Bilal Oylek / World Bulletin
Turkish business group Musiad will select its new administration board and president today.
Musiad President Omer Bolat, has spoken to Dunya Bulteni's (World Bulletin) editor Bilal Öylek last year in June. Here is the that interview:
We talked about MUSIAD, Independent Industrialists and Businessmen's Association with Dr. Omer Bolat, the General Manager of one of the pioneer foundations of the Turkish economy. Musiad meeting a very important need with the international fairs that it arrages, every year is increasing its targets. Dr. Bolat said that as Musiad especially the communication with the international business surroundings developed a lot.
First of all I want to start with Musiad, What was the aim of founding Musiad, why was such a foundation needed?
Shortly called Musiad, Independent Industrialists and Businessmen's Association was founded in 1990. Initially as the aim in the foundation to make the period of industrialisation and development in Anatolia common and to increase the shares of the enterprises and capital of Anatolia in the Turkish economy, to make them contribute to the Turkish economy and lead them to the foreign development model, to make them meet with the international vision and markets and enlarge their horizons and mostly to be the voice and representative of the producers of the real economy and KOBI.
I think together with the national economy it is also among your aims to follow the world economy.
Both to strenghten and enlarge the Turkish economy by the way to increase our economical influence and grow the business and increase Turkey's share in the world economy. For this reason we aimed together to integrate our members and enterprises more with the world economy and exporting more and make more investments. We aimed to grow in the nation and out of the nation together.
What kind of businessman portrait comes to mind when we say Musiad?
I want to add this for your previous question: Our slogan " As Turkey grows, we grow, as we grow, Turkey will grow."
About your second question I can say this; one of Musiad's slogans is "High ethics, high technology." I mean when people say a businessman member of Musiad; as a member profile, honest,trustworthy, and in the business and social life reliable, conservates the ethics and especially researcher, producer and contributes to the real economy, an industrialist businessman working in the real economical field...Socially conservative, protecting his beliefs and values, has a national standing, a businessman protecting the national value...
In the capitalist atmosphere what are the difficulties of the Musiad members?
You know in Islam interest is forbidden whereas trade is allowed. The business in order to get profit is allowed. In this sense Islam is the most suitable religion for the fair competing, cooperation in the competing. We must fix this in the beginning.
Our friends and members are working in a market economy. Cartalism and monopolism are forcing our members. It is quite difficult to have financing under good terms. Because the private financing foundations are only meeting 3% of the financing sources. With the institutions we make business, buy or sell there can be serious troubles. At this point it is very important to be dependent on the Islamic criteria. We always lead our members in this direction.
The deep impact of the capitalist structure is always in the agenda that the Muslim religious businessmen are using the instruments of capitalism. The operations with interest, to maximize the profit, not the give the rights of the workers by acting stingy etc. ( I mean the worries to fall into traps of the capitalism) Do the Muslim businessmen really have tendency to this direction?
Certainly I cannot say that they have serious tendencies like those. But the troubles as you indicated in the previous question are always in question. A cautious businessman and an industrialist and an employer should always be careful at the highest level not to fall into such kind of traps. As Musiad loyalty for the basic values of our belief and practices are the basic advice that we give to our members. It is not possible to give concession from the basic values as an association and a foundation. But at this point there can be individual mistakes. It is not possible to say the opposite. This is of course a matter of the inside world of each individual. But among our members as the basic value we always look for the allowed and legal profit and work that is suitable for the Islamic morals.
What kind of portrait do you see in the economy?
Thank God in the agenda of today's Turkey, public finance is not a problem. I mean the treasure can pay its depts. The ratio of the public dept stock to the national income decreased from 91% to less than 60 %. The ratio of the deficit in the budget to the national income decreased. Today's problems are different. As backing up the input on research producing industries, covering the current deficit of Turkey not only by the foreign investors but by the exporting, to meet the qualified labour power in the business life, an urgent mobilization for the professional education. Making 3 million new business power lowered the rate of unemployment to only 9.9% .
Is there a connection between the process started with Musiad and the Calvinist businessman discussions that started today? To ask more clearly, is the label of the Calvinist businessman a result of the Musiad process?
The two reasons for the birth of Musiad are: First; after the 24 January 1980 decision a liberalization period started in Turkey in economy, policy and social life. This is the period that the Anatolian people started to crack his shell in every area. In bureaucracy,policy, art, culture, business and economy the Anatolian people started to say "I am in". With his high education, power of enterprises and vision his voice was heard in the economy. That's how this came out as the cooperation platform of the new comers of the Anatolian origined enterprises in Turkey.
The second reason is; among the important effects that the Musiad members became stronger in the economical life there was an understanding on a cooperation, self-capital and own family savings. This is a power that we take from the Islamic belief.
Calvinists may go further in the economics. But this is only succeeding in ecomony. This is not peculiar to Calvinists. We are presenting the success stories of the Muslim businessmen we call Coma Islamicos.
If the people with the Muslim IDs were not so successful there would be no discussion like that. On the other hand we did not want to join this discussion by reacting not to take these discussions to turn into polemics and not to prepare a ground that those who want to keep this topic in the agenda. Because such a behaviour would be a tendency to strenghten these discussions. Our approach here is to do business instead of discussing and making polemics. Already the reasons behind the success of Musiad are the rightfulness of basic values and reasons in the foundation of Musiad. It is the charge, solution and facility based work of Musiad. We clearly showed our manner in the beginning of all these discussions. The success of one of our businessmen in Anatolia is not because of the Calvinist doctrine, but because of the Turkish- Islamic ethics and doctrine.
For a long time it is known that especially the foreign sourced powers and some powers in the country are nonsensically looking for innovations and reform in Islam with "a nonsense claim" as if the political, economical and social problems in the Islam world are originated from Islam. It is a reality that in order to reach the high standard of development of the west there are claims and expectations that Islam world should live a period as the west lived in the period of being Protestants. They are bringing this to the agenda from time to time either in the religious or the economical topics. We object this and do not agree with this idea. I clearly want to emphasize this.
We need to determine here that in the Calvinist doctrine the people succeed in this world and earn a lot of money they deserve heaven. A person who succeeds this guaranties his hereafter. Then there is an understanding that all the illegal jobs, all the morally and socially injusticely earned earnings, since as the result success is focused on, all these are as if legal. But according to our belief man must both work for this world and hereafter. Our Prophet says "Work for this world as if you will never, work for hereafter as if you will tomorrow die." Our Prophet already showed the path with the hadith "World is the field of the hereafter." This shows that a Muslim either be a businessman or a merchant or a worker or a farmer or a tradesman must be successful in his area. This is one of the basic reasons distinguishing Muslims and Calvinists. This is a very important distinguishment. It is impossible for us to accept the Calvinist understanding. This is opposing with our belief.
We know that you are especially preparing reports according to the economical and political developments in Turkey or international and sharing them with the public opinion. Are the administrators in the country making use of them enough?
The governments before this did not make use of them a lot. I can say that Refahyol Government made use of them. We saw that the current government seriously made use of them. Already the reports and opinions of Musiad,since broadly we are spread in Anatolia with our 28 branches they are the voice of the base... The proposals and opinions of Musiad are never prepared in the bases of the individual benefits.
They are prepared initially keeping the benefits of country and society with the principles of Turkey and people. So since they include the views of the producers and the real economy, we believe that the governments must make use of the opinions and reports of Musiad more. The lives of the governments neglecting these were not long enough. We altogether saw this in the politics. So the determinations by Musiad are, thank God, approved in terms of social, political and foreign policies and in this sense they are the voice of common sense.
I want to talk about the Fairs that you organize. If I don't remember wrong, first you started in Izmir. But now they are on an international platform.
Yes, the first Musiad Fair started in 1993. In 1993,1994 and 1995 were arranged in Izmir. Since 1996 the fairs take place in Istanbul. Till now 11 international Musiad fairs were organized. There is an international ID. Both thousands of visitors and businessmen are joining from the nation and abroad.
Lately to our International Fair and International Business Forum Congress in 2006 November, nationally and internationally 23 ministers and 1704 businessmen from 61 countries took place. Nationally and internationally 23 ministers and 2 prime ministers including our prime minister joined then. Also Secretary General of The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), The Head of Islamic Trade Chamber and Islamic Development Bank.
This shows that Musiad's International Fair and International Business Forum ( IBF) congress are the biggest commercial meetings of the Islam world. Both the problems and profects are spoken and business is made by means of the fairs.
Are your dreams coming true while organizing the fairs?
Definitely yes. By means of the fairs it is difficult to say number on the capital that comes to Turkey. Because it is impossible for us to determine the digits between the two companies. Also a few months after the fairs the relations are going on.
I can say Musiad has been the most contributing and lobbying association on the development of Turkey's relations with the neighbour and Islamic countries since the year 1990 that it was founded. I can explain the effect of this as; in 2000 while the rate of all the business with the neighbor and the surrounding countries was 3%, this rate increased to 30 % in 2006. Here we take the fruits of Musiad's condensed international economical facilities and lobby studies, fairs,exporting tours plus the serious works of the government with the neighbour countries and the countries in the region in diplomacy, policy and economy.
Are there any associations smilar to Musiad in the countries that you cooperate? If so do you have common projects?
The foundation and success of Musiad had been a model itself. Within the country both in the business life and the social life Musiad's success story was taken as a sample and tens of various voluntary associations were founded.
In the same way abroad both in the European countries as Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, England and Denmark that Turks live in big numbers and in the Muslim countries Musiad was taken as a model and the smilar businessmen's associations were founded in these countries. Because in the Islam world the civilian society understanding and tradition are very weak. Here Musiad model changed this understanding in a positive way. Associaions smilar to Musiad are founded and working there.
We are always in touch with there to increase the mutual business, common investments and projects. The mutual businessmen tours, Musiad's international fairs and the participation in these countries, once a year the International Business Forum congress are increasing these relations very fast.
Almost the entire world was effected by the crisis in the Asian countries. But this didn't last long as it was claimed. Were enough precautions taken by the world countries for such a situation?
The southeast Asia got rid of the crisis very fast. Within 3-4 years they got rid of and after 2000 they started to develop very fast. They got very important lessons from the crisis. With the development model based on exporting they in a big development and growing process. Their exchange reserves reached 3.5 trillion dollars.
Russia very fast got rid of the crisis in 1998 August especially with the raw material, oil and natural gas prices increasing thrice after 2001-2002. Thank God Turkey managed to get rid of the 2000 November and 2001 February crisis after 2002.
Before the recent the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Summit in Istanbul Putin went to the middle Asian countries and had some agreements on liquid fuel and energy. But we have the project to carry the oil and the natural gas from Turkey to Europe in front of us.
How do you find Putin's this manoeuvre? What kind of strategy should Turkey follow?
Turkey has serious problems on the energy sector. That's Turkey is not a rich country with the energy sources and the raw materials. Last year we paid 28.5 billion dollars on oil, natural gas and coal etc. Turkey has a serious problem. The consumption is increasing 8% each year. Turkey is dependent on abroad especially on energy.
Our energy importation is 9.5 billion dollars in 2002. The oil importation out of this is 4.5 billion dollars but the energy that we imported today is 28.5 billion dollars. We must reduce dependency on abroad on energy.
With the native sources I mean the water sources we can use the 40 % of all. In the 2006-2007 drought we faced it seems that we have a serious problem with the water sources. We have the possibility to use the thermic coal sources but even if we use all the native sources will end according to a scenario by 2020. We can face a very serious narrow pass with the energy. So we must be searching for native oil and natural gas sources and increase them.
We must certainly use nuclear energy. When we unite all these our dependency on Russia and 45 % of our electricity production is from the natural gas, for heating we have serious dependency on natural gas. As our importation of oil is 90 %, it is 95% for natural gas. The rate of natural gas in the electricity production is 45 % and the rate of our dependency on Russia in the natural gas importation is 65%. So we must lead to alternative natural gas sources as Iran, Algeria, Egypyt ang Qatar.
These are tried, our depenency on Russia is tried to be lowered. But we observe that Russia doesn't approve Turkey's acting as an energy bridge for delivering the Turkmen and Iran natural gas to the middle and western Europe with the Nabuko Project.
It is trying to make Samsun-Ceyhan line out of use with the Burgaz-Dedeagac pipeline for oil. As a very fresh project we see Russia trying to make the project out of use that reaches the natural gas coming over Black Sea to Samsun with the Blue Current from Ankara to the middle and western Europe. Russia has a plan to distribute the natural gas from the Black Sea shore to Burgaz, from there over Bulgaria or Greece to western Europe or southern Europe.
Both Turkey is trying to make energy importation and trying to make native sources various and act as an energy bridge and transit center. At this point we see it is trying to stop the delivery of the Russian or Turkmen natural gas to be marketed to the European countries over Turkey.
How do you find Turkey's relations with IMF?
Turkish economy got down to the bottom after the November 2000 and 2001 crises. It could not pay the domestic and international depts. That's why it had to sign standby agreement with IMF with good intentions.
Standby agreement is applied for the ill economies. According to us we can say that we came to the end of the process of stability of Turkey with IMF. The process of stability is reached in the Turkish economy. Thank God there are posivite gains apart from the current deficit in the macro indicators and unemployment. But for the new era after the elections we advise to close this term with IMF without renewing the standby agreement with a soft strategy.
We advise the establishment of a development with a programme of a strong production economy. Besides this it is very important to develop and evaluate the projects in order to make the relations deeper with the D- 8 project, neighbor and regional countries politically, diplomatically and economically.
On the other hand the full membership negotiations for the EU are essential for the international economic vision. We think that such a structure is going to make Turkey the center of attraction.
In 1990 Turkey had two important initiatives in the agenda of the world. One of them was the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Project brought to the agenda in 1991 and became official in 1992. This year it was its 15th anniversary in Istanbul. It was deceased Ozal's Project and established in Istanbul. The second one in his prime minstry period D-8 project of Prof. Dr. Necmettin Erbakan. These two projects were the projects of economical and political integration. EU tried to sabotage the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Project. Especially gave full membership to the countries who wanted to take part in this project so took those countries to its own side and tried to obstacle the development of the project. D- 8 mostly worried America. When you have a look all the leaders who signed up for the D-8 could not bein power for a long time. At this point the political ruler did not seem eager to continue D-8 project. So D- 8 and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation are somehow slow running. Livening these up is depended on the will of the member countries and the political conjuncture.
This interview was translated by M.Hasan UNCULAR for Worldbulletin.
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