The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) 75th General Assembly was held with the participation of President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the TOBB Economics and Technology University (ETU) Hall. TOBB President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu, in his speech at the general assembly, emphasizing the theme of “may our unity be eternal and economy our agenda,” stated that the business world wants the agenda to focus on the economy in the coming period. Hisarcıklıoğlu said, “We believe that, with our President’s executive and reform-oriented approach, we will enter a period of renewed economic leaps forward. No obstacle is so big that we can't overcome; no walls so strong that we cannot break. This is the day to rise and leap forward through cooperation.”
TOBB President reminded that the election process, which has been going on for almost a year with general and local elections, is over, “We have a period of four years without elections. We should consider this opportunity well, and turn it into a period of uninterrupted action. Let’s maintain stability and grow Turkey through reform.”
Hisarcıklıoğlu proposed to make the economy the first item of the agenda and stressed that structural reforms which would increase competitiveness should be implemented one after the other.
TOBB President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu said, “There are a lot of steps to be taken in the economy. Our government signaled this before the election. Now that the elections are behind us, we are waiting for action to be taken quickly.”
Hisarcıklıoğlu's speech at the 75th TOBB General Assembly is as follows:
“Mr. President, esteemed Turkish Grand National Assembly Chairmen, Ministers,
Deputies, Mayors and Ambassadors,
Chairman of the General Assembly and Council Presidents,
Meritorious chamber and commodity exchange chairmen,
Distinguished Heads of the Sectoral Councils, Women and Young Entrepreneur Committees,
Distinguished General Assembly delegates, Secretary Generals and colleagues,
Valuable guests from 16 countries taking part of the Turkish Speaking Entrepreneurs program, Academic Advisors, Distinguished members of our press.
On behalf of the TOBB Board of Directors, I wholeheartedly welcome you.
Welcome to our 75th General Assembly; you honor us with your presence.
Yesterday was May 1st Labor and Solidarity Day.
I would like to take this opportunity to celebrate the May 1st day of all workers and laborers.
Ramadan begins in 3 days.
May Ramadan, the month of grace, prosperity and mercy, be blessed.
This year is also the centennial anniversary of the beginning of our War of Independence which began with Gazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk landing in Samsun on May 19th, 1919.
The Ottoman Empire entered the 1st World War with a territory of 3 million square kilometers, losing 85% of it following defeat in the war.
Every corner of Anatolia and even the three capitals of the Ottoman Empire - Bursa Edirne and İstanbul - were occupied.
Its army disbanded, the economy collapsed, without serious industry, in a country where all hope was exhausted - despite all of this - war was waged for independence.
If the War of Independence had not been won under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal, Anatolia would have been lost as well.
We owe having this land as our homeland to the War of Independence, which started in 1919, ending in 1922 with the Great Victory, its success recognized by the world in 1923 at Lausanne.
We respectfully commemorate the founder of our republic, Gazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, his comrades in arms, and all our heroes who gave their lives for this country. May their spirits be blessed.
We salute the Turkish Armed Forces, our Police and all security forces who are putting their lives on the line fighting terrorist organizations at home and abroad.
May Allah always grant them victory.
Yesterday, we opened the General Assembly with the participation of our Vice President, hosted by our Minister of Trade.
Today, you have honored us with your presence.
You have shown the importance you place on our real sector by taking part in every General Assembly since 2002.
You've given us morale and enthusiasm to work.
The stability and reforms achieved under your leadership have enabled us to look forward to the future.
Also with us today is Binali Yıldırım who has always stood with our community during his Ministry and Prime Ministry.
I would like to thank you personally and on behalf of our community for the contributions to our business world and our country.
Dear President, Distinguished Guests,
100 years later, we now wage a war for independence in the field of economics.
According to international research, the world economy is in a sensitive period. And slowing down.
2019 is expected to be economically weaker than 2018 in the world.
Last year, 75% of countries made a positive contribution to the global revival.
In other words, 75% of the world felt growth in some way.
However, a slowdown is predicted for 70% of countries this year.
In other words, 70% of the world's growth rates will be less than last year.
Increasing global protectionism practices, rising populism in Europe, the uncertainty of the Brexit process, the trade wars flared by US President Trump's attitudes and the slowdown in China are the most influential factors in the world economy.
In our country, the turbulence which started in the foreign exchange market in August 2018 rapidly spread throughout the economy.
The volume of business in the domestic market fell, cash flow decreased, credit flow slowed, collections were delayed.
We are in a period of recession in the economy.
The economy is expected to resume growth with the measures initiated by our Treasury and Finance Minister.
Throughout this troubled period, the Chamber-Exchange community has stood by our members, continuing to serve them.
In Kayseri, they say 'don’t complain, work.’
We didn't complain. We worked.
So we mobilized.
Called upon by our President, we relaunched the employment mobilization in 81 provinces.
I want to share with sadness that the only ones who took ownership of this were my chambers/exchanges.
We are following up: All of our chambers and exchanges are working hard.
In each province they are establishing support and incentive promotion centers, they are reaching out to companies and OIZs across the country.
They even visit large companies one-on-one, ensuring the widest participation.
Our government supported this process with historic incentives.
Short-term working allowance has begun.
The minimum wage support to the employer which ended last year has also been relaunch with an increased amount.
Thanks to all these, we stopped the negative course of employment and moved towards positive.
Hopefully, our Chambers and Commodity Exchanges will attain their targets for the end of the year.
After employment, we got to work on finance.
With TOBB Respite Credit, we provided low-cost financing of 12 billion TRY to approximately 100,000 SMEs in 2 years.
Then, the Ministry of Treasury and Finance launched the SME Value Loan.
With this, 122,000 of our members received 44 billion TRY in loans with low interest rate.
We held regional meetings with the banks’ general managers in 16 cities.
So we accomplished a first in Turkey.
We brought the business sector of 81 provinces together with the financial sector.
Our companies spoke about their problems here and had the opportunity to solve their problems.
Commercial credit insurance for SMEs which we have requested for years has been implemented with the support of our Minister, Mr. Berat Albayrak.
Letter of Guarantee commission rates which had skyrocketed were lowered to more reasonable levels.
Again in this troubled period, we saw public banks stand with us.
I would like to thank them all individually.
We met with our members in 15 cities with our Treasury and Finance, Trade and Labor and Defense Ministers.
Troubles and suggestions were relayed firsthand to our government.
Most of them have received positive results.
I would like to thank all of our Ministers who have contributed.
You've stood with us, giving us strength and confidence.
On the demand of our members, and requests and suggestions of our Chambers and Commodity Exchanges, through the positive attitude of our government, taxes on housing, home appliances, furniture and automotive sector were reduced.
The ban on the leasing of commercial vehicles was terminated.
VAT problems in second hand vehicles were fixed.
The problem of technical bankruptcy caused by rapidly rising exchange rates has been solved.
The Field Fund, which was a significant burden on us, was abolished.
The judicial proceedings took particularly long in the Labor Courts, and delayed justice made everyone suffer.
A mandatory mediation system was initiated to address this.
After the labor disputes, in the case of commercial disputes, the condition of applying to the mediator was made mandatory.
Lawsuits lasting for months or even years are now resolved within days or weeks.
In order to contribute to this, we have established a Dispute Resolution Center within TOBB ETU.
We foresee that exports will be our biggest opportunity in the upcoming period.
However, we cannot achieve this by selling the same goods to the same countries with the same exporters.
In order to change this structure and give a new impetus to exports, the Minister of Trade has initiated a very important undertaking.
We are opening Export Support Offices in Anatolia with the aim of ‘New Product, New Market, New Exporter,’ and expanding it in 81 provinces with the request of our Minister.
Our chambers will act as guides in exports to our companies and will bring new exporters to our country.
We will support our companies not only domestically but also abroad.
Under the leadership of the Ministry of Trade, we will achieve what couldn’t be done in 10 years.
First, we will open Turkey Trade Centers in the United States and China to facilitate access of our companies into these huge markets, increasing our exports.
We are continuing the modernization of the Land Customs Gates, which we started with the instructions of our President, in order to accelerate the expansion of our companies abroad and to reduce logistics costs.
In this way, not a single centime was spent from our government’s treasury, but tax revenue also grew exponentially.
Additionally, our Chambers and Commodity Exchanges are taking ownership of our local goods.
They are ensuring that the brand local goods of their provinces receive geographical markers.
We expanded Licensed Warehousing with the support of our Agriculture Minister.
We have ensured the establishment of Product Specialized Exchanges.
During this harvest period, we are operating with wheat, barley and corn.
Our Commodity Exchanges are transforming the agricultural sector with IPARD trainings.
With the Commodity Exchanges Information System, we broke new ground and moved the commodity exchange activities to a digital environment.
We’ve also accomplished a revolutionary task in regards to finding qualified employees with which we’ve had problems for years.
Together with the Ministry of National Education, the private sector has been involved in vocational education for the first time through our Chambers and Commodity Exchanges.
We also complete construction of 81 schools in 81 provinces at the end of the year, providing a historic support to education.
Today, we welcome you at TOBB ETU which trains the leaders of the future, the opening of which was conducted by President Erdoğan.
Today, we export technology and information to the world.
All of our graduates are either entrepreneurs or immediately find employment.
We have become a university that adds value to our country in many fields from defense industry to high technology.
I particularly value this.
Because the world is experiencing the Industry 4.0 era.
Digitalization, the internet of things, artificial intelligence and biotechnology are on the agenda.
Yesterday's giant financial and energy companies are replaced by technology companies.
The new generation of entrepreneurs, whose history is not even 10 years old, is transforming traditional industries.
Before, the creation of billion-dollar companies was in the monopoly of a few countries.
Now the cycle has changed.
From Indonesia to Argentina, billion-dollar technology companies are emerging.
We must make great technological breakthroughs.
We must increase the number of our globally successful initiatives.
That's why we took another first step in Turkey.
We established the Artificial Intelligence Engineering department at TOBB ETU.
Our children will be the technology leaders of the future.
In Turkey's 81 provinces, thousands of members of our Women and Young Entrepreneurs Councils are working tirelessly to strengthen the local entrepreneurship ecosystem.
Allah bless them all.
Our Women Entrepreneur Councils are collaborating with the world's leading technology companies.
It allows more women to take part in business life.
Our Young Entrepreneur Councils are a role model for young people.
They organize hundreds of activities to encourage entrepreneurship in provinces.
We are setting up a new entrepreneurship center in Istanbul with a global technology company.
At this center, we will enable Turkish entrepreneurs to expand out into the world.
You will see our country will be the entrepreneurship center of this region.
We are working in conjunction with our 5 courageous companies on Turkey's car.
With the support of our President, Allah willing, we will succeed in this matter.
All this is just a brief summary of the work we have done over the past term.
We're ready to do more.
The only thing we want to do is focus on the economy.
We believe that, with our President’s executive and reform-oriented approach, we will enter a period of renewed economic leaps forward.
No obstacle is so big that we can't overcome; no walls so strong that we cannot break.
This is the day to rise and leap forward through cooperation.
On this occasion, I would like to present some issues that our business world attaches importance to.
First among the problems experienced by our companies is access to finance and high interest rates.
Your stance against high interest gives us courage and hope.
We would like the financial support began by you to continue.
An important reason for the financing shortage in our companies is receivables from the public sector.
We are at the mercy of the banks because these are not paid on time.
Don't leave us in the hands of banks; don't condemn us to high interest rates.
We expect all receivables from the public to be linked to a calendar, in particular our VAT receivables.
If we delay our payment by 1 day, public administration charges interest.
As if this isn’t enough, even if we owe 3 centimes all our accounts are blocked.
In the morning, we see our accounts are blocked; checks aren’t paid.
This leaves us no peace of mind and shreds our reputation.
We need you, the President of the Republic of Turkey, to address these issues.
An important burden inherited from old times is ‘tax in cash’.
In the past, high inflation riddled the budget; the government would want to collect the tax in cash.
Fortunately, all of these troubles are left behind with you.
But this tax still stands.
Now, let's remove this evil legacy of the '90s.
Again, thanks to you, price advantage has been brought to domestic production.
Thus, important job opportunities were born to our national industry.
But we still use foreign products in many of our major infrastructure and transportation projects.
The situation is similar in local administrations.
Many municipalities have a penchant for importing goods.
The specifications are prepared accordingly.
We cannot overcome the bureaucracy in this regard.
New instructions to increase the use of national and local products is necessary.
Another issue that we cannot overcome bureaucracy of are the matter of green passports.
A regulation was issued with your instructions.
However, we found that the main representatives of the real sector were not covered.
Those who lead the employment's investment in production are excluded.
These people who take on the task of employment.
These people who mobilize all their resources for funding.
These people who put forward everything they have when it comes to production-investment.
Chamber-Exchange Presidents, Administrations and Council Members also deserve green passports.
We urge this issue to be reconsidered.
Some of the support for employment mobilization ended at the end of April.
Let's extend them for the continuation of the favorable course of employment.
Let us increase the duration of the Short Work Allowance from 3 to 6 months.
Again in the last days, the Severance Pay Fund issue is on the agenda.
Both our companies and our employees are worried.
Additional burdens should not be laid on the real sector, especially on our SMEs.
Moreover, employment peace should not be negatively affected.
In this regard, we also think the same as you and the full agreement of the worker-employer should be sought.
On the other hand, there are still several bureaucratic practices that remain from old times and make employment difficult.
The employment of people from different professions in our companies is compulsory regardless of whether they are needed or not.
As the company scale grows, we are faced with legislation that punishes employment.
In addition, a 5-year statute of limitations in employer- employee disputes is too long.
The length of time leads to abuse.
My friends in the room understand very well what I mean.
Don't leave us in the hands of opportunists.
We urge this to be lowered to a more reasonable level, like 1 year.
Let us make legislation employment friendly with your reformist approach.
A major problem in our cities is that tax and export are calculated to the city where the center of the company is, not where it conducts its operations.
People in the rural areas are suffering, saying that they carry the burdens while the cities prosper.
Tax and export should be calculated to where the commercial activity takes place.
There were two issues of great importance for public contractors.
Due to the cost increase, the old contracts caused great distress.
Our government issued the Liquidation-Transfer Agreements for this purpose.
However, there are some problems in the operation, which we hope to be eliminated.
Also the price difference decree was very demanded but has not been pass yet.
We are hoping for positive results.
In order to support the growth process, it is also necessary to correct the balance of the company and the bank balance sheets, which have been damaged in this last economic turmoil.
Under a comprehensive plan they can be addressed.
Thus, our production and trade capacity would be preserved.
Global competition is felt by most of our industrialists.
Many countries are competing with each other to support industrial sectors by reducing production costs.
Because manufacturing industry is the engine of development.
There are many public burdens on industrialists in Turkey, particularly energy.
Land permitting processes that cause major problems in our industry should be deconstructed and accelerated.
The land and infrastructure resource problems of our OIZs should also be addressed.
You ask for investment; we want to invest. But there’s no land.
Our Ministry of Industry and Technology should be supported on this issue.
We want to bring in more foreign currency to our country.
We should be able to reach ports and abroad more easily.
For this purpose, railway infrastructure should be developed and transportation costs should be reduced.
The implementation of logistics villages should be accelerated.
Financial support should be increased in two major sectors, maritime and overseas contracting, which stand out in the global arena.
In the tourism sector, we had a historic success with 46 million foreign tourists and 30 billion USD income.
If we succeed in spreading tourism to 12 months and 81 provinces, we believe that we will do even better.
Our Minister of Culture and Tourism has initiated an important undertaking.
We support this too.
We are ready to carry tourism to new heights with our Chambers and Commodity Exchanges in 81 provinces.
The election process which has been going on with general and local elections for about 1 year has ended.
We have a period of four years without elections.
We should consider this opportunity well, and turn it into a period of uninterrupted action.
Let’s maintain stability and grow Turkey through reform.
As you stated, let's make the economy the first item of the agenda.
Let us put into practice the structural reforms that will increase our competitiveness.
Because there are a lot of steps to be taken in the economy.
Our government signaled this before the election.
Now that the elections are behind us, we are waiting for action.
Look, a new era has started in the world economy.
Easy growth period based on low interest and plenty of hot money is over.
Developing countries such as Turkey must focus on new and different growth based on increased productivity and innovation.
Minister of Treasury and Finance, Mr. Berat Albayrak took the first steps.
He announced the New Economy Program and the Structural Transformation Steps.
Let's continue this work.
A new Turkey story and a new growth model will increase confidence in the markets.
Negative perceptions of our country will be prevented.
Interest and exchange will stabilize.
With the new Development Plan, we should renew the Industrial Policy and Investment Incentive System.
Let us support the private sector investments with the Regional Development Agencies, not the municipal activities.
Let us provide a revival of domestic consumption, which is 60% of the economy.
Let's prepare our agriculture and livestock policy with the agreement of the parties.
Our priority is to increase production planning and production volume.
Let's change our tax policy.
Reduce the burden on the manufacturers, entrepreneurs and industrialists.
Let's raise taxes on rent seeking, not labor.
Stimulating the European Union accession process would also support the economy.
The EU should lift visas for our citizens.
It should start negotiations that will update the Customs Union without further postponement.
Economic and technical issues should not be sacrificed to a shortsighted political approach in some European countries.
The success of the Reform Action Group, which has taken a leading role in the implementation of political reforms in 2018, should continue in 2019.
The steps to be taken in the sections of Judiciary and Fundamental Rights and Justice Freedom and Security are also very important for the visa liberalization dialogue.
In addition, every step that will strengthen the legal system will help us to attract high-technology and export-oriented international investments that will support the economy.
In fact, we have shown in the past that we have done all this.
We have ceased to be a mid-level economy with per capita income under 3,000 USD.
We've turned into an upper middle-class economy with a per capita income of 10,000 USD.
Keep in mind the importance and value of how far we’ve come since 2002.
Now we are at an important point again.
We have so much work to do. But we know that we are a strong country.
We ask only for right and patience, working with morality.
We are the representatives of the ancient Akhism organization today.
If we could do it yesterday, we can do it today.
Finally, I will also emphasize.
Ibn Khaldun has a saying that I like very much: Minds of those whose hearts are separated will not unite.
We need to increase trust and cohesion among the 82 million.
If people trust one another, they do business together.
The value of the work done together also has a high success.
100 years ago, under occupation and in poverty, didn't we declare the Republic together in Ankara?
We are the children of those who succeed in establishing a new state from the ashes of an exhausted empire with the words, ‘The independence of the nation be preserved through the determination and will of the nation.
There is no dissent in our history.
The cities of our birth, our beliefs and ideas may differ.
But the problems and wealth of this country belong to us all equally.
Turkey belongs to us all.
Despite pessimists attempting to inject hopelessness,
Those who wish to smear us, forgetting justice,
Cheap heroics considering criticism as opposition and praise as partisanship,
Those hoping to cause chaos for gain,
It's time to work together for the future of 82 million.
It's time to embrace.
It's time to steel our unity and solidarity.
It's time to greet your neighbor with a smile.
It's time to make justice a touchstone and protect the downtrodden.
It's time to embrace conscience and morality.
It’s time to embrace three fundamental freedoms emphasized by the late Özal, the freedom of thought, belief and enterprise while maintaining the founding principles of our Republic.
And that's why we say that; may our unity be eternal and economy our agenda.
We worked together to achieve many goals which were previously only considered dreams.
We will come together today again to attain many goals tomorrow which seem impossible.
We will not tire.
We will not allow dissent or hearsay drive us apart.
We will not alienate each other.
We will accept all of our differences as riches, and we will grow our country with this richness.
Turkey will take its place among the largest economies in the world and will become a leading country.
May Allah make our hearts rich, our labor and profit fertile, the unity of our nation and brotherhood everlasting. May Allah aid and keep us.”
- President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke at the 75th TOBB General Assembly held at the TOBB Economics and Technology University Social Facilities. Stating that they have been working together with TOBB, the present heir of the Akhi and the guild organization, from the beginning, Erdoğan said that they give special importance to the business world consultations in all subjects related to the future of the country, especially the economy.
President Erdoğan stated that they make an effort to ensure that all the decisions they make are a product of common mind, common needs and common conscience; strengthening their comradeship by taking part in general assemblies, economy summits and award ceremonies of the private sector in Ankara and all cities.
Erdoğan continued by stating that they take every occasion to discuss the problems, demands, expectations of the country and cities, developing solutions together and went on:
“Operating in 81 cities of our country, 365 chambers and exchanges, have assumed a locomotive role in fleshing out our vision of a great and powerful Turkey. Chamber and exchanges, in keeping with the times, have accelerated the process of digitization, improving the quality of services they provide and as well as gaining the ability to conduct more in-depth analysis. Best serving chambers and exchanges representatives will be presented awards. Together, we will carry Turkey forward to its 2023 targets. The faster the business world prepares itself for the future, the faster we can achieve our goals. 1.5 million entrepreneurs coming together under TOBB, as representatives of the investment, export and employment dynamics, are the guarantee of the future. We are continuing to walk towards our targets one by one by overcoming the obstacles before us you’re your determination, diligence, wisdom and talent. As long as you produce, increase employment, increase exports, continue your investments, and remain open to innovations, Allah willing, no one can stand before this country and nation. If Turkish goods are now a symbol of quality all over the world, this is your success.”
- "Entrepreneurs have great efforts and contributions"
Stating that Turkish entrepreneurs, having traveled all over the world, can boast a large share of the reason to be so proud of Turkey's reputation today Erdoğan said, “I thank all of my brothers once again who contributed to Turkey's growth, empowerment, growth, development and prosperity.”
Stating that the achievements in the 17 years of stability and confidence climate are a sign that much greater success will be achieved in the future, Erdoğan continued:
“We succeeded together in achieving an average annual growth of 5.6% every year from 2003 to 2018. We achieved success in bringing 210 billion USD international investment to our country. Due to the fluctuations in the exchange rate, we managed to increase our national income more than 3 times despite decreasing slightly against the dollar in the last year. We increased our exports from 36 billion USD to 169 billion USD. We reached 46 million tourists from 12.8 million tourists. Some are attempting to raise hell over debt figures, we are aware of this. Despite all the attacks, the ratio of our public debt stock to our national income is 13.7%. When we took office, this rate was over 60%. Taking over with 23.5 billion USD of debt to the IMF, it is impossible to ignore the fact that we paid off this debt in May. Similarly, the Central Bank's foreign exchange reserves were at 27.5 billion USD at that time, but it is not even comparable with the present state, but some circus acrobats have been trying to create a psychological negative climate by making informal statements about this issue going off foreign exchange reserves. together we will win this victory against those who want to imprison Turkey in a spiral of exchange rates, interest rates and inflation spiral.”
- Awards in 8 categories
After his speech, President Erdoğan and TOBB President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu presented awards to the managers of the Chambers and Commodity Exchanges which were the first in the project competition organized by TOBB in 8 categories.