TÜRKONFED President Süleyman Sönmez: “We must transition from a minimum wage economy to a high value-added production economy.”
TÜRKONFED, the largest independent business organization in Turkey, which has come together on the basis of volunteering, held its seventh stop of the ‘100th Year Meetings’ in Aydın to share the manifesto ‘Our Dream Turkey’ with the public, including the government, local administrations, academia, civil society, and the business world. Süleyman Sönmez, Chairman of the TÜRKONFED Board of Directors, stated that Turkey’s priority should be to increase productivity and value-added in all fields from production to exports. He said, “We must initiate the transformation from a low and medium intensity production structure, which is a product of a minimum wage economy, to a high technology and high value-added production economy.” Sönmez also emphasized the necessity of reducing budget expenditures and implementing exemplary savings policies instead of increasing the tax burden.
TÜRKONFED, with its vision document “New Era New Horizons” and the manifesto “Our Dream Turkey” included in this document, conducted a series of meetings in Aydın as part of the ‘100th Year Meetings,’ covering 81 provinces and the areas of responsibility of 26 regional federations. The TÜRKONFED delegation met with representatives from the public, local administrations, academia, civil society organizations, and business people with the contributions of the South Aegean Industry and Business Federation (GESİFED).
Sönmez: “Inflation and current account deficit must be solved simultaneously.”
During the Aydın Business Meeting hosted by GESİFED, TÜRKONFED President Süleyman Sönmez delivered a speech on the theme of “Our Dream Turkey,” stating that “Taking an accurate X-ray of the country’s economy is the most important beginning of a new story.” He said, “In the permanent success of the Stability Program based on the New Economic Model and rational economic policies, solving the problems of inflation and current account deficit simultaneously is essential. Today, we are facing deficits in three fundamental areas: budget, current account, and foreign trade. The significant gap between imports and exports poses a considerable risk for the stability sought in the economy. In this context, our priority should be to increase productivity in all areas from production to exports. At the same time, the most effective method to combat inflation is through productivity and value-added increase in products in businesses. To achieve this productivity, we must initiate the transformation from a low and medium intensity production structure, which is the product of a minimum wage economy, to a high technology and high value-added production economy.”
“We must equally share potatoes and cell phones and spread prosperity to the grassroots.”
Highlighting the inequality in income distribution, Sönmez said, “The emphasis on justice and equality in our common dream represents the determination required for us to overcome one of the most significant problems in our country. This problem is an economic outlook where we might lose our understanding of sharing everything fairly and equally, be it wheat, potatoes, onions, cell phones, or computers. This outlook also means a growth that does not spread to the grassroots, does not create increased prosperity, and leads to impoverishment. While high growth is expected to create social welfare, the inequality in income distribution demonstrates that inflation is now our country’s priority problem, more painful than ever.”
“We should implement a savings policy instead of increasing the tax burden.”
TÜRKONFED President Süleyman Sönmez expressed that the increase in prices and the burden of taxes have led to new socio-economic problems from businesses to households. He continued, “We face an unfair situation for producers, workers, individuals, and businesses. Spreading taxes fairly and equally across all income levels would be a more reasonable policy for budget discipline, rather than concentrating on indirect taxes and putting additional pressure on inflation. It is also necessary to update the income tax brackets, implement serious cost-saving measures in the public sector, and introduce new additional measures and regulations. Instead of increasing the tax burden and implementing price hikes, a savings policy that sets an example for the society should be put into action.”
“Without youth, there is no future; without education, there is no prosperity and development.”
Sönmez also drew attention to youth unemployment and brain drain, stating, “Compared to OECD and EU countries, we have the highest rate of young people who are neither employed nor in education. It is necessary to enable young people to join the workforce and education, and to facilitate and incentivize the transition from education to employment. Moreover, we see that all countries that have transitioned from developing to developed status achieved their economic leaps through significant education reforms. With poor educational performance, we cannot achieve value-added growth or escape the traps of middle-income and middle-democracy. Without youth, there is no future; without education, there is no prosperity and development.”
Referring to the recent increase in calls and actions to restrict social and cultural freedoms, Sönmez concluded, “We should be able to demonstrate that the conservative traditional culture and the urban libertarian culture can coexist and cohabitate in a democratic society. Keeping young people away from festivals, attempting to ban festivals altogether, and darkening the future of young people with outdated educational norms are not behaviors that we can accept in the second century of the Republic. As the founder of our Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, said, ‘Our hope lies in the youth’ for our dream Turkey.”
The Aydın Business Meeting, which started with a speech by GESİFED Chairman of the Board Oktay Mersin, also featured assessments from Turkey Reporter Director Can Selçuki on the political and economic agenda of the second century in the world and Turkey.
Exchange of ideas with the public, NGOs, business world, and academia
As TÜRKONFED President Süleyman Sönmez participated in an economic consultation meeting with Deputy President Cevdet Yılmaz and business representatives, the TÜRKONFED delegation, led by TÜRKONFED Acting President Ali Eroğlu, engaged in intensive talks with city actors. The TÜRKONFED delegation included Vice Presidents Feyyaz Ünal, Oktay Mersin, Ramazan Kaya, Mehmet Salih Özen; Board Members Hakan Urhan, Gamze Aşnük, Selahattin Balkan, Celal Öğücü, Alp Avni Yelkenbiçer, Mehmet Ali Kasalı, Onur Ünlü, as well as the GESİFED Board of Directors.
As part of the 100th Year Meetings, the TÜRKONFED delegation met with Aydın Governor Hüseyin Aksoy, Acting Mayor of Aydın Metropolitan Municipality Barış Altıntaş, President of Aydın Chamber of Commerce Hakan Ülken, President of Aydın Chamber of Industry Gökhan Maraş, President of Aydın Commodity Exchange Fevzi Çondur, and Rector of Aydın Adnan Menderes University Prof. Dr. Bülent Kent, along with business people who are members of GESİFED. During the meeting, the TÜRKONFED’s vision of “Our Dream Turkey” was shared, and a mutual exchange of ideas took place.
TÜRKONFED encompasses 30 federations and 331 national and international member associations, representing over 60,000 companies. With its member base, TÜRKONFED accounts for approximately 83% of total (excluding energy) foreign trade and around 55% of registered non-agricultural and non-public employment. The federations under TÜRKONFED include Istanbul, Western Anatolia, Marmara, Central Anatolia, Thrace, Western Black Sea, Central Black Sea, Central Anatolia, Northern Anatolia, Eastern Black Sea, Inner Anatolia, South Aegean, Eastern Marmara, Western Mediterranean, Eastern Mediterranean, South Marmara, Çukurova, Northern Marmara, Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia, Southeastern, Zafer, Silk Road, Cappadocia, Mevlana, Eastern, Serhat, Dicle, and Euphrates Industrialists and Businessmen Federations, as well as the Sectoral Associations Federation, Fashion and Ready-Made Garment Federation, and Construction Products Manufacturers Federation. TÜRKONFED is a member of SMEunited, the umbrella organization for European SMEs, representing 12 million companies and 55 million employees.