Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey

Business community demands structural reforms for new growth epic

02.05.2015 / Ankara

TOBB’s 71st General Assembly was held with the attendances of the Prime Minister Davutoğlu, CHP Chairman Kılıçdaroğlu, MHP Vice Chairman Vural and TOBB delegates. TOBB President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu stated that the business community wants to create a new growth epic and emphasized that they want politicians to enact new structural reforms together, posthaste.​

Hisarcıklıoğlu said, “The 2015 elections must be a milestone for Turkey to rise up. After June, we have four years ahead of us without elections. We must take advantage of this opportunity. This period should be one where violent arguments are left behind us, wherein robust reforms are enacted. We must hasten our steps towards a more free and prosperous Turkey.”

Stating that Turkey needs a new model for growth Hisarcıklıoğlu said, “We must create a new agenda for reform and pen a new epic of growth. We must create solutions for the problems effecting our businesses.”

Hisarcıklıoğlu spoke at the General Assembly:

“General Assembly President and Council Presidents, Mr. Prime Minister, CHP Chairman, MHP representative, Distinguished Ministers, MPs and bureaucrats, chambers, exchanges, women and youth entrepreneur chairs, General Assembly delegates, Turkish speaking entrepreneurs from all over the world, distinguished members of the press and my fellow office workers,

I greet you heartily on behalf of the TOBB Board and myself. Welcome. You honor us.

Dear friends,

This year’s theme for our general assembly is the Victory of Çanakkale. This is because 2015 is the centennial anniversary of the Çanakkale epic.

Çanakkale is the birth place of our independence war spirit. Çanakkale is the revival of the Turkish nation, it is the prologue of the Republic of Turkey. Çanakkale is where this honorable nation thought the world that there is ethics exist even within war.

The sons of Anatolia fought the war and taught humanity and wisdom. Their bayonets were pens. They taught the great powers that even war has its honor, syllable by syllable.

We sacrificed a generation at Çanakkale. High school students from İstanbul, Kayseri, Konya, Sivas, Tokat and many more provinces volunteered to go to the front and became martyrs.

In the words of Mehmet Akif;


‘What manner of battle is the battle for the Straits? Is there aught like it? Four, five strongest armies hurled at it.

Bombs like lightning descend upon the trenches, quenched on the chest of that lion hearted soldier.

Asım’s generation… Truly, a generation of substance: Upheld its honor and will let none tread upon it.’


Now we must ask ourselves, are we worthy children of these hallowed martyrs? We are only here today because of them. As long as we recognize this fact and live accordingly, we will endure without end.

We salute and cherish the memories of Çanakkale Stronghold Commander and ‘the Hero of March 18th’ Cevat Pasha; ‘the Hero of Anafarta Hills’ who took up the fight for National Independence after Çanakkale, Mustafa Kemal as well as Fevzi Çakmak, Kazım Pasha and Fahrettin Pasha, Captain Hakkı of the mine layer Nusret, Corporal Seyit and all the heroic Mehmets. Bless their souls.

Dear guests,

It is on this occasion that I would like to stress that we view the decisions taken by the European Parliament and various countries in regards to the alleged Armenian genocide with great sadness.

We, the Turkish business community, reject the rewriting of history with political aims while ignoring scientists, historians and archives.

Politicians cannot rewrite or arbitrate history. Politics should concern itself not with rewriting history but designing the future.

Let none manipulate history to their own political ends! I call on the politicians doing this: Get your hands off history!

Dear friends,

Yesterday, the President of the Republic honored us by attending our certificate of honor for service award ceremony. He gave us support and morale.

Today, we are overjoyed to be hosting the Prime Minister, CHP Chairman and MHP’s Vice Chairman. This is the third time the Prime Minister has met with TOBB in the last month.

We held the Turkey Commerce and Industry Summit in April with the Prime Minister presiding over it which is the singular platform for addressing the economic problems of all of the cities in Turkey.

Following that, we held the Turkey Sector Economy Summit which brought together 60 sectors under a single roof.

The Prime Minister has shown us his action and solution focused management approach with the solutions he provided us with just during these meetings.

A very important step has been taken during the summit to increase private and public sector cooperation. He has given us the good news of ESDK’s revitalization. We thank you!

Additionally, we view the action plans announced regarding 25 fields to be very important for the future of our country.

Dear guests,

I think it is important to lift our heads and take a look at the world in general during these days in which we are focused on ourselves as a country.

2015 will be a year of many surprises in the global economy. USA, Europe, Russia and China’s economies are fluctuating.

However, if the European economies continue to recover, Turkey’s economy will be positively impacted.

Prior to 2015, developing economies were growing faster than developed economies. This year, with the exception of India, we can see a decrease in the rate of growth of all developing countries. The 20 great economies which undertake the production of the 80% of the world’s goods grew by 3.4% in 2014. This rate will be lower this year.

Developing countries grew by 4.5% last year. The expected rate is around 4% this year. The increase of oil prices recently has halted the shrinkage in the Russian economy. Still, they will see shrinkage this year. In short there will be a certain amount of recovery throughout the world, however insufficient. I call on you to be prepared for surprises; you would do well to stay away from risk.

Dear friends,

Looking at our country, we must be doubly vigilant. Most of the primary geopolitical risk zones are all around our country. The dropping oil prices, while positively impacting our trade deficit, has had a limiting effect on our exports, tourism, investments and international construction business. Preliminary projections points towards weak growth.

The domestic market has slowed down; we are experiencing problems in collecting dues, especially in regards to cheques. We must increase growth in order to surmount these difficulties.

During the second half of the year, with the elections behind us and Europe continuing to recover, we hope that the domestic market and exports will pick up with an increased growth. In summary will be a year of ups and downs.

Distinguished guests,

2015 holds a different significance for us. Turkey is the term chair of the G20. Appointed by our government, I, on behalf of our community have taken on the role of Term Chair of B20, the business arm of the G20.

We are living in interesting times. We must face many global issues. We need a global coordination structure in order to address these problems. That is why G20 so very important.

We all know that global issues require global solutions and global solutions can only be reached via G20; before us is a very important opportunity to influence G20 leaders and the global agenda.

The game is being played on the home field for us this year. The rules of the global economy are being scripted under Turkey’s leadership. Until today, B20 was chaired by multinational company directors or clubs.

This year, for the first time a chamber union which represents all facets of the business world is chairing the B20.

This is an important indicator showing just how influential an actor our community is. We set to working hard as soon as we took over the duty of chairing B20. We transformed B20 into a global network of approximately 1000 businesses, up from only 250-300 giant companies.

We did not limit our work to Turkey either. We’ve organized 12 big meetings in 5 continents in order to promote Turkey and B20.

We’ve completed 5 of these. We have traveled a total of 158,000 kilometers. That is the equivalent of traveling four times around the world. We’ve met with the leaders of the business world. We’ve opened up the giants’ club B20 to SMEs with the support of our government. We’ve made questions like ‘how to grow SMEs’ and ‘how to form partnerships with larger companies’ the top issues of both G20 and B20. We’ve also begun work on establishing the World SME Forum along with the International Chamber of Commerce.

We are establishing an international institution to address the issues of SMEs, to provide solutions, to lobby for the interests of SMEs, to be a patron for SMEs. This enterprise has found support from G20 governments, the World Bank and the OECD.

I would like to extend our gratitude to the Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan who has been with us each step of this process.

Throughout the process, I witnessed just how much Mr. Babacan is admired and valued by G20 governments and especially the global financial communities and I felt proud of my country.

Six months ago, they were saying ‘Turkey will not be able to have much presence as G20 Chair’. Today, we’ve shown everyone how Turkey and the Turkish business community can set the agenda for both G20 and B20.

Distinguished delegates,

As is customary, we take stock of ourselves at TOBB’s General Assemblies. That is why I would like to touch on some of the things we accomplished since the last general assembly.

First of all, we focused on local development. To this end, we increased the service capacity of our Chambers and Exchanges.

We increased the number of chambers-exchangers providing service on global standards to 191. This year, 41 more Chambers and Exchanges have begun their accreditation process. The number of chambers-exchangers providing service on global standards will increase to 232. The number of projects undertaken by our Chambers and Exchanges in cooperation with the European Union and Development Agencies has reached 1,158 with the amount of resources they’ve drawn in to their cities has reached 706 million TRY.

Our accredited labs are considered an authority on tea, olive oil, wheat, flour, pesticides and aflatoxins throughout the world. We want our Chambers and Exchanges to be forerunners in local development. We have appointed Academic Consultants in order to increase their capacity to closely follow the national and global economy as well as creating projects. We’ve held Briefing Seminars to strengthen the service mentality of our Chambers and Exchanges. Approximately 5,000 council members have attended the three-day seminars. We are here to provide service, we exist to provide service. We will continue to provide service.

Another matter we are focusing on as a priority is increasing the number of entrepreneurs in order to increase Turkey’s prosperity and to increase the capacity of its entrepreneurs.

I see no reason to be humble in regards to entrepreneurship. The seeds we’ve planted have begun to give fruit. The Women and Youth Entrepreneur Councils, which we established in order to bring entrepreneurship to the forefront of the economic agenda, have conducted 1,300 activities last year. Our entrepreneur councils have begun to provide entrepreneurship courses in all provinces.

Bringing the new generation interested in entrepreneurship with successful entrepreneurs and thereby support them, we have established the G3 Forum and have begun spreading out to Anatolia. As a part of the Turkey 100 project we hold each year, we identify the 100 fastest growing companies in Turkey.

These promising companies are brought into contact with companies in their sector in the USA, facilitating their integration into international markets. We’ve founded the TOBB ETU Garage Incubation Center to help the youth establish their businesses. We’ve begun the 18th Turkish Speaking Entrepreneurs Program for the Turkish speaking entrepreneurs from the Balkans, the Middle East, North Africa, Crimea and Central Asia as we want to conduct business in these regions in our own language. The 47 Turkish Speaking Entrepreneurs from 21 countries are in this hall today! Let us give a warm welcome to our guests.

We’ve focused on bringing advanced technology to our country.

You know that the university to begin the three semester program and joint education system to Turkey first is the TOBB University of Economy and Technology. TOBB ETU is also a forerunner in the field of advanced technology. I’d like to give some examples of this. We have the first patent in Turkey which was derived from an invention at the university. The largest Technology Center in Europe which we’ve established at the university has developed a prototype for an unmanned air vehicle capable of flying at an altitude of 17,000ft.

We’ve produced the fastest functioning microprocessor in the world with Japan’s Nagoya University. With the support of the Development Ministry, we’ve built the world’s largest Water Turbine Test and Design Center.

In addition to these, we support venture capital to aid in the establishment of high tech companies. To this end, we are starting up a “fund of funds” in cooperation with the Treasury in order to invest hundreds of millions of Liras into new enterprises focusing on advanced technology.

This great fund will support the fast growth potential of our SMEs. We’ve intensified our efforts in the field of biotechnology. We’ve established the TOBB Biotechnology Sector Council. We believe that the transition to advanced tech in Turkey will be through technologies lateral to each other such as biotechnology, nanotechnology and informatics technologies.

These lateral technologies are very important as they will transform many sectors such as textile, automotive and construction. To this end, we are working with the Development Minister to establish the ‘TOBB Life Sciences and Biotechnology Foundation’. It is our goal to no longer import technology, but to produce it.

We have increased the quality and quantity of the services we offer companies.

We have increased the support we provide to SMEs through the Credit Guarantee Fund and the Business Development Centers (ABİGEM) throughout the country. Via 19 ABİGEMs, we provided over 1,200 consultation and project services to SMEs in one year.

In order to address the unemployment and lack of skill problems, along with the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, Ministry of National Education and İŞKUR, we had begun the UMEM Ability’10 Project, the best example of public and private sector cooperation.

To date, we’ve provided training to 170,000 unemployed people, providing them with vocational skills and 110,000 with employment. I would like to thank the Minister of Labor and Social Security Faruk Çelik for adopting the UMEM Ability’10 Project. Our Chambers and Exchanges have gained experience in the field of vocational education.

We, the 365 Chambers-Exchanges are prepared to take on the task of operating the vocational education system.

We are continuing the work of modernizing our customs gates in order to facilitate exports. In addition to the 7 gates which we previously modernized, we are in the process of modernizing the Çıldır-Aktaş gate with Georgia, Dilucu gate with Nakhcevan and the Esendere and Kapıköy gates with Iran.

We are rebuilding the Halkalı Customs facility which has become a massive bog due to the amount of traffic it processes in Çatalca. The renovated customs gates have halved their process times. Turkey rose 9 places in the Logistical Performance Index. We are shown as an example to the whole world by the UN.

We have expanded our global relations in order to provide a better voice for the Turkish business community.

We are continuing to hold offices as Vice President of EUROCHAMBRES and the Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry as well as a Board Member of the World Chamber of Commerce.

We were elected as Vice President of the Confederation of Asia-Pacific Chambers of Commerce and Industry, comprised of 27 countries from the newly rising region of the world.

We established the Nicosia Forum with the parties of Turkey, Greece, TRNC and the South Cyprus Greek Republic. This Forum brought the business communities of the four countries together for the first time in history. We’ve begun our efforts to establish the Nicosia Arbitration Center.

The matter of TTIP between the US and the EU is of great importance for our business community. Along with the US Chamber of Commerce, we have prepared a detailed report on the inclusion of Turkey in the TTIP and the proposed FTA between Turkey and the US.

The report will be shared with the public in the coming months; we will also be presenting it to the US government and Congress.

We are continuing to undertake social responsibility projects and to preserve our cultural heritage.

We have completed the construction of 54 education facilities to date. We have begun work on the construction of 28 more. Akhism, as you well know, is the basis of the chambers system and a culture which we, TOBB, are inheritors. We have contributed to the construction of the Akhi Evran Social Complex being built in Kırşehir to this end. We have collected 17 million TRY in donations for the miner families in Soma. We have presented each of the 18 miner families in Ermenek with a house.

We have sent 25 TIRs full of aid to the Iraqi and Palestinian effected by the war. We had previously compiled the collected works of Mehmet Akif, Yunus Emre and the great master Necip Fazıl. This year, we published one of the greatest and most comprehensive sagas of our culture, the Book of Dede Korkut. We have established the Selimiye Mosque and Mimar Sinan Foundation to take on the upkeep costs of this great heirloom of our culture which we had previously contributed to the restoration of. With our contributions, these great works will persist at least as long as we do.

Dear guests,

All of these and many other endeavors which I’ve not listed have been accomplished between last May and now.

We accomplished all of this with the support of our 365 Chambers-Exchanges and 1.5 million members. It was accomplished thanks to this community’s understanding of unity, solidarity and brotherhood. We have accomplished this with you who are here today.

I would like to thank the former Minister Hayati Yazıcı on behalf of our community for all the support he has given us in opening the way for the real sector.

I would also like to present our gratitude as the Turkish business community to the President of the Republic, the Speaker for the Parliament, the Prime Minister, CHP and MHP Chairmen, the Ministers and Parliamentary Representatives and all the bureaucrats who have worked with us.

Dear friends,

Elections will be held in a month. These elections should be a new beginning for a brighter future. We must reinvigorate our real sector.

Turkey needs a new model for growth. By forming a new agenda for structural reform, we must pen a new epic of growth. We must quickly address the issues faced by our companies.

The price advantage for national goods in public tenders has been a step in the right direction, we thank the government for this.

We have expectations of the government which will be formed following the elections. The removal of the KKDF was a bold move which lowered the input costs of the private sector.

We expect similar bold steps in stamp tax, cash tax and the TRT share in electricity. We also want the burdens laid on employment to be brought down to the standards enjoyed by our global competitors. Remove this burden so we can run faster for our country.

The taxation legislation should be simple and clear so we are not left to the arbitrary interpretations of bureaucrats. Do not leave those who produce, expend effort and pay taxes to the mercies of bureaucrats and inspectors.

Let’s protect those who always pay their taxes in order to incentivize everyone to pay taxes.

Legislative processes must be sped up. Belated justice is no justice. The simplest of court cases last longer than a year. Arbitration should be mandatory for cases under a certain amount.

As of late, bankruptcy delay and business cases are increasingly being abused. Measures should be implemented in order to address these issues.

Most importantly, businessmen should conduct their business according to law. He will conduct business properly. He will be held accountable. We already do this.

Why, then, are the bureaucrats who unjustly ruin the lives of entrepreneurs with a single arbitrary decision not held to account for their actions? Just as the private sector is held accountable for their actions, so should the bureaucrats be accountable.

Significant investments have been made in education. We’ve increased capacity. We’ve increased the number of schools and classrooms. Unfortunately we’ve not achieved the level of quality in education that we anticipated.

Our children rank lower than we’d like in global indices for mathematics and sciences. We must increase the quality of our education in order to leap ahead in economy.

As Atatürk said, ‘Education is what determines whether a nation is free, independent, glorious and elevated or whether it is condemned to slavery and poverty.’

We require a structural transformation in our industry. This is because most of our products are of a medium level of technology in nature. The ratio of high tech goods is unable to increase.

The developed countries of the world, with Germany at the forefront, are talking about transitioning to ‘Industry 4.0’ or in other words, the fourth generation of industry. The footsteps of a new era can be heard. This will be a time of direct communication among machines and decision making.

The fourth industrial evolution will increase connectivity, speed up production, increase productivity as well as increasing income levels, employment and investments.

The countries which manage to transition to this phase will pull ahead of countries which couldn’t at a rate of 5 to 1 each year.

This is the way in which it will be possible to make the jump from 10,000 USD per capita income to 25,000 USD. In this regard, we are of a mind on the importance of innovation. We must focus on how to innovate.

We must, along with our government, determine the fields in which Turkey can excel, such as biotechnology, and work together according to a set strategy in order to escape the medium income trap.

Valued friends,

We must direct our limited resources towards industrial investment as opposed to fields with lesser added value.

Industrial endeavors with high added value should be incentivized. Industrialists should receive support to alleviate freight and fuel costs. OIZ railway connections must be proliferated.

The fluctuations in foreign currency is negatively impacting the investment and production decisions of our companies. Precautions must be taken to address this issue.

We are experiencing difficulties with transportation in our trade with the Middle East and Northern Africa.

We require that these routes remain open or alternative routes be opened to us in order to reach these markets and maintain our dominance.

Banks are heaping expenses on us at every opportunity. It used to be that they only changed credit rates. Now we are inflicted with procedural expenses.

Despite the government’s efforts to limit their abuses, they always find a way. Banks would do well to remember that they exist so long as SMEs do and desist with this greedy mentality.

We must at some point criticize ourselves, too. I would urge SMEs to not be stuck inside the daily routine; to not miss the bigger picture.

SMEs must manage the risks of the new term and take advantage of opportunities which present themselves by scaling up continually. The only way to achieve this is through learning the culture of merging and partnerships. Otherwise we will lose much.

Dear friends,

The 2015 elections should be a milestone for Turkey to forge ahead. After June, we have four years without any elections. We must take advantage of this opportunity.

This period should be a time when harsh arguments are left behind and strong reforms are enacted. We must quicken our steps for a more free and prosperous Turkey.

Our new National Assembly should focus on revitalizing the EU membership process. Attaining the necessary financial, political and social criteria should be our shared goal.

The necessary reforms should be enacted with the participation and agreement of all parties with all due haste.

Despite some EU leaders' lack of vision and sense of justice as well as unacceptable behavior, we must accomplish this for ourselves because the Turkish people deserve to live on the EU standards. This is what we believe. We will succeed in this endeavor.

Everything is founded on liberty and democracy. That is why we will preserve democracy. We will make it stronger.

Dear guests, distinguished members of our community,

Turkey's greatest strength is its entrepreneurial spirit. The primary representatives of that spirit are here, in this hall!

We may not have natural gas or petroleum, but we have brave people of horizon spanning vision, who break mountains and make the impossible possible.

We do not yield to pessimism, we do not lose hope. This is because our ancestors did not quit but wrote epics of success!

We are the ones who work tirelessly with the love of service to Turkey. We are merchants who seek justly won profit, who turn their backs on ill-gotten gains. We are SMEs, entrepreneurs and industrialists of Turkey who give their months and years so that our homeland can become just that much prosperous.

We are the children of this land. We are the 7 regions, 81 provinces and four seasons. From Mount Ararat to the Menderes Plains; from İnceburun to İskenderun, we are all the colors of this country.

The late Özal said, 'Our people are like fire; they inflame everything they touch. All we must do is let them.' As the obstacles before us are surmounted, we produced value. As we produced, we competed with the whole world.

In this competition our workers benefit, our people benefit, Turkey benefited. Turkey will continue to benefit.

I have great hopes. We've come so far, yet we will go even further. First we crawled, then we walked, now we will run ahead of all others.

I have great hopes. Turkey will be one of the largest economies in the world. We will work, produce and compete; we will make our country prosper.

I have great hopes. We will reach an exports volume of 500 billion USD. We will create at least 10 global Turkish brands.

We will fill the streets of Paris, the avenues of New York and the squares of Shanghai with these Turkish brands.

Our cause is Turkey, our love is Turkey. With the grace of Allah we will accomplish this together. We will succeed with a singular spirit and enthusiasm!

May Allah enrich our hearts, grant prosperity for our labors and gains, and render the unity and solidarity of our nation everlasting. May our path be open; May Allah stand with us and aid us all."

- Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu

Prime Minister Davutoğlu said in his speech, “During the 1991 elections, there were a number of populist promises which pushed Turkey towards the 1994 economic crisis. February 28th and the negativity it engendered led Turkey into the 2001 crisis under a three party coalition. If Turkey has managed to grow its economy in the last 12 years, this is due to democracy and political stability.”

Davutoğlu stated that the TOBB General Assembly is an important platform in which the economic situation is discussed. Touching on the fact that the theme of this year’s General Assembly is the Battle of Çanakkale, the Prime Minister expressed gratitude to those who sacrificed their lives to bring victory.

Stating that one of the most fundamental parts of human honor is labor, Davutoğlu said that it is the duty of both the state and the private sector to give labor its due.

Pointing out that all provinces have demanded more OIZs, Davutoğlu reported that the number of OIZs have increased from 67 to 157 since AKP came into power, going on to say that there will be no cities without OIZs in Turkey.

- CHP Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu

CHP Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu stated that a CHP government will not wait on opening of new chapters for membership with the EU to enact reforms.

Thanking the TOBB Board for inviting him to speak at the TOBB 71st General Assembly, Kılıçdaroğlu said, “I consider it an honorable duty to be here with you.”

Stating that TOBB’s General Assemblies are an important event wherein matters pertaining to Turkey are discussed, Kılıçdaroğlu pointed out that as a result, these General Assemblies are important for Turkey, the region and the world.

Recalling TOBB President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu’s 2002 General Assembly speech, Kılıçdaroğlu stated that Turkey must act as a great and strong country possessed of far reaching vision.

Kılıçdaroğlu posed the question whether those present can travel to Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya or Israel easily, pointing out that lacks ambassadors in the four great capitals of the region, stressing the fact that Turkey has become isolated within its own region.

- Deputy PM Ali Babacan

Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan stated that Turkey is a country which grows stronger in regards to its economy and democratic structure despite being in a critical region at a critical time.

Pointing out that despite conditions which negatively impact Turkey’s situation, it has managed to grow its economy, Babacan emphasized that the composition of growth has become healthier.

Babacan stated that they are on board with a model for economic development driven by the private sector, pointing out that Turkey’s development has progressed since 2002, but needs to go even further.

- MHP Deputy Chairman Oktay Vural

MHP Deputy Chairman Oktay Vural stated that the Prime Minister’s promises for a new constitution are rehashed promises and that no ground has been gained to this end.

Stating that MHP respects everyone’s native tongue and they are pro-integration, Vural said, “We are of the mindset that says there is grace in unity and anguish in dissent. A party cannot have a government. The government should be a government for everybody.”

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