Turkey says ‘good luck’ to companies fleeing Iraq
One of the points in the foreign policy areas where I give credit to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has been its decision to improve relations with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq. Economic relations have reached such a level that Iraq has become Turkey’s second largest trading partner, and trade with the northern part constitutes an important part of the total bilateral volume.
This, in turn, had its positive consequences on political relations, but that is not the subject of this article.
It is only natural for states to encourage its businesspeople for more investment and trade, both inside and outside. The AKP government saw the existence of Turkish business beyond its borders as a tool to project its foreign policy. There is nothing wrong with that. It came up with various incentives to facilitate the life of Turkish exporters and investors. Turkish Airlines (THY), for instance, decided to open flights to wherever Turkish business goes.
However, as much as you encourage your businesspeople to open up to the world, to prepare the ground and stand behind them in good times, you also need to prepare them against possible risks and stand behind them during times of peril.
“Prepare” here is the key word. As a state, you need to be prepared.
No one predicted the start of the Arab Spring, which of course is no longer called “spring,” since the word implies positive development. Turkey was caught unprepared for the events in Tunisia and Egypt, which is understandable. Then came Libya and then Syria. Perhaps Turkey’s economic relations with these countries were not large enough to ring the alarm bells in the state’s relevant institutions, which would have prepared them for such crisis situations.
Now, however, we are talking about a market with $12 billion-registered trade in 2013. Add to this the $3-4 billion in unregistered trade.
It is all fine to talk in times of peace and praise the success of Turkish businesspeople in Iraq, but you cannot leave them in the cold and just say "good luck, you are on your own" in bad times.
Unfortunately, this is exactly the feeling businesspeople got in meetings organized with state institutions after the advances of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq.
“Be careful andtry to find other markets just in case ,” they were told in one of the meetings.
To the question, “We have orders to be sent to Iraq in three months. Should we go ahead with the production?” the answer was, “No one can predict what will happen in three months, prepare your order and try to send it on time with the utmost precaution.”
Obviously, it would be unfair to say the government is doing nothing about the issue. But not only does the government bear the difficulty of not being prepared for the signaled crisis, whatever they are planning to alleviate the losses of Turkish companies risks being “too little, too late.”
Turkish companies have come up with a number of measures that will facilitate their survival, but the government has been slow in deciding on those proposals. Some companies risk total bankruptcy. So instead of uttering rhetoric about the "greatness of Turkey," it’s high time the government started at least acting responsibly.