ORHAN TURAN, PRESIDENT of TÜSİAD
14 December 2022, Ankara
Mr President, distinguished members of the Council and members of TUSIAD, valued guests and members of the press,
On behalf of the TUSIAD Board of Directors, I would like to extend my warmest regards to you all in this last High Advisory Council meeting of the year.
This year, the excitement of entering a new year is higher than usual.
This is because 2023 is the centenary of the founding of our republic.
We are embarking on the second century with the self-confidence of leaving behind one hundred years.
In general, when entering a new year, we provide an account of the previous year, set our goals for the coming year and do our planning. But, as we leave behind one hundred years of our republic, a longer term assessment is in order.
In that sense, I am eagerly looking forward to our panel discussion entitled “As we enter the second century of the Republic”. I would like to take this opportunity to extend my heartfelt thanks to the eminent members of academia for being with us today.
In meetings I attended in various parts of Turkey and interactions I had with the media in recent months, I voiced at every opportunity the country’s current economic and social problems and our recommendations for solutions.
I expressed our views on many current issues to include,
the high rate of inflation,
tight financial resources,
problems created by frequently changing regulations,
energy security and energy efficiency,
loss of exports, slowing growth
and problems experienced in business life.
Mr Özilhan also included a comprehensive evaluation of the current situation and primarily of the economy in his remarks.
In my comments today, I would like to focus on the following question: What is our expectation of the second hundred years of our republic which we are stepping into with the wealth of experience acquired during our 100 year old republic?
As we enter 2023, the world is grappling with a host of problems just as it was in 1923. The global order is once again facing serious challenges.
While back in 1923 the U.S. had shouldered the leadership of the world, its leadership is under a series of challenges in 2023.
Prior to World War I, migration was affecting the whole world, it is doing the same today.
At the turn of the first century of the republic, Turkey was shaken with population movements; today, Turkey is yet again providing shelter to the highest number of refugees in the world. The problem of migration carries geopolitical, political and demographic risks as well as having economic and social dimensions.
The Spanish flu led to the death of millions in 1918. For the past two years corona virus has been devastating the world.
In the beginning of the 19th century electricity and internal combustion engines created an economic and social revolution. Today, digital technologies and biotechnology are ushering in a similar process.
Just as our Republic was founded by making choices each of which had a crucial impact on our future while it was under a series of disturbances, uncertainties, risks and dangers; today we are entering the second one hundred years in a similar environment.
The most important decision made during the establishment of our Republic was related to sovereignty. The choice was that of a republic, in which power would be exercised by those elected by the people, not for life or with absolute power, but for a limited time with only limited power. Sovereignty would belong to the people, which is a society of equal and free citizens that have rights, and who are endowed with the duty and responsibility to participate in government. Secularism, which is a critical and indispensable part of the concept of a republic, is the most essential element of the foundations of the Turkish Republic.
During the past one hundred years we strived to improve our political system based on these core values of the republic and towards democratization. In this endeavour, there were times when we made quantum leaps, but then again, there were times when we slipped back.
The political party which founded the country and ruled singlehandedly for thirty years handed over power when national will decided otherwise in 1950. Thus, the fact that democratic maturity meant the change of power through elections became part and parcel of the experience of our political life.
Following the wounds and injuries suffered as a result of coup d’états, military ultimatums in the form of memoranda, post-modern coups and coup attempts, we tried to find ways and means of rebuilding universal democratic values after each incident. We acted with the awareness that the principles we refer to as democratic values are in fact the wealth of experience of mankind accumulated over millennia.
And throughout our democratic history, we amassed a significant wealth of experience, learning lessons from all our lurches back and forth.
Thus, benefiting from this wealth of experience, we are ready to uphold the values of the republic together with the values of democracy in the second one hundred years of the republic.
We are aware of the importance of;
individual and collective rights and freedoms,
the importance of pluralism as well as that of the majority;
of freedom of religion and conscience,
of the separation of the affairs of religion and those of the state,
of the equality of all citizens with no privileges attached,
aware that the decision of what is for the public benefit is one that rests with the equal citizens of the society.
We are cognizant that a democratic republic,
rests on the premise of a public order whereby all citizens have equal rights and freedoms without discrimination regarding:
individual choice of faith,
ethnic identity and similar issues.
During our second one hundred years, we wish to leave behind disputes about the fact that everyone is equal before the law without discrimination, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.
We unfortunately still have to dream of a society today,
where nobody doubts that the rights of all citizens are protected under the law,
where abuse, rape and subjection to violence of women and children and child marriages are not condoned under any pretext.
As a country we have big ideals. But we are aware that certain aspects of these big ideals that outstrip and crush individuals may have risks. We therefore know that it is necessary to strengthen individuals against the state and prevent the individuals from being subjugated by society and by the state.
While enabling the State to be strong, we must bear in mind that we should strengthen human rights, freedoms, participation and pluralism. We must remember that the way to making our country big and strong in the international arena is through a state structure that is fair, kind and where power is shared.
While the new state was being founded in 1923, a certain choice was made regarding our place in the global system. That choice was first and foremost full independence. The approach to foreign policy was shaped by the protection and strengthening of independence. But independence was regarded in the context of being an equal and respectable member of a liberal democratic world order based on universal rules. Therefore, the struggle for independence fought against the West did not result in being cut off from the West.
Today, the world order is quite different from what it was a hundred years ago. Each and every sphere such as the democratic, economic, technological, ecological, health, energy, migration, which require cooperation for global welfare are under the grip of geopolitical rivalry.
Owing to its geographical position Turkey is one of the few countries with critical importance.
How we shall respond to global developments,
how we shall establish a foreign policy built on rules and principles rather than transactionalism,
how we shall deepen friendships and reduce enmities while being mindful of national security concerns,
how we shall contribute to the design of the international system while prioritizing our country’s welfare and progress,
will bear significance in shaping our second hundred years.
Our country’s geographic positioning as well as its historical direction of modernization is in line with being part of the modern world embodied in the transatlantic alliance and the European Union. This coincides with the will to become an equal member of the group of democratic countries. The Council of Europe, NATO membership, the goal for accession to the EU and the customs union are all natural consequences of this deeply rooted understanding. This position which is an expression of long term interests should not be sacrificed for the sake of the dynamics of domestic politics. In this context, it is imperative that relations with the EU be freed from a relation based on an axis of migration and be rendered once again as an anchor for advancement.
In order to successfully manage the challenging geopolitical process ahead, our country must take up foreign policy, democracy and economic development concurrently and in a manner that will support one another.
Because, to quote Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, “a country with a weak economy cannot rid itself of poverty; it cannot free itself from social and political disasters. The success of how the country is managed is proportional to its economic achievements.”
Undoubtedly, being a part of a liberal democratic world order based on universal rules and values as well as the existence of strong democratic institutions shall be decisive as far as the conditions for economic advancement are concerned.
The first one hundred years of our republic has clearly demonstrated the impact of domestic and foreign policy on the economy.
Theory and history reveal how favouritism, corruption,
cronyism based capitalism,
and resources being provided over personal relationships rather than made available to efficient areas
weakens economic progress.
The recipe for high growth
is based on integration with the global order,
an investment climate in compliance with universal norms,
a market where predictability rather than inside information is important,
and an understanding of economic policy based on experience rather than experimenting,
focused on long term goals rather than populism,
and based on rules rather than nepotism.
Throughout the history of our republic, during periods where this understanding prevailed, our per capita income accelerated; and while we moved away from it, we have always fallen behind in comparisons of international welfare.
Reaching the goals of accelerating growth and increasing the level of welfare in the second one hundred years will not be difficult at all, once we determine the institutions and rules well and have a good balance between the market and public good.
But, differently from the past, we are entering the twenty-first century with a very important issue we need to take into consideration: from now on we must take care about not only how we shall grow but also how we shall achieve growth by taking into consideration the ecological balance.
We feel the impact of climate change every day with an increasing intensity and frequency.
Given the environmental risks and dwindling resources created by the existing production and consumption habits, we need to remodel our economic growth along an axis of sustainability.
This process will have a significant impact on investment, employment, competitiveness, economic stability and welfare.
One of the central issues of the second one hundred years should be a fairer distribution of income.
When the republic was founded, in many aspects, there were huge gaps between Istanbul and Anatolia in development.
During the past one hundred years, the level of income rose everywhere; development accelerated in every part of Anatolia but inequalities did not subside.
Differences in welfare based on regions, strata of population and business situation were added as an additional factor, dividing and polarizing the society.
The weakest legacy the Turkey of 1923 took over from the Ottomans was perhaps in the areas of science and education. Therefore, one of the biggest legs of the civilization project the young republic embarked on was the breakthrough in science and culture.
We have unfortunately not been very successful in continuing this initiative. We forgot that quality is more important than quantity. We have been experiencing issues of quality, access and governance on every level of education from the nursery schools all the way to higher education.
In addition to the problems in education, resources earmarked for R&D are relatively insufficient and these resources are utilized inefficiently.
We witness the result of these problems experienced in education and science and R&D in various fields in the form of,
low number of patents and inventions,
production being locked in low and medium technological areas,
business world unable to find manpower matching its requirements,
university students unable to be employed in areas related to their department of graduation.
However, education and science are the main decisive factors both for productivity that determines the present performance of the economy as well as the technological advancement that will determine the next period. Issues in these areas will inevitably reduce the economic performance in the coming periods.
That is why in our study last year entitled, “Building the Future with a New Understanding”, we had emphasized human resources, science and institutions.
We can only see the results of investing in science and people in the long run. Therefore, while solving the problem of macroeconomic instability in the short term, we should simultaneously invest in these areas and start building the institutional structures in these areas in the most correct manner.
We must not forget that the long term is made up of the sum of short terms. Unless we take the steps that need to be taken today for the future we are yearning, that future will never come.
It is the responsibility of all of us to create the necessary climate to enable our young people, our new generations to realize their potentials and dreams on this soil.
In the second one hundred years of our republic, we envisage a Turkey that is
where social welfare is distributed fairly,
where equal opportunity and human development has been achieved,
where there is rule of law,
where human rights are respected with no ifs or buts,
where gender equality is achieved in every aspect of life,
where democracy has become a way of life, where participation and pluralism have been internalized,
where nature is not harmed thanks to its production and consumption standards,
in harmony with the environment,
has achieved its digital and green transformation,
has reached universal standards in producing scientific knowledge,
has integrated with the European Union,
and a Turkey which is developed, respectable, fair and environment friendly.
As TUSIAD, we are launching a new project in our new one hundred years in order to contribute to the realization of this dream.
Taking the contribution and participatory aspect of the local social dynamics during the founding of the republic as a basis,
being inspired by the local congresses which were the founding elements of the republic,
cognizant that the merits of the republic stem not from the decision of the majority but pluralism,
bearing in mind that the republic is based on the equal participation of all of its citizens,
being aware of the importance of reformism in the state and its correspondence in society throughout the history of the republic,
we say that “now is the time not to tell each other but to talk to each other”
As we design our common future, there are questions in front of us that we need to find answers to:
How shall we together strengthen the republic and democracy?
How shall we position our national strategy during global transformations?
How should we develop while protecting nature?
How can we share more fairly while we increase welfare?
In order to find answers to these questions that concern the entire society, we are launching a discussion platform which will continue throughout the year and where we will bring together stakeholders on a local level.
We believe we have a very important opportunity in this process.
For the solution of all the problems we are facing, we have well equipped political and bureaucratic cadres, technical and academic expertise, a dynamic and experienced business world and a developed civil society who are able to set forth what needs to be done.
And maybe, more importantly, although we may have lost it a bit recently, we have the tradition of discussing problems within society.
Today, neither the requirements, forms and means of democratization, nor how and through what policies economic stability can be achieved are new issues for us.
Regarding all these complex issues, a wealth of information that permeates the very capillaries of society has been amassed. All we need to do now is to bring this wealth of information into the open.
Let us not fritter away the very valuable energy of this nation through tensions created by cliques and polarization.
As a nation with the deeply rooted history of a multi-cultural, rich geographical land, let us come together around the second hundred-year ideal of our republic.
Regardless of whatever faith,
whatever ethnic identity,
whatever social class,
and social group we may belong to,
let us all together start discussing our dream for Turkey for the second one hundred years of our republic.
By listening to each other,
By understanding each other,
Let us join together at the intersection of a common future encompassing the hopes and dreams of all sections of society. Let us start working for this common future as early as now. We are ready for this. And we are sure all of Turkey is ready as well.
If, one hundred years ago, we were able to overcome much more daunting challenges by joining forces, we can do that today also.
With the enthusiasm of a bright future in the second one hundred years of our republic, I extend my best regards to you all.