At Loyola University Chicago's Quinlan School of Business, Professor Vefa Tarhan is known primarily as a corporate finance specialist. But in his native Turkey, he has achieved something of a rock star status. During visits to the country, where his expertise places him frequently in the media, Tarhan is often approached on the street, at airports, or in restaurants.
And word is spreading.
In early March, Tarhan was the featured speaker at the British House of Commons, where he delivered a 90-minute address, “The Turkish Economy at the Crossroads: Its Recent Past and Future Vulnerabilities,” to an audience that included the Labour Party, the shadow minister of the economy, think-tank leaders, economists, and the media. Organized by the Labour Friends of Turkey and the Centre for Policy Analysis and Research on Turkey, the event gave Tarhan an opportunity to speak not only about the Turkish economy—the world's fastest growing, just after China’s—but also about what other countries still face after the mortgage crisis of 2007.
“People want to know, why is it taking the world’s economies this long to recover?” says Tarhan, who attributes ongoing challenges to corporate fear over global instability. “It’s what’s preventing firms all over the world from making investments. If you don’t build factories, you don’t hire people—and the economy doesn’t improve.”
Tarhan addressed this issue further at the London School of Economics, during a talk on “Global Uncertainties and the Future of the Euro.”
But his views aren't always met with delight. In fact, he has gained notoriety for his sometimes controversial arguments in favor of dismantling the eurozone (with each of the 17 eurozone countries returning to their former currencies) because of what he sees as systemic flaws and the constant threat of countries in need of rescue—Cyprus being the latest.
“The system is bound to collapse because it wasn’t designed correctly, and the negatives of the euro system far outweigh the benefits,” he says. “They’re better off saying, ‘We made a mistake’—and the sooner the better.”
Still, Tarhan, who was honored this year with the Scientist with a Strategic Vision award from the Turkish Asian Center for Strategic Studies, prefers solutions to criticisms.
It’s that sort of creative thinking that has made him an in-demand speaker, news source, and adviser to Turkish leaders, which pays off at home as well.
“I bring back the preparation I make for a speech and use it as well in my teaching and research,” he says, “thereby advancing the cause of Quinlan.”