The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey’s (TOBB) 66th General Assembly took place in Ankara, TOBB Economy and Technology University (ETU) Hall. Giving the opening speech for the General Assembly, which was attended by the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and CHP President Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, TOBB President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu expressed the need for peace and dialog instead of fights and conflict; saying, “Together, we are strong.”


Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey

Together, we are strong

16.05.2011 / Ankara

The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey’s (TOBB) 66th General Assembly took place in Ankara, TOBB Economy and Technology University (ETU) Hall. Giving the opening speech for the General Assembly, which was attended by the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and CHP President Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, TOBB President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu expressed the need for peace and dialog instead of fights and conflict; saying, “Together, we are strong.”

TOBB President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu spoke, “Let us stand against any attempts at obstructing democracy and development. Let us turn Turkey into a rising star with its strong economy and sterling democracy. Let us not dwell on accounting of the past. Let us face the faults in our past but turn our faces to a bright, shared future. As we develop our economy let us also elevate our quality of life in all its aspects; education, healthcare, security.”

-Suggestions from the previous General Assembly

Stating that many of the suggestions from the previous General Assembly were enacting during the previous legislative period, TOBB President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu reminded that the Commercial Law, Debts Law and the Civil Court Law have come into effect; the accumulated tax and social insurance premium debts were reconstituted. Stating that the high amounts of overdue interest enacted upon public claims have been lowered, Hisarcıklıoğlu went on to say, “Eximbank’s capacity has been raised. Incorporations have been encouraged to go public. The Industrial and Input Procurement Strategies have been devised. I would like to thank everyone who had a hand in helping all these legislations pass on behalf of our community; The Grand National Assembly of Turkey, our Prime Minister, Presidents of our Opposition Parties.”

-“We’ve written a success story”

Saying that they’ve written a success story as seventy three million standing united under the crimson flag, Hisarcıklıoğlu: “Yesterday we looked on other countries with envy, now we have become a country to be envied. This change started the day Mustafa Kemal spoke the words ‘Just as they have come, so will they leave.’ It started on this soil. It started with nation uniting. Even in the hardest of times, our Nation with ‘thinking big and ambition’ achieved this.

Many of our people lost their jobs and wealth in the crisis of 2001. Worst of all, they lost hope. It was expected that Turkey would take years to recover. Even in that pessimistic situation we did not lose our hope. Quite the opposite, we gave hope. We emphasized that we could overcome that crisis, we could make a fresh start.

We put forth these goals in our Grand Assembly for the first time in Turkey in 2002; that we would surpass 100 billion dollars in exports in 2010, personal income would rise to 10.000 dollars. There were those who found these goals unattainable. Bu we knew our strength. Thanks be to Allah, today, we have surpassed both of our goals. We have showed the whole world what this nation is capable of once again.

-TOBB’s exemplary organization

Explaining that the organization and membership structure of the Chambers and Exchanges in Turkey are the same as those in France, Italy and Germany, Hisarcıklıoğlu spoke, “I say this as the Vice-President of Eurochambers, as someone who is thoroughly intimate with the subject. We have used this structure much more effectively and efficiently. We have brought forth the force of a unified private sector. Together our voices were stronger, heard more clearly. We consulted on every topic under this roof. We listened to each other, we understood each other. We had differing ideas but discriminated against no one. We did not otherize anybody.”

Stating that through this exemplary tradition serving as a model for Turkey and the world, Hisarcıklıoğlu said that they have become the assurance of democracy and stability in Turkey, and that the Chamber and Exchange structure has been shown as an example to neighboring countries by the OECD.

Informing the guests about the activities of the private sector, TOBB President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu stated that the private sector has provided a million and fifty seven thousand people with employment in just the last year.

Expressing his pride in the traders and industrialists as the architects of this success, Hisarcıklıoğlu spoke; “How fortunate that you are earning profits! How fortunate that you are investing! How fortunate that you are providing employment! How fortunate that you there for us!” Hisarcıklıoğlu went on to urge against lethargy.

-“We believe in ourselves”

Stating that they promise as the private sector to work harder, produce more and invest and provide more employment just as they have done in the last 10 years, Hisarcıklıoğlu said, “Just as we have succeeded in the last 10 years, be sure that we will do even better in the next 10 years. We believe in ourselves! We urge our politicians to come together, to seek dialog and negotiation in politics for stability and reform. The common denominator for all us is the love of our homeland. Our shared goal is the development of our country and the perpetuation of our nation! As Mehmet Akif said, no enemy can infiltrate a nation that no dispute infiltrates. No cannon can assimilate those whose hearts beat in unison.”

-The key to social peace

Urging everyone to hearken to the ideas and views of others, Hisarcıklıoğlu spoke; “The key to social peace in this country is to never let up wisdom and conscience. I call out to the majority without prejudice and consciences. As Cemil Meriç emphasizes, let us throw off the strait-jackets upon our perceptions. Let us listen to our consciences and not our desires. Let us not call our neighbors as ‘others’. Let us not give leave for Turkey to regress, to enter an era of dispute, mayhem and ambiguity. Let us not allow obstructions to reforms.”

-Politics must be spread to the foundations

Expressing their wish to reach world standards in democracy as in economics, Hisarcıklıoğlu stated the way to achieve this was to spread politics to the very foundations. TOBB President went on to say, “If we wish to increase the quality of democracy we must reform political parties and election laws to strengthen the bonds between the elective and the elector.”

-New constitution

TOBB President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu spoke; “We need a new and contemporary constitution not only in terms of politics but also in terms of economy and society. The renewal process of the constitution is as important as its contents. Our new Grand National Assembly must prepare the new constitution in a more participatory approach. Turkey must merge with all its constituent parts, must unite all differences, and prepare its new constitution by talking, through discussion and negotiation. This must not be a new field in which to fight.

The new Constitution must preserve as its essentiality its democratic, secular and social constitutional state properties. As the late Özal stated, the freedom of expression, religion and conscience and the freedom of enterprise must be ensured. We must have the bearing of a state that doesn’t discriminate against its citizens, a state that trusts its citizens, a state that does not dictate to its citizens. The state must be the servant, not the master of the citizen.

Touching on the EU process, Hisarcıklıoğlu stated that EU is still a goal that maintains its importance.

Stating that the new Grand National Assembly and its Members face a historical task, Hisarcıklıoğlu said, “From education to the judicial system, from taxation to public administration, many structural reforms must be undertaken in all areas of society. Firstly, we must ensure a better distribution of economic growth. We must strengthen our fight against unemployment, poverty and off-the-books economy.”

Touching on the importance of the UMEM Ability’10 project, Hisarcıklıoğlu urged everyone to exert themselves. Advocating the need for a more involved approach to occupational education, Hisarcıklıoğlu stated their wish to make occupational education the primary function of Chambers.

In his speech, the TOBB President urged that Regional Development Agencies be centralized around the private sector, and that the increasing prevalent risk in the stimulus mechanism be watched closely. “The stimulus system must be merged with agricultural strategy.”

With an enterprising spirit, hardworking people and fertile land, Turkey rests on treasure. All that we need is leave. We have the power, we have the energy, we have the enthusiasm! We will run. We will make 73 million even richer!”

-Inequity in the retail sector

Talking of the lack of regulation in the retail sector, Hisarcıklıoğlu said; “We cannot hold back transformation but we must accept that the lack of a regulatory legislation in the retail sector suffocates our tradesmen, forces our small and medium sized enterprises to resort to contract manufacturing. If by free market we mean that the wolves and sheep share a space, it is an environment of inequity, of injustice. I ask you: Would you prefer a market where the strong liquidate the weak, or a market with fair competition with rules?”

-On the matter of green passports

Expressing their gratification on the foreign policy’s increased focus and consideration for the economy recently, Hisarcıklıoğlu went on to say, “Endeavors to provide our successful Chamber and Commodity Exchange Presidents with green passports were undertaken with the directives of our Prime Minister. Unfortunately we were unable to realize these goals. The mentality with a tight grip on green passports obstructed us at every turn. Our businessmen represent this country as well as our politicians.”

-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Speaking at the TOBB General Assembly, Prime Minister Erdoğan said, “Never has Turkey known such atmosphere of trust during elections.”

Saying that all the woes of the country stem from the “yesterday was yesterday, today is today” mentality, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan went on, “The ‘I’ll see your offer and raise you 5’ politics has wounded this country, suffered those who said ‘Giving away two keys’. I’m curious as to how many of those keys actually reached our citizens.”

Emphasizing the importance of TOBB’s General Assemblies as a medium to take an accounting of Turkey’s economy, where problems are identified, when solutions are suggested and where we learn the wishes and wants of the people, Erdoğan went on to say that during his term as Prime Minister he has attended many of TOBB’s general assemblies and voice his views and in turn listen to others.

Stating that they have fulfilled the promises they made at last year’s General Assembly, Erdoğan said that with the aid of the laws that they have put into effect the business world has been given breathing room. Saying that Turkey has risen to a very different position in the last eight and a half years, “We’ve done this together, and we’ve succeeded together. We’ve advanced by consulting each other, we have raised Turkey together. We will continue to stand united every step of the way.”

Reminding that the General Assembly was taking 27 days from the elections on the 12th of June, Erdoğan stated that they attributed greater importance to accounting for today, putting forth a vision for the future. Criticizing candidates who do not come through on their promises, Erdoğan stated that there would be sanctions against it and that those sanctions would be enacted by the people at the ballot box.

-“Yesterday was yesterday, today is today” minset

Drawing attention to the politician’s obligation to establish a rapport with the nation, the youth and the voters, Erdoğan went on, “I will speak frankly: Woes of the country stem from the ‘yesterday was yesterday, today is today’ mentality. You are within the industry. The ‘I’ll see your offer and raise you 5’ politics has wounded this country, suffered those who said ‘Giving away two keys’. I’m curious as to how many of those keys actually reached our citizens. The reason for high inflation, high interest rates, government deficits, corruption and poverty is this mindset. The mindset that damages our base of stability and trust, the mentality that abolishes the possibility of healthy investment, production and employment is this one. For 8.5 years Turkey has been moving forward with stability and trust. The investors, manufacturers and entrepreneurs can finally make plans for the future, projecting over 20-30 years. You will remember well the farmers sowing seeds in Çukurova, in Menderes Plain, in Thrace according to the weather in Ankara and not where they farmed. Today, farmers, tradesmen and industrialists are sure of the weather in Ankara; they sow their seeds without worry. This is the difference. They invest in safety. Our factories are no longer dumps in the Turkish economy. We have first class machinery coming into country now, second class at worst. They establish business in safety.”

Drawing attention to the face that the business world is very sensitive to honest, clean and principled politics, Erdoğan said the business world draws a very clear line between project politics and populist politics.

-CHP President Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu

Speaking at the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) 66th General Assembly, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu emphasized the importance of the honesty of the political institution at all times and criticized the administration of the economy. Stating that Turkey’s economy is poorly handled, Kılıçdaroğlu went on, “A well administered economy does not issue financial pardons 4 times in 9 years. Who would not want to their pay taxes, who would not want to pay their insurance premiums? They can’t pay, and you exacerbate the situation with exorbitant interest rates, bring life to a stand-still and roll out a financial pardon saying ‘pay your taxes’.”

Pointing out that some gloat about the value of the Turkish Lira when USA has enacted devaluation of the dollar during the crisis, Kılıçdaroğlu went on, “We have ruined the industrialists, we have made the country an open market for Chinese goods. Someone is deceiving you and the industrialists are burdened with the fallout.

-Current account deficit warning from Kılıçdaroğlu

Stating that the current account deficit has reached a record number, Kılıçdaroğlu said that this was an indicator of how fragile Turkey’s economy is. Kılıçdaroğlu, “This current account deficit is a catastrophe for Turkey. It is not me that says this but the learned, the luminary and the conscientious people of this country. This current account deficit is the signal for another impending collision. It is our duty to warn everyone.”

-Zero interest credit

Promising that CHP would abolish the obstruction in the industrialists’ way, Kılıçdaroğlu called them the “government officials of the economy”. Kılıçdaroğlu stated that they would open credit to small and medium sized business zero interest credit when CHP comes to power, saying that businessmen would be able to withdraw credit equal to the amount of total taxes and insurance premiums paid in the previous year with zero interest. Expressing his confidence in his expertise in accounting, Kılıçdaroğlu stated that they have calculated their resources in regards to their projects.

Kılıçdaroğlu promised to reignite the dynamism of Turkey’s inner mechanics, increase the quality of the workforce and decrease the taxes on minimum wage incrementally to 1%.

Kılıçdaroğlu spoke on the matter of nuclear plants, “If a nuclear plant is being re-established in a country you will see a partnership of the government, bringing in nuclear technology. Is there a partnership here? No. We will not even be employing a single engineer. It will be established in my country and my engineers will not be employed. I will guarantee a 13.5 cent selling price. And what will happen? I would buy it from externally and I would buy it cheaper.”

-Minister of State and Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan

Minister of State and Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan stated that, “No matter what anybody says, Turkey’s economic performance has been praised worldwide. This is a success story.”

Stating that many countries’ debt stocks have reached historical points, USA’s total debt stocks in comparison to national income is 100%, Japan’s 250%, Babacan went on to say that many banking corporations in the world are able to stand with the public administration’s support, describing the situation in these countries as dire.

Saying that they have not changed the rates of Special Consumption Tax (ÖTV) on liquid fuel in the last year, Babacan reminded that they have announced that they will continue in this regard until the end of the year and that the rise in liquid fuel prices were caused by the rise in petroleum prices worldwide. Babacan said that this affected Turkey as it affects many other countries.

-“There are a billion people living under the hunger threshold in the world”

Emphasizing that there are a billion people with less than a dollar daily income living in hunger in the world, Babacan said, “Thankfully we no longer have anybody living with under 1 dollar income or under the hunter threshold.”

Babacan stated that Brazil, whose social politics are praised, are worse off than Turkey with 4% of the population living in hunger.

In response to criticism on agriculture, Babacan stated that Turkey is the 7th biggest agricultural producer in the world with its net exports.

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