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    1 out of every 40 companies established in Turkey is now Syrian

    Güven Sak, PhD26 October 2015 - Okunma Sayısı: 2380

    The leader of the trade with Syria in 2010 was Istanbul. Turkey’s exports to Syria reached its zenith that year at USD1.9bn. One third of that figure originated from Istanbul. In 2014, Turkey’s exports to Syria still stood at USD1.8bn. But only one sixth of that figure originates from Istanbul. Exports from Istanbul to Syria dropped from one third to one sixth of Turkey’s overall exports. Istanbul is no longer the leader in exports to Syria.

    Only 1 in 20 of the Turkish exports originated from Gaziantep in 2011. Now Gaziantep accounts for one fifth of Turkey’s exports to Syria. Gaziantep took over leadership from Istanbul in Turkey’s exports to Syria from 2011 to 2014. Gaziantep’s exports to Syria increased fourfold from USD96mn to USD360mn.

    And how did that come about? Thanks to the Syrian refugees, of course. That’s what the figures compiled by TEPAV economists indicates. You can find the analysis o the issue on the TEPAV website.

    I had pointed out a while ago that we do not analyse in due detail the phenomenon of Syrian refugees and in fact the Syrian crisis as a whole. I had also cited a study by the World Bank as to how the Syrian refugees influence our labor market. Syrian refugees drove low-skill Turks and particularly women out of the labor force. Nevertheless, they contributed to a rise in the wages of the Turks in the formal labor market. There was nothing extraordinary about it. The impact of immigrants was the same here as in anywhere else. In the same article, I wrote that the share of companies with Syrian shareholders within the total number of companies established in Turkey was on the rise and that impact also needed to be considered. Let me come to that issue that I had skipped earlier. I will assess the impact of ISIS terrorism on our economy when I get the chance. Mind you, these are all developments stemming from Syria.

    Three trends can be observed in the phenomenon of migrant companies established in Turkey. First, the figures in the 2010-July 2015 period indicates that the number of companies with Syrian shareholders rises from 30 to 1005. If you calculate the share of these companies within the total number of companies established in Turkey this is how it goes: Whereas the ratio of companies with Syrian shareholders established in Turkey to the total number of new companies stood at less than 1/1000 in 2010, now one out of every 40 companies has a Syrian shareholder.

    Second, in terms of the ratio among newly established companies, 1 out of every 6 companies in Gaziantep has a Syrian shareholder. The figure goes up to 1 in 3 in Kilis. 12% of all immigrants were in Gaziantep in the first place. Therefore we should point out that immigrants contribute to the livelihood of the province’s economy. That’s what the figures suggest.

    Third, as 1 out of every 6 companies newly established in Gaziantep is Syrian, Gaziantep becomes an important centre for trade with Syria. Why is that? Exporting from one country to another is building a web of relations between one country and another. Turkey’s trade with Syria was destined for Aleppo in the first place. Now, immigrants from Aleppo, Raqqah and Idlib constitutes 40% of total Syrian immigrants. It is like our web of relations has been relocated from Syria to Turkey but they still happen to have connections with their homelands. It is those relations that revive trade once again. See the figures: Our exports to Syria first fall, then rise again. How and why? Thanks to the Syrian immigrants. What happens here is the same as what happens in other countries, so it’s nothing to be intrigued over.

    And how does this development influence the quality of our trade? The Syrian war deteriorates the quality of the Turkish-Syrian trade. Syria gradually buys more basic goods from Turkey. We sell more of raw rather than processed materials to Syria now. This is again a textbook case. But it’s a loss for all of us.

    So 1 out of every 40 companies established in Turkey is now Syrian. What would the figure be if we facilitated things for Syrian entrepreneurs, I wonder. We don’t know, because the truth is our public administration is busy with all sorts of unnecessary trivialities these days. But we know what happened in the US. According to a survey carried out in 2012, one out of every four start-up companies operating in the hi-tech industries in the US was established by immigrants. The figure is above 40% in the Silicon Valley.

    The relationship of Turkey with Syrian immigrants is like its relation with the rural-to-urban migrants. Turkey has always said that those who migrate from rural areas to cities disrupt the cities. It always considered them as a disturbance term. It said they broke the laws. It supposedly managed the rural-to-urban migration with urban development amnesties. Rather than adjusting its regulations according to real life, it sort of sought to adjust real life to its own regulations. It failed. But Turkey experienced rapid growth thanks to rural-to-urban migrants. We have come to this point by relocating millions from the country to urban centres.

    Today, once again, our government sees the Syrian immigrants as a disturbance term. It calls them “guests” without a hint of abashment. But see, Turks and Syrians pull themselves by their own bootstraps. They cock a snook at the government in doing so, too. “You just keep pretending that you’re the one making the decisions,” they say; and life goes on as usual.

    Table 1: The share of companies launched with Syrian shareholders in total

    first seven months cumulative

    *First seven months, cumulative

    Source: TOBB Database


    Table 2: The change in 2011-2014 of export volume to Syria by provinces

    turkstat foreign trade statistics

    Source: TurkStat Foreign Trade Statistics

    Figure 1: Turkey’s exports to Syria (1996-2014)
    un comtrade.520px

    Source: UN Comtrade


    This commentary was published in Dünya daily on 26.10.2015.