Minister Çağlayan: Employment data exciting

Minister Çağlayan: Employment data exciting

We had a chance to have a long chat, a group of journalist friends and I, with Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan at the newly opened Kahve Dünyası shop in Piccadilly. Çağlayan was in London recently for an opening at the London Stock Exchange and to meet British businesspeople.

Right in the heart of London, the shop we all know only too well from Turkey, Kahve Dünyası, has become a frequented place by the British, which is quite a pleasing outcome. The shop was opened in London through support of the Turquality program of the Economy Ministry.

Kahve Dünyası has succeeded in “captivating” the British with its chocolate assortments as well as its different types of coffees. The chat with the economy minister at the coffee shop in London started with “locally produced cars,” eventually to end with the peace process.

Çağlayan, who was born in Turkey’s poorest province, Muş, got pretty excited explaining the process’ contribution to the economy.

“Look, in tiny Muş, the number of coffee shops is almost as much as those in Istanbul. All of them are full of old and young people alike. Why? Because there is no investment in Muş. People of the region, especially the youth, are unemployed,” he said.

The peace process and most importantly the new “incentive system” that went into effect in April 2012 have literally boosted investments. In this context, Çağlayan said, “Demand for investment for East and Southeast Anatolia is increasing. I like to speak with numbers. According to the latest figures, in the first three months of 2013, investments in Bingöl have increased 5,000 percent when compared to the first three months of 2012.”

Compared to the previous year, employment in Diyarbakır has increased 11 times, in Şanlıurfa six times. Similarly, employment is Siirt has also increased sixfold with the new incentives and the peace process.

These figures Çağlayan is presenting are proof of the tremendous transformation the region is going through.
Talking to the economy minister took me back to exactly two years ago.

In May 2011, we visited Elazığ and then Diyarbakır before the local elections with the Hürriyet train. Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir and Diyarbakır Chamber of Commerce and Industry head Remzi Can heavily stressed this:

“The difference in regional development is getting deeper. The total of incentives for 21 provinces in the east is only 4 percent of the total incentives in Turkey.”

Both Baydemir and Can were complaining about high unemployment. As far as I can remember, it was mentioned that unemployment among the youth was around 40 percent.

Hence, the figures of the economy minister are an indicator of the major transformation the region is about to undergo. Again, as the minister said, for the region’s people, it is more valuable that a western businessperson rather than an eastern one goes there and makes an investment from the perspective of “social peace.”

Now, let’s look at the situation of the “deep regional differences” Osman Baydemir and Remzi Can mentioned two years ago.

From the data I collected yesterday from the website www.551vekil, which provides economic details, in the DAKA region – the East Anatolia Development Agency covering Turkey’s poorest provinces (Van, Muş, Bitlis and Hakkari) – per capita domestic income is $3,861.

Including Şanlıurfa and Diyarbakır in the DAKA region, in the Karacadağ Development Agency region, this figure climbs up to $4,000. In the Serhat Development Agency region – Kars, Iğdır, Ardahan and Ağrı – this figure is $4,185.

Now, let’s look at the other side of the medallion. In Istanbul, which corresponds to 27.64 percent of Turkey’s economy, domestic income per capita is $15,824.

If the peace process succeeds, we will all see together in how many years this deep gap will be closed.