Syr­ian busi­ness­peo­ple pro­vide a fis­cal lift to Turk­ish econ­omy

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page -

GAZİANTEP, home to more than half a mil­lion Syr­ian refugees, has seen hun­dreds of Syr­ian busi­nesses thrive, which is sure to boost the dis­placed com­mu­nity and the host coun­try. Over 3.5 mil­lion Syr­i­ans are reg­is­tered in Turkey, far more than in any other coun­try that has wel­comed refugees of the sev­enyear war. Turk­ish of­fi­cials high­light the ma­jor eco­nomic bur­den of host­ing so many refugees but the pres­ence of this new pop­u­la­tion – many well-qual­i­fied and mul­ti­lin­gual – and the suc­cess of their busi­nesses have also been a fil­lip for the Turk­ish econ­omy, con­trary to widely-held as­sump­tions.

MORE than 6,500 com­pa­nies founded or co­founded by Syr­i­ans have been reg­is­tered in Turkey since the 2011 start of the war, ac­cord­ing to the Union of Cham­bers and Com­mod­ity Ex­changes of Turkey (TOBB).

And the Syr­ian Eco­nomic Fo­rum (SEF), an or­ga­ni­za­tion which aims to de­velop en­trepreneur­ship among the Syr­ian di­as­pora, es­ti­mates the num­ber in fact to be over 10,000 when the in­for­mal and un­reg­is­tered sec­tor is in­cluded.

In Gaziantep alone, 1,250 Syr­ian com­pa­nies are reg­is­tered with the Gaziantep Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try, said Rami Shar­rack, deputy ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor at SEF.

In a large com­plex in Gaziantep’s in­dus­trial zone, Syr­ian busi­ness­man Amer Hadri, head of prom­i­nent crisp and snack pack­ag­ing com­pany Zirve Ex­tru­sion, has suc­ceeded in re­sum­ing his busi­ness, once based in the war­rav­aged city of Aleppo, just 125 kilo­me­ters (78 miles) south of the Turk­ish city.

“We have been pro­duc­ing ma­chines for man­u­fac­tur­ing and pack­ag­ing crisps for over 20 years,” Hadri told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

“Be­fore we ex­ported to the Arab world but since we set up in Turkey, we have re­al­ized our ambition to ex­port to the whole world,” he added.

All the pack­ag­ing has a “Pro­duced in Turkey” la­bel, which Hadri said was a “guar­an­tee of qual­ity” on the Eu­ro­pean mar­kets.

Like Hadri, many Syr­i­ans ar­rived in Turkey with their ex­pe­ri­ence and cus­tomer base.

While some tar­get in­creased ex­ports and ac­cess to in­ter­na­tional mar­kets, other en­trepreneurs have more lo­cal am­bi­tions.

Da­nia Ab­dul­baqi, a civil engi­neer who came to Turkey from Hama in 2013, opened a day-care cen­ter in Au­gust 2016 for chil­dren of all na­tion­al­i­ties be­tween three months and five years old af­ter not be­ing able to find one in the area.

“Moth­ers who work in this district are near their chil­dren and can come and breast­feed them dur­ing their breaks.”

For this pro­ject, Ab­dul­baqi at­tended man­age­ment train­ing cour­ses with non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions (NGOs) in Gaziantep, and her hus­band raised funds from rel­a­tives to fi­nance it.

“The mas­sive in­flux has stim­u­lated growth and at- tracted new in­vest­ment by pro­vid­ing cheap la­bor and boost­ing con­sump­tion,” the In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group said in a re­port this year.

It added that some ex­perts be­lieve the pres­ence of Syr­i­ans added about three per­cent to Turk­ish eco­nomic growth in 2016.

Fatma Şahin, mayor of Gaziantep and prom­i­nent mem­ber of the Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party (AK Party), said she wel­comed the op­por­tu­ni­ties of­fered by joint ven­tures be­tween Turk­ish and Syr­ian en­trepreneurs.

“Peo­ple from Gaziantep and Syr­i­ans have started busi­nesses to­gether be­cause the fact that they speak two lan­guages, in­clud­ing English and Ara­bic, is an im­por­tant ad­van­tage, es­pe­cially for in­ter­na­tional trade,” she told AFP.

Mustafa Türk­menoğlu, a Turk­men Syr­ian orig­i­nally from Aleppo, left Syria five years ago and cre­ated a tex­tile com­pany in Gaziantep.

“All the traders here re­ceive dol­lars from abroad,” he said. “We ben­e­fit from it but oth­ers too.”

Türk­menoğlu em­ploys 40 Syr­i­ans in his work­shop, and five in his shop.

He said Turks seek higher wages and are more de­mand­ing regarding in­sur­ance.

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