The real intentions of Nihat Ergün

The real intentions of Nihat Ergün

I had been asking myself the question of why the Science, Industry and Technology Ministry was founded. It puzzled me with its existence. The Transportation Ministry currently oversees the telecommunications industry. Turkey’s biggest technology projects, including Fatih, are being led by other ministries such as the Education Ministry. It made little sense to me to have a Ministry of Science, Industry and Technology if Turkey is keeping the ministry out of its greatest industries and largest technology tenders. 

Finally, after stalking Science, Industry and Technology Minister Nihat Ergün as best as I could and carefully examining his speeches, I think I know the answer. I believe Nihat Ergün is assigned to create national technology products. When the ministry was announced late last year, it was said to be a regulator. However, it is becoming a player, an enforcer, a doer; instead of regulating science and technology matters, the ministry tries to intervene. On one hand he is trying to make it easier for SMEs to do R&D, and on the other Ergün is trying to force Turkish moguls to invest in national technology production.

So far, in all of his speeches, he mentioned Turkey needs high technology products to be competitive. The vision of his ministry is as follows: “To be a leader in the structuring of Turkey, which is among the most developed 10 countries in the world, and a base for goods and services production for Europe and Asia with its economic structure based on entrepreneurship, innovation and high value added technology production.”
It is clear Ergün concluded the best way to achieve such a vision is through technology production. He is absolutely right with this deduction. If Turkey cannot produce technology and cannot accomplish decent scientific research, it is going to fall behind both economically and politically. Therefore, being a high-tech country is vital for the realization of neo-Ottoman dreams.

Ergün has some very effective tools at his disposal. The Small and Medium Industry Development Organization (KOSGEB) is providing him with great incentives for SME research investments. He is using them to the limit and promotes them at every meeting. It seems his methods for SMEs are working so far. There is a buzz among SME owners that KOSGEB is a place all must visit. 

However, it is totally another story with the big boys. The Turkish moguls are not so keen on making high risk technology investments as Ergün would like them to make. This is so obvious that in his last speech Ergün had to threaten the big families. He said Turkey cannot go on with the business families who always say “no.” We need people who deliver solutions instead of obstacles, he concluded. 

It is not hard to understand if you know a little bit about Turkish economical history. All the big players of today were once under heavy governmental protection. No matter what industry they operated, they were backed by Turkish governments as no other government would. They were being protected from local and foreign competition. Therefore, it is in their culture not to make investments if it is not 100 percent sure they would make unrealistic profits.

This is, in fact, the fundamental weakness of the Turkish economy and also Turkish socio-political life. When compared to U.S. moguls, Turkish ones owe much more to the state and governments. Therefore, the Turkish moneymakers cannot voice their true political opinions as freely as their U.S. counterparts. In the end, each government becomes dictatorial as they see that no one, not even the richest and the most powerful, can raise their voices against them, because none of the Turkish industrial families are truly self-made. Hopefully when Ergün reaches his goals, Turkey will not only be stronger in economic terms but sociopolitical terms as well.