Ambassador Ahmet Demirok Gave An Interview To "al Watan" Daily
"1-How do you see the present and future of Turkey, and what you say on this occasion?
To understand its present and future, we should look back at the past of Turkey. When I look back at the journey of my country, I see that it was not an easy one. Great sacrifices were made. Turkey was built from scratch and thanks to those who worked for it. Successive generations in Turkey managed to create value-added sectors for the country and that is how we now have a competitive, robust and liberal economy, young and skilled population and functioning institutions.
I believe Turkey will have a brighter future. The younger generations grasp a strong understanding of the world. I can see that they are skillful in creating friendships and alliances. Turkish businessman are eager and more open to trade with the world. Local companies are getting stronger. They invest in research and development and creating edge technologies. State institutions are much more flexible than in the past and strongly supporting the many sectors. Financial outlook of the country is strong and stable, which indicates its long term potential to support investments.
2-How do you evaluate the economic and trade relations between Qatar and Turkey?
Economic relations are not indifferent from the dynamic growth of our relations in all fields. I am glad to say that our economic ties are getting stronger each day. Of course, the brotherly relations between Turkey and Qatar motivate the two nations to deepen their business and trade relations. Investment opportunities in our countries are also important.
Qatar is of course very strong in LNG and petrochemicals production and we are importing a lot from these. We export to Qatar furniture, machinery, electrical appliances and steel.
Construction sector in Qatar is the number one sector Turkish capital and expertise are sought for. So far, the amount of construction projects undertaken by Turkish firms are worth 15.1 billion US Dollars. Among these projects, Museum of Islamic Arts, New Doha International Airport, Qatar National Convention Center, Salwa Road, North Road, Ras Laffan to Mesaieed Gas Pipeline project and Qatargas Onshore Facilities are the most prominent ones. We are eager to expand our cooperation in other sectors as well.
Turkey on the other hand, with its updated, modernized and simple legal basis for foreign investors offers ample opportunities for Qatari businessmen. Qatar has already invested in several projects in Turkey, primarily in the real estate, banking and media sectors. We expect to see more Qatari investment in Turkey. Investment is of greater significance given the notable growth and dynamism demonstrated by the two countries. We perceive that, Turkey and Qatar, as key players in the global markets, share common interests and opportunities.
In this context, in the bilateral economic relations perspective, construction, energy, health, agriculture sectors and plastic and aluminum industries have particular potential for cooperation.
3-The trade exchanges between Qatar and Turkey is still less than the desired level. What is the foreseeable future to develop and increase these exchanges?
Bilateral trade volume of two countries was nearly 1.3 billion US Dollars in 2015. The exports of Turkey to Qatar was 423 million US Dollars and imports of Turkey from Qatar was 835 million US Dollars. Yet, this does not reflect the true potentials of our countries. There is still room to advance our trade relations. We believe that the exports of Turkey to Qatar will further increase as we have diversity in our trade relations.
4-By virtue of geography, Turkey is an Asian and European country at the same time. Does this give her an economic advantage or the political circumstances disable this feature?
Turkey's location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia makes it a country of significant geostrategic importance.
In terms of trade and foreign direct investment, Turkey’s geography is unique, because it is a gateway to Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. Indeed, a four-hour flight from Istanbul gives access to more than 50 countries and a vast market that accounts for one fourth of the world economy.
By the end of 2015, the number of foreign firms active in Turkey exceeded 46.000 and 916 foreign firms have established liaison offices. Furthermore, the total amount of foreign direct investments exceeded 165 billion USD as of the end of 2015.
On the other hand, Turkey is also located in one of the important intersections of different foreign policy dynamics. A large part of the current global crises occurs in the Eurasia region, where Turkey is at the center.
Certainly, this extraordinary process effects Turkey's economic interests. But, our priority is to influence the developments in a positive direction.
5-The European position from Turkey's accession to the European Union is still hesitant despite the strength of the Turkish economy. What is your vision and your expectations for that matter?
Turkey has a 50-year long history with the EU. Membership in the EU continues to be our strategic goal. We maintain this goal despite the up and downs in our accession process.
Turkey has taken part in almost all European institutions, in most of them as a founding member. Turkey has made considerable contributions to the formation of the current European architecture through the constructive role it played within international organizations such as the Council of Europe, OECD, NATO and OSCE.
On the other hand, to be frank, there has been a significant decline in the faith of our citizens in Turkey’s accession. This is due to the political hurdles we face in our accession process as well as the negative attitude and statements of certain European statesmen.
I strongly believe that Turkey’s accession will increase the size of the European internal market and strengthen the relative competitiveness of the Union in the global economy. Turkey will constitute a true asset for the Union, with its geostrategic location, large economic potential, educated and dynamic population and with its visionary and multidimensional foreign policy.
6-To what extent is the Turkish economy affected due to the recent deterioration in relations with Russia?
Turkey's economy is healthy and Russia needs Turkey economically more than Turkey needs the Russian market
.I can say that sanctions imposed on Turkey in the wake of the shooting down of a Russian jet which violated Turkish air space, are hurting Russia’s economy more than they are damaging Turkey.
Russia thinks that it is punishing Turkey by not buying Turkish products but Russia does not realize that it has oppressed its own people by imposing sanctions on some Turkish products.
Of course, we would like to have good relations with our all neighboring countries. With this understanding, we have done our best to deescalate the tension between Turkey and Russian Federation since the beginning of crisis. I believe both sides of the conflict will overcome this problem to have better political and economic relations as in the past.
7-What is the secret of the advancement of the Turkish economy, especially after achieving spectacular leaps that transferred it from the global economy rank 111 to the rank 16?
It is not secret prescription but fiscal discipline, ongoing reforms and political stability. In Turkey, great emphasis has been placed on structural reforms in economy. The process of privatization has been accelerated and the public finance has been put into order while noteworthy reforms have been implemented in financial markets as well as in sectors such as agricultural, social security, energy and communications.
Thanks to these reforms, the infrastructure for economic institutions has been strengthened, and the country's economy has been made more resistant to probable fluctuations in international markets through the creation of autonomous institutions. Capital markets have been revised with a modern touch and numerous bureaucratic obstacles have been eliminated or minimized.
Today, as the 18thlargest economy in the world and 7th largest economy in Europe with a GDP of about 800 billion dollars, Turkey is active member of the G-20 which represents the world's most powerful economies.
8-According to the vision of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey is going to be the economic and political power in the world in 2023. What is the way to reach this goal?
Turkey’s 2023visionis without a doubt one of the most important economic project on going in this century, which will significantly contribute to the economic face ofTurkey, and make it a decision maker worldwide. 2023 Vision consists of specific goals, targets and major improvements in the areas of economic activity, energy, health care and transport as well as democratic reforms.
In light of this perspective, major economic goals set by the government aims at being among the top ten economies of the world in terms of the GDP and reaching annual GDP of 2 trillion dollar.The vision also includes maintaining a stable reduction in inflation, keeping interest rates to a single digit and increasing exports to 500 billion dollars per year, increasing per capita income to $25.000 and reducing unemployment rate.
While working to realize these goals, we will not compromise the basics of our economic plan. Fiscal discipline will be strictly followed. Fight against inflation will continue to be a priority. We aim to continue growth enabling further employment based on real economy and export.
As a final point, real success of the Turkish Government in the last decade is to invest in human capital. Therefore, I believe that we have necessary assets and expertise in order to reach the ambitious development goals of Turkey’s 2023 vision.
9-How much is the contribution of tourism to Turkish GDP. Do you expect it to fall because of the terrorist attacks in Turkey recently?
Tourism is one of the major sectors in Turkey. 40 million tourists visited Turkey in 2015. Tourism revenue is said to be around 40 billion US Dollars which roughly makes 5% of Turkey’s GDP. There are cultural, economic and natural aspects that make Turkey a center of gravity for tourism.
Turkey has a nice climate, both in summer and in winter. Clean air, a bright sky, beaches and forests as well as hot springs are God given gifts to Turkey which we are willing to share.
Besides, Turkey is very rich culturally. Throughout the history, Turkey has been cradle for many civilizations. So, cultural component is also attracting people from overseas. Istanbul is an invaluable asset for us, by means of both its natural endowments and its cultural heritage.
Moreover, hospitality sector in Turkey is very advanced. In hotels, in restaurants, you can find one of the best services in the world with reasonable prices.
10-The Turkish investments are active in the field of infrastructure in Qatar and the Gulf. Are there other investments such as agriculture, technology and electronics sectors?
Construction is the leading Turkish sector in Qatar and the Gulf. I believe that there are many areas that Turkey and the Gulf countries can cooperate. Banking and finance could be analyzed. Tourism, hospitality and health sectors might have a future. Education can be a very fruitful area. Cooperation in defense industries is also important.
Besides, in line with the rise in the household incomes in China and India, food supply security has become a strategic issue especially for the food importer countries like Qatar. That is why, cooperation between Turkey and Qatar in the field of agriculture offers us great opportunities in the future.
When you take into account the potentials of both countries, Turkey and Qatar are completing each other. Now, we are working to unite the potentials of both countries to further our cooperation in the every possible field.
11-What are the expected outcomes for the agreements between Qatar and Turkey in various sectors, especially in the field of exporting liquefied gas?
Given the strategic nature of our relations and Qatar’s abilities in energy sector, I believe it is crucial to intensify cooperation on energy. We are thus keen to further strengthen our bilateral relations in this field.
As its economy growing, Turkey’s demand for energy is increasing. Turkish policy on energy relies on securing its energy demand and being a transit hub for energy. With its vast experience, Qatar is well positioned to support Turkey’s energy policies.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to extend my special thanks to the Qatari Administration for their sincere solidarity with Turkey by signing the LNG export agreement with Turkey during the critical time when we have problem with Russian Federation."