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Weekly Hurriyet Column: The Rikers Redemption

Who are “the Sisters?” What do they have to do with Dominique Strauss-Kahn? With Turkish football club Fenerbahce? Why are they celebrating May 2031 at Rikers? All at my latest Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review column, which is below for your convenience.

Please note that the Sisters’ views on DSK are not necessarily my own: I just wanted to give a very general idea about DSK’s policies and the controversies (or rather difference of opinions) surrounding them. Having said that, on to the column:

 

 

I apologize if you haven’t seen the Shawshank Redemption, but Morgan Freeman is narrating:

Dominique Strauss-Kahn came to Rikers Island in May of 2011.

I must admit I didn’t think much of Dominique the first time I laid eyes on him; he spoke with a funny accent and seemed to have an inflated ego. That was my first impression of the man.

From day one, he claimed he was innocent, and that he was set up by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. But everyone in here is innocent, didn’t you know that? In any case, the Sisters gang thought he was the only guilty man in Rikers. They maintained that while he could be innocent of the crime he was in for, he was guilty of much more. So they made life very tough for Dom, as I began calling him after we became friends, in those early years.

They would corner him whenever they had the chance and ask him why he had recommended the use of fiscal stimuli to try to end the financial crisis. Now, I should tell you, the Sisters were neoclassical economists, so they did not think much of Dom’s Keynesian ideas.

They would also attack him on his handling of the eurozone debt crisis. They maintained that the crisis stemmed from a lack of solvency rather than liquidity, and that Dom’s treatment of the latter only exacerbated the problems.

The Sisters were also especially critical of Dom’s approach to Greece. They argued that, as in Latvia, it was clear that fiscal restraint, combined with a currency that could not adjust, would lead to a deep contraction, adding that Greece should have abandoned the euro. Dom spent long hours trying to persuade them that option was not politically feasible, but it did not help that Zorba, the leader of the Sisters, was from Crete, which had been sold to Turkey in 2012.

The Sisters were also rather angry at Dom for having revived a dying institution. They agreed with Financial Times’ Martin Wolf that Dom was a bold decision-maker, an effective politician and a competent economist. It was with these qualities that he was able to carve a whole new role for the IMF, which involved, among other things, increased monitoring of the global economy’s crisis indicators.

But that’s exactly what the Sisters hated Dom for. They saw the IMF as nothing more than a tool for the developed world to continue exploiting developing countries. It seems they had not found Dom’s emphasis on poverty and unemployment during his stint as IMF’s Managing Director sincere at all.

One day, Dom asked for a rock hammer and a poster of John Maynard Keynes from me. I knew Dom loved his wife, and quite a few other women as well, so I was worried. Had the Sisters finally got to him? Not that there is anything wrong with that. But I got what he wanted nevertheless, and rock-carving became his greatest passion. He had decided he would carve statuettes of all the women he had been with. That kept him busy!

Over the years, the posters changed: Simon Johnson, Ken Rogoff, Raghuram Rajan, Olivier Blanchard and many others. In May of 2031, when football club Fenerbahçe won its first Turkish cup after almost half a century, distracting the Sisters from Dom for a while as they celebrated, it was Paul Krugman. Then, exactly on the 20th anniversary of his arrival at Rikers, Dom disappeared: He had been digging a tunnel behind those economist posters all those years.

Not long afterwards, I got a postcard in the mail. It was blank, but the postmark said Calais, France. That’s where Dom crossed. When I picture him heading south in his own car with the top down, it always makes me laugh. Dominique Strauss-Kahn… who crawled through a tunnel and came out clean on the other side. Dominique Strauss-Kahn… headed for the Élysée…

Emre Deliveli is a freelance consultant and columnist for Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review and Forbes as well as a contributor to Roubini Global Economics. Follow his blog at http://www.economonitor.com/emredeliveli/.

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