“Everybody is asking: How did Turkey bring about this success in the midst of the financial crisis?” said Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan as he touted Turkey’s strong construction sector and growing exports as the reasons why Turkey has weathered the global recession. The minister suggested that the increasingly global scope of Turkish firms has made them a key solution to the global slowdown, stating, “We’re of the understanding that a global crisis requires global cooperation.”
Attempting to speak over the din of the bustling convention center, Çağlayan and other speakers made ample mention of Turkey’s status as an ancient crossroads, a trade conduit between East and West since pre-modern times. But the discussion among business people on Thursday seemed to characterize Turkey less as a transit point than as a new and competitive source for expertise and goods, especially for developing nations’ fledgling construction industries. By the conclusion of the minister’s opening remarks, TUSKON already seemed to be translating Turkish momentum into deeper ties with those developing markets, with 19 contracts penned on Thursday morning between Turkish and Ukrainian construction firms to the tune of $800 million, while another construction project in Nigeria won two Turkish and Gambian partners $150 million in contracts.
“I’ve never seen an occasion that makes use of partnership between the public and private sectors. This event will become an example to the world.”
Developing economies seek Turkish skill
The TUSKON meet saw a wave of visitors from Africa, South East Asia and Central Asia looking for potential partnerships with Turkish construction firms, which have spearheaded development across the Middle East and Central Asia over the past decade.
Herbert Bautista, mayor of Quezon City in the Philippines, said that interest in strengthening ties with Turkey and other Middle Eastern partners has grown in the wake of Europe’s slowdown, telling Today’s Zaman, “We would like to create direct investments, we want to strengthen imports, and we’re trying to find out here what business we can do with Turkey.”
Arnel Paciano Casanova, president and chief executive officer of the Philippines’ state-private partnership and real estate giant Bases Conversion and Development Authority, meanwhile said that Turkey could use its experience in building in the Middle East to compete against Chinese and Indonesian firms for a leading position in South East Asia’s construction industry. “Presently, there are three breakout economies defying the global downturn -- Indonesia, Turkey and the Philippines. Turkish firms haven’t established the proper contacts in South East Asia yet, and there are a lot of possibilities they’re not taking advantage of,” said Casanova, who sported a red tie peppered with white Turkish stars and crescents. “Turkey has a place in these markets especially as its traditional trading partner, Europe, slows down.” “The Philippine government is also here looking for a Turkish firm that could help us create 375,000 housing units in Quezon City. They’re going to be affordable housing units and we see a lot of Turkish firms with good experience in this area,” said Abdulgani Macatoman, vice president of the Turkish Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines to Today’s Zaman.
Meanwhile in Africa, where a continent-wide 5 percent growth rate has led to a rush to develop stable infrastructure, new construction firms are eager to adopt the model of Turkish construction firms. Ahmat Youssouf, president of the Chad-based construction firm Sanimex S. A., told Today’s Zaman that “within the last two years our company has worked to expand beyond a company which exports gum Arabic to companies like Coca-Cola and cosmetic firms, to one which is at the forefront of Chad’s construction sector.”
That project has been hampered by a lack of know-how and technology, says Youssouf. “We need to adopt the technology, currently everything is done by hand. We build a five-story building, and things are transported to the upper floors by hand-powered winches. We’re talking to companies who export construction equipment, prefabricated concrete producers. We need to get better prices on technology, electrical cables, everything. We’re planning to get most of this from Turkey.”
The meet also saw its share of businesses from central Asia, and Narbek Abdullaev of Kazakhstan-based Mega-Stroy Construction Company predicted that the construction companies in Central Asia would be keen in coming years to contract Turkish construction skills in urban renewal projects. “We’re looking towards Turkish construction firms because their customers say they can do quality work and they’re on schedule. They’ve also got experience building high rises,” Abdullaev said to Today’s Zaman. Abdullaev said that his company had signed a $4 million partnership deal on Thursday with a Turkish firm to develop a three-building, 400 apartment high-rise complex in the Kazak capital of Astana.
“We need partners as we put up these large high-rises. We don’t have many firms in central Asia or Russia doing this kind of construction, and the only large developments we have are left over from the Soviet era. They need to be replaced,” he said. “Turkey’s going to have a big market in central Asia, and probably central Europe, as these Soviet housing projects are replaced.”