The Turkish Private Sector: the New Rising Star
The economic transformation of Turkey began in the mid 1980s. Before 1980, the main aim of the Turkish industry was to substitute import gaps. The state was heavily involved in monetary and trade policies. By the efforts of the Prime Minister Özal, Turkey transformed into a free market economy. A liberalization and privatization process that revealed respectable industrial cities in Anatolia initiated.
Another prominent turning point for Turkey was the 2001 economic crisis. The stabilization program after the crisis and the political stability that came after the 2002 election directly improved the Turkish economy. The shift from labor intensive and low technology to technology intensive sectors took place rapidly, export-oriented industrialization accelerated, and the entrepreneurial spirit of Turkish business community became stronger.
Today, Turkey is three-hour-flight away from most countries between Italy and China, and our entrepreneurs dot every part of this $10 trillion region. This attests to the increasing organizational capability of Turkish business community, which has greatly broadened Turkey’s regional influence.
A new transformation process is on the rise. The democratic wave in North Africa and Middle East and the debt crisis in Europe will reshape the political and economic structure of the world in the upcoming days. On the other side, China and India are triggering international competitiveness.
What must be done is to be prepared for the change. Nowadays, we heavily produce middle-technology products such as white goods, chemical substances, telecommunication devices, medical devices and automobiles. It is of significant importance to switch from medium technology to high-technology production for Turkey to make a leap in the global market and sustain competitiveness.
In order to reach our goals, fostering a conducive business environment is among the top priorities of Turkey’s reform agenda. Through public-private dialogue, Turkey is adapting investor-friendly policies, reforming its macro- and micro-economic foundations, and improving its investment climate. I believe these policies will bring success to Turkey in the next level of its transformation.
TOBB as a catalyst for transformation
Our grassroots Chamber network has always been among the catalysts of this private sector-led transformation. As the highest-level representative of the Turkish private sector, the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) is supporting domestic political and economic reforms. We serve our 1.4 million members through 365 local chambers and commodity exchanges and 59 sector-specific assemblies.
We believe that economic success is in the hands of the entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs will create more employment opportunities, invest in research and development, and increase the trading volume of Turkey. Being aware of the importance of entrepreneurship, TOBB established Women Entrepreneurs Board and Young Entrepreneurs Board, and mobilized about 10 thousand entrepreneurs under these bodies. Via these Boards, TOBB plays an important role for the future of entrepreneurship in Turkey.
Moreover, TOBB has always been an outward looking actor to develop sound regional integration policies. Our objective has always been to increase the visibility of the Turkish private sector. The more people trust in the virtues of Turkish entrepreneurs, the easier it will be for us to do business abroad. Building mechanisms for sustainable business dialogue, especially in troubled areas such as Palestine-Israel and Pakistan-Afghanistan, is one way to do this. Thus, we are working on doable projects in these regions.
Another aspect of Turkey’s economic policies is enhancing bilateral and multilateral economic relations. This is also an important issue of TOBB’s international agenda. The Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey (DEİK), established by TOBB, and 109 bilateral business councils have been the driving force behind our market development.
One of the key issues of Turkey’s upcoming reform agenda entails improving access to the more sophisticated markets around the globe. It has the critical importance to expand and diversify the trade partners. Our market shares in the Far East and Americas are much below than the potential. The Unites States, China, India, Brazil, Japan, Canada, and Mexico are the most developed countries in these regions, but our shares in their imports change between 1 per mil and 3 per mil. We believe the American market, among others, will be a key venue to boost Turkish exports and we are working closely with the American authorities and business community in the scope of the Partnership for a New Beginning (PNB) Initiative. Rooted in President Obama’s vision for a New Beginning, PNB is a collection of public-private partners committed to deepening economic and social engagement between the United States and local communities. As chair of PNB Turkey, we seek innovative collaboration between Turkish and American entrepreneurs.
Invest in Turkey
We, as the Turkish private sector, are determined to be one of the key players in the global economy. With its young population, rising income level, growing global influence, and strong free market economy, Turkey has great potential and offers abundant business opportunities for global companies.
The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) is ready to support and guide business initiatives of foreign companies in Turkey and in its close neighborhood.
M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu is the President of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB). He is also the Deputy President of Eurochambres and Vice President of the Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
This article was originally published in the special annual G20-B20 Summit 2012 edition. Published with permission.