindergarten to High School.

The school was founded in 1885 in Thessaloniki by teacher Mustafa Kemal Ataturk; it then moved to Istanbul after some years, as the war made it impossible for the school to operate in Thessaloniki.

It is a secular and democratic school which has developed many successful businessmen, academicians, politicians and many other public figures in all walks of life.

As a consequence, I grew up in a secular and modern environment with European Turkish values. During my time at High School, this was not considered at all unusual. It was standard. We always felt that we were part of Europe.

When I graduated from High School in 2001, Istanbul had a population of less than ten million.

I would say Istanbul was just another European city in my childhood, with a mix of oriental and western history and some beautiful landmarks.

2005 was an important year for Turkish society, since Turkey’s accession talks were about to start. I remember attending many talks on this topic just before going to London for my postgraduate studies.

After completing my studies in London, I remember feeling that I was missing out on something important, as Turkey continued to grow at a tremendous rate and I was spending my time in London. Actually, many people shared my impulse and returned to Turkey between 2007 and 2011.

And then things started to change dramatically. The economy continued to perform relatively well, but the almost double digit growth was gone. In the meantime, the EU accession talks failed to get anywhere.

Out of 35 chapters, only one was closed. What did Turkey lack that Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and other countries did not?

France, Germany, Holland and Austria always looked upon Turkish accession to the EU with suspicion. Whilst they have some relevant points and valid concerns, I believe there was a degree of unnecessary prejudice against Turkey and even today, in 2016, this is a valid observation.

And now we are at this unpleasant juncture.

Even though, geographically, part of Turkey is in the European continent, Turkey is no longer looking towards the west. This is not the choice of Turkish politicians and the Turkish population, but it is a result of the relentless and baseless efforts of many EU countries.

This will undoubtedly have significant consequences for Turkey and the EU in the near future. In addition to this stretched relationship, it does not really help to have the EU parliament deciding on sensitive issues in Turkish internal politics, either.

Elif Safak, a famous Turkish novelist and the author of Bastards of Istanbul, published a new article in the Financial Times to appease my fellow British citizens, declaring that Turkey no longer wants to be more European, but actually less.

Today, the estimated population of Istanbul is around 17 million, and I keep asking:

Wouldn’t the EU be stronger and safer with a strong Turkey?

Wouldn’t it be a very good example for the rest of the Muslim world?

Wouldn’t Turkish accession prove that the EU is a multicultural and diverse society rather than a so-called Christian club?

There is no doubt that a lot of people will be affected by these decisions. Unfortunately, the most affected is the secular and modern Turk who has so far advocated European values and democracy. Some of these Turks have already left, and many of them are considering leaving the country.

It is painful to feel that you are being abandoned by the people and the institution that you have most trusted and supported throughout your life.

Best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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EU Migrant Agreement with Turkey

On 18 March,  European Union and Turkey decided to agree to end the irregular migration from Turkey to the EU.

I personally believe this agreement is a hall of shame statement for not only for European Union, but also for Turkey.

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If  you are a regular reader of my blog, you would remember that I have written a short piece on insincere EU attitude towards Turkey for many years and this is now another seal on the subject.

The EU and Turkey agreed that:

1) All new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands as of 20 March 2016 will be returned to Turkey;

2) For every Syrian being returned to Turkey from the Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled to the EU;

3) Turkey will take any necessary measures to prevent new sea or land routes for irregular migration opening from Turkey to the EU;
4) Once irregular crossings between Turkey and the EU are ending or have been substantially reduced, a Voluntary Humanitarian Admission Scheme will be activated;

5) The fulfilment of the visa liberalisation roadmap will be accelerated with a view to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016. Turkey will take all the necessary steps to fulfil the remaining requirements;

6) The EU will, in close cooperation with Turkey, further speed up the disbursement of the initially allocated €3 billion under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey. Once these resources are about to be used in full, the EU will mobilise additional funding for the Facility up to an additional €3 billion to the end of 2018;

7) The EU and Turkey welcomed the ongoing work on the upgrading of the Customs Union.
8) The accession process will be re-energised, with Chapter 33 to be opened during the Dutch Presidency of the Council of the European Union and preparatory work on the opening of other chapters to continue at an accelerated pace;
9) The EU and Turkey will work to improve humanitarian conditions inside Syria.

We are facing the largest involutarily human movement since the World War II and the “civilised countries” are failing to do whatever they need to.

Instead they are very busy with pushing the dirt under the rug.

EU should adopt a more viable and smarter approach towards Turkey rather than simply dangling carrots.

I am wondering what would be the Turkish stance when the visa liberalisation for Turks will be delayed for whatever reasons in the coming months.

I want to finish my article by a great quote by Larry Brilliant.

“Civilizations should be judged not by how they treat people closest to power, but rather how they treat those furthest from power – whether in race, religion, gender, wealth or class – as well as in time”

All the best.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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A weekend in London – What would I do?

I lived in London for 7.5 years and I became a true Londoner in this period of time. Since I have been living in Singapore for the last 2.5 years, I sometimes miss London, and whenever I have a chance to go to London, it is a great opportunity for me to get into my old routine for a few days.

What would I do in a weekend in London?

London, the capital, is a place where new ideas are generated so it is a place to visit museums, shows, restaurants but, most importantly, bookstores. You will not get any night life advice here.

In a typical weekend, I would start my day walking to Marylebone: this is my London centre since I lived in Bickenhall Street for 3.5 years.

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Marylebone is a very special place for me as I have a lot of memories of every single corner of it, and my first visit would be Daunt Bookstore on Marylebone.

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Technology is evolving and many argue that books will be history, since a lot of people have already shifted to e-books. Daunt Bookstore definitely fights quite strongly against this idea.

It is a great place for me to spend a couple of hours. It is an Edwardian bookstore with long oak galleries. This bookstore specialises in travel books, but there are other sections such as history and literature. I love to look through its travel books, but I would always buy a history, politics or economics book over a travel book. Since this is my first stop early in the morning, I won’t buy any books but I decide on what to buy on my return.

Now the long walk to Hampstead starts.

I cross the Marylebone Road and reach Regent’s Park, where I spent many of my early mornings and late nights. Through Regent’s Park, I reach Prince Albert Road and then I continue to walk towards Hampstead. The nonstop walk will take about an hour to reach beautiful Hampstead Heath.

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My stop would be at The Wells, a gastropub, by Hampstead Heath. It is a family friendly pub with an evolving menu. I would stop here for an hour or two before heading back to Marylebone to buy the books that I decided to buy earlier.

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I find a lot of similarities between Marylebone and Hampstead Heath. A boutique cinema chain (Everyman) and my favourite bookstore Daunt Books are only two of them. I feel both have distinct characteristics, not like Chelsea, and they are both true London boroughs.

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The time would hit 4–5 pm now and I would have to go and leave my books and maybe rest a bit. I have a lot of favourite restaurants in London, and I would prefer Big Easy on Kings Road, Alounak in Westbourne Grove or a new London restaurant recommended by a friend.

If I could a squeeze in a theatre at night, that’s perfect. Sometimes it is quite difficult, but I would definitely try.

The walk should take about 17–18 km that day. In other words, around 35,000 steps. Not too bad! And thank God that London is flat.

I would wake up as early as possible on my second and final day in London. I would try to go to Trafalgar and Covent Garden, to walk without any aim. Then I would walk to Parliament and would cross Waterloo Bridge.

This would enable me to walk towards London Bridge and should take about 45 minutes. On my way, there are the Tate Modern, a nice pub by the river, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and Vinopolis—which I heard that it is closing down.

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Lunchtime should be about there and I would take a cab or a tube from London Bridge and go to my favourite spot once more, Marylebone. My lunch would take place at Casa Becci, an authentic Italian restaurant run by an Italian family for a long time.

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It is a very simple restaurant and price friendly, but, most importantly, great simple Italian food. My favourite here would be Spaghetti Aglio E Olio.

Unfortunately, the weekend has come to an end. I have to take a flight to continue wherever I need to go. I should walked about 15,000 steps that day, or in other words 10–11 km. Not bad!

London is not an easy city to live in, but it is definitely one of the best!

P.S. Most of my walking sessions started at Chelsea Bridge Wharf over the last three years as my beloved friend, Hakan Dikmen, kept hosting me without grumbling. Thank you, Hakan—you are such a great host!

All the best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Education, Social Entrepreneurs and Condolences

When I woke up on Saturday morning (November 14th) in Singapore, I had so many notifications on my phone from BBC, CNN, Le Point, France 24, Strait Times, etc.

While I was trying to open up my eyes, I managed to read one of these notifications and I was shocked.

Unfortunately, all the notifications that morning were related to the attacks in Paris on Friday night.

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First I tried to think which of my friends were in Paris and then, thanks to the Facebook safety check-in option, I figured out who was in Paris and luckily they were all safe—but not the poor 129 people who were killed so cowardly that night.

After absorbing the initial shock, I, like many of you, I am sure, started thinking of what could lead these people to act like this.

Most people came up with the answer of radical beliefs, but the answer is much deeper than that.

From my experience, when people genuinely get richer, that does not turn them into intellectual human beings, but they have an option to buy some level of comfort. Over time, the ability to buy comfort gradually makes them open to further adaptation and modernization, if they are not already.

With the right education in place, they can even be leading intellectuals in their community, too.

So I think the key here is how we can get these people in the very low pillars of society to higher pillars.

Education is key here; but education costs a lot—and for people who cannot meet their basic needs such as security and food especially, education is something of a luxury.

The government may provide education services up to a certain level, but this will always be limited and the kid from the poor family will still lack if he is not supported.

Social philanthropists can play a crucial role here.

For instance, I had a chance this week to meet a social entrepreneur, Alexandre Mars, in Singapore. People like him are quite important, because it is impossible and naive to believe that the state will reach every corner of the world to find disadvantaged people. On top of that, ageing and a broken insurance system in the developed world makes it even harder for governments to bring about solutions.

Alexandre Mars is one of the top twenty philanthropists under 40 in New York. His foundation is called the Epic Foundation and it was initially funded by his personal funds. His foundation currently funds 20 new NGOs every single year to help youths in five different continents. You can find more information on Epic Foundation here.

But of course, we need more Alexandre Mars, and it is easier said than done.

Alexandre mentioned that it was his dream to help the youth and it took 15 years to create enough wealth to pursue his real dream.

Thomas Piketty, a reputable French economist and author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, argues that the income inequality will continue to rise in the future as the return rate of capital is higher than the rate of economic growth. More importantly, he believes that the inequality level is now around the pre-war era.

I do not believe the utopic idea that everyone should be equal—on the contrary, I believe it is important that people are recognized for their achievement; but the redistribution of wealth is key to funding necessary education for the masses.

G20 in Antalya, Turkey, had been a good chance for leaders to discuss these issues. Since politicians are not entrepreneurs and they move much more slowly than entrepreneurs, I still believe entrepreneurs are the key to the solution.

The world is becoming a very polarized place to live and this is contrary to globalization and trade. We must eliminate illiteracy and poverty to secure a liveable world for ourselves and for our kids.

Expecting my first child next month, these events are very discouraging and lead me to wonder what kind of world we are really leaving for them. I sincerely worry about a world war within my life span.

By taking this opportunity, I would to like to offer my most sincere condolences to the families who lost their loved ones in the Paris, Beirut and Ankara attacks.

All the best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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New Silk Road: One Belt, One Road

Chinese President, Mr. Xi Jinping, made a four day official visit to the UK last week. This was the first visit since 2005 and the UK was definitely well prepared to ensure that the Chinese President left the UK with a good impression and, more importantly, that he left with many infrastructure and trade projects signed.

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As we all well know, China is becoming more powerful and China has a lot of ambitions. One of the most important is its ambition to revitalize the Silk Road under the One Belt, One Road project.

The Silk Road is an ancient route facilitating trade and cultural exchange from east to west. The Great Wall of China was built to protect this route—in a way, to protect the continuation of trade between the east and the west. The development of this route enabled China, Persia, India and many countries in the past to benefit from cultural and economic development.

The length of the route is 6,000 km. The name Silk Road comes from the famous Chinese silk, which was a major attraction in building this route. Nowadays, thanks to the development of technology and fast transportation options, this route can be utilized more efficiently.

Following the global financial crisis in 2008, we are still not out of the woods. More importantly, we are losing our patience and our hopes for the future. When under 25 unemployment hits 50% in some developed countries, that is not only telling us about a single problem. It is signalling a much bigger problem: a lost generation.

The New Silk Road is being worked on in such an environment, and it excites everyone as it did in the past. And obviously everybody wants to get their share.

In the EU, the UK is lagging behind Germany with its trade volume with China. Obviously, Germany sells its cars and manufactured goods whereas the UK is not very competitive, actually not producing many exportation goods at all.

However, the UK is the leading country in the service sector in the EU. That’s where the internationalization of RMB could play an important role, as London can be the main clearing centre for renminbi.

In addition, the UK is where ideas of the future are turning into reality. It is the country where you can freely discuss with intellectuals and implement your ideas. Most importantly, the UK has a global talent pool which may only be compared with the USA.

Of course, it is not only Germany and the UK that are competing for a share in this big cake. Japanese president, Mr. Abe, has been travelling in Central Asia this week to secure better relationships with Central Asian countries. Given that Central Asia is the main connecting point, it is the main artery for the New Silk Road, pumping blood into its heart.

In my opinion, this visit is too late for Japan. Chinese companies, with the support of the Chinese Exim Bank, have been working on this region for many years now.

The power shift has already begun. The UK decided to sign for the foundation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, where many hesitant countries followed the UK. This should be a warning bell for the US.

I think we have to give credit to Cameron’s chancellor, George Osborne, for this courageous move.

The UK media criticized David Cameron for not discussing in detail China’s human rights track record and its steel pricing policy. On top of that, it was unfortunate timing that the UK steel industry announced job cuts during the visit of the Chinese president to the UK.

I believe David Cameron is following the right strategy with China.

How would it be possible to cooperate with someone on social issues without establishing the right relationship?

History might be bloody between the UK and China, but the future definitely looks bright.

All the best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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