Worries ‘sidelined’ despite plunge in exports: Turkish foreign trade body
Barçın Yinanç - ISTANBUL
Despite the resolution among the companies to continue business, Turkey’s export is expected to shrink by 30 percent in April, said Nail Olpak, the head of the Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK).
Talking at a press conference held online on April 10, Olpak said continuing economic activity at the optimum level while abiding by the measures to protect from the COVID-19 pandemic is a priority for DEİK.
With 146 business councils, DEİK has started to work online since March 10, according to Olpak, who has also been working online.
While concern was the overwhelming feeling among the companies in the initial days of the COVID-19 pandemic, currently the focus is on continuing business to get out of this period with the least damage as possible, according to Olpak.
“Anxiety due to health concerns dominated the first two weeks,” said Olpak who has been holding a dozen meetings each day. “After the initial stage, there is still concern, but it is sidelined; we are currently focused completely on business and we are talking how to continue with the least damage,” Olpak told the press.
The conclusion following numerous online meetings and webinars was not to suspend business, and this view was communicated with a letter to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Olpak recalled.
“Despite debates in the early stages about curfews, total lockdown, we saw that the period ahead will not be limited to a few weeks, that we were facing with a long hauled process and as a result we said we are not suspending our work,” Olpak told a dozen journalists.
In that respect keeping “the health of the people at work but also keeping the health of the employment, as well the health of managements” has become a priority, according to the DEİK president.
“It is important that production continues and cogs keep turning. If the operations come to a standstill, this will have a devastating effect on the households and this could lead to chaos. We need to protect the employment,” said Olpak.
According to Olpak, the option for the whole nation to stay at home and wait for the state to pay everything for three months is not a realistic option. “Otherwise we can have an army of millions of unemployed, millions without a wage and that cannot be managed.”
He did, however, stress that the companies were taking the necessary measures to secure the health conditions of the employees.
While acknowledging the risk of recession which might lead to the shrinking in Turkey’s exports, Olpak said the country can come out of this period with the least damage by keeping the dynamism of the domestic market. The fact that Turkey has seen many crisis is an advantage according to Olpak who said this accumulated experience has given the country an ability for quick adaptation, an attribute that differentiates it from other countries.
The president of DEİK sounded positive in terms of the actions introduced to help the private sector but added that additional packets would probably follow the initial actions to address problems of specific sectors.
Olpak said he was against additional taxing.