“The achievement of this growth, the continuation of development that spreads down to the grass roots, and sustainable economic development depend on the existence of competitive economic bodies and stable policies. This will only be possible by securing these foundations of development together with political and social reforms and by increasing democratic standards.”
40 Quick Years and the Future
While economic and political changes in the World and our region continue apace, Turkey is pursuing such objectives as an increase in its competitive power and an elevation in its place in the human development index with the aim of joining the ranks of the world’s 10 largest economies in the centenary year of the founding of the Republic of Turkey, 2023. We observe that TÜSİAD has followed the reforms it has placed on Turkey’s agenda over the past 40 years along three dimensions.
From the very first efforts of its founders, TÜSİAD has for many years been committed to the private sector as the engine for economic growth and development, to free enterprise as the most powerful creator of employment and value-added in Turkey, and to the country’s rapid integration into the World economy with liberal economic policies. During the transformative period of the 1980s, and with the help of these efforts, the government changed the economic order in which Turkey had previously maintained an inward-looking, protected economy based on import substitution where even the most trivial approvals and permits had to be obtained from Ankara.
Subsequent TÜSİAD administrations collaborated with government on the transition to a market economy, exchange rate and export implementations, macro-economic policies and correct balanced budget and public borrowing policies. TÜSİAD continuously came up with solutions to every problematic issues, from public finances and the taxation scheme to the establishment and operation of independent supervisory and regulatory bodies, central bank policies, energy policy, and rules on governance and ethics.
When it comes to the past couple of years, as you can observe from the Presidents’ speeches at High Advisory Council meetings, TÜSİAD’s principal agenda has been taken up with the need to focus on productivity-based micro-economic reforms, increasing Turkey’s competitiveness in global markets in order to take the next leap forwerd, and overcoming structural problems such as the chronic foreign trade deficit and low employment participation rates.
Social and Socio-economic Reforms
Since the 1990s, TÜSİAD has also worked on the social development of our people and country that have restricted economic development and on which Turkey has consistently lagged in develpment indices. The modernization of our education system has been adopted as a leading priority. TÜSİAD was the most effective civil society organization in extending Turkey’s period of compulsory education from 5 to 8 years.
TÜSİAD has conducted comprehensive analyses on numerous issues as the restructuring of social security institutions, gender equaity, Turkey’s future demographic structure, issues related to employment, innovation and R&D proposals, health sector provisions, and income distribution, bringing them to the attention of the public. First and foremost, addressing social issues is a condition of raising our people’s standard of living and, indirectly, of reording our economic structure.
As a society, in the second half of the 1990s we recognized that the EU membership process is as much a requirment for Turkey’s embracing a democratic structure along Western norms as it is for our ability to accomplish economic and social development. There is no question that a functioning market economy and sustainable development can only be achieved in countries that have reached a reasonable threshold in terms of democracy. In this spirit, TÜSİAD formally brought the priority of political reforms to the agenda with its 1997 “Democratization Perspectives in Turkey” and 1999 “Raising Democratic Standards in Turkey: Discussions and Latest Developments” reports that provided society and the administration with significant background and information. All these reforms were encapsulated in the “Copenhagen Political Criteria” upon which the commencement of Turkey’s EU negotiations was conditional.
TÜSİAD was instrumental in presenting essential reforms such as changing the electoral system, reducing the electoral threshold, establishing a fair distribution of Members of Parliament between the provinces, narrowing electoral constituencies, renewing the law on political parties, and restricting parliamentary immunity in line with EU norms.
Although from the year 2000 to the present governments have made changes to laws on various issues, we have an environment in which inadequacies on such fundamental democratic concepts as freedom of expression, fair trial procedures and the seperation of Powers persist. Fort his reason, TÜSİAD initiated a debate on an individual-focused civil constitution based on fundamental universally-accepted principles.
The Outlook to 2023
All authorities accept that Turkey’s economy will achieve at least 100% growth by 2023. The achievement of this growth, the continuation of development that spreads down to the grass roots, and sustainable economic development depend on the existence pof competitive economic bodies and stable policies. It will be possible to secure these foundations of development together with political and social reforms and the raising of democratic standards.
Along the lines of this growth, TÜSİAD shall continue tos hare the risks and opportunities with governments and the public.
Chairman of TÜSİAD High Advisory Council