What do businesspeople in Turkey care most about?

What do businesspeople in Turkey care most about?

Businesspeople care about the following issues: Future foreign exchange rates, the outcome of the Reza Zarrab case, possible sanctions imposed on Turkish banks and potential repercussions from the S-400 missile-defense system purchase from Russia. Although a cause to care about, the “2018 Tax Amnesty” issue is no longer a source of curiosity, since they already know the answer and have expressed their opinions.

In the last couple of weeks, I have met with different groups of businesspeople at various meetings.

The positions of these businesspeople as well as our discussion topics varied.

To summarize, I would say businesspeople who own bigger companies are generally more pessimistic about the future. Although business is not going badly, the future is uncertain, they said.

These are the sort of people who have rational outlooks that transcend moral anxieties. They are especially worried about Turkish foreign policy, societal polarization and political tensions that could escalate within the country.

Internal politics dictate the country’s foreign policy and soon this sort of policy making will seriously harm the economy, most of them said.

They are scared that “ties with the West have reached breaking point.” They also fret over the outcome of the Zarrab case in the U.S. and the subsequent punishments the U.S. will impose on Turkey’s banks.

A fine of $2 billion on one bank would be tolerable, but larger fines on multiple banks would be worrying, almost all of them said.

They also expressed fear over the negative impact further trials could have on the Turkish banking sector.

Official statements feed worries

Their biggest concern is the effect of U.S.-imposed sanctions on Turkey’s finance sector.

They stressed the countless rumors concerning the ruling of the Michael Flynn case after the Zarrab case and how such cases would affect Turkey. They also spoke about possible sanctions imposed on Turkey following the S-400 missile defense systems deal.

For some time, government representatives have been saying: “They want to put pressure on us.” This is a big worry for businesspeople. 

Businesspeople say such statements serve populist political ends and reflect government fears concerning potential externally-imposed fines and sanctions. In short, such statements also mean “something is definitely going to happen to us.”

Sanction fears have negatively affected foreign investments and even disrupted planned foreign meetings, businesspeople said, adding that new investment plans were difficult to make in such uncertain times and that the atmosphere was getting heavier and spreading into different sectors.

They were also pessimistic about the extent to which the Turkish Lira’s value could drop.

Such pessimism among businesspeople is not a good sign.

Erdal Sağlam, hdn, Opinion