TuSIAD: Aanced democracy a must to build developed economy

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- At a meeting organized by the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (TuSIAD), which was recently accused of treason by the government, head Muharrem YIlmaz has underlined the importance of democracy and the rule of law for sustained economic growth.

“If Turkey wants to reach the [economic] level of developed countries — that is, if it wishes to become a more prosperous, peaceful and happy society — it also needs to have an aanced democracy,” YIlmaz said at the association’s high aisory board meeting on Thursday.

At the meeting held in the capital with the participation of President Abdullah Gul and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal KIlIçdaroIlu, the TuSIAD head focused on democracy while complaining about the political polarization which he said drained Turkey’s energy. If the polarization in politics continues, then Turkey will have no strength left to improve its democracy, YIlmaz warned.

Noting that Turkey needs to instead channel its energy into economic development and strengthening its democracy, YIlmaz drew attention to the importance of democracy for economic development, saying, “The 25 most developed countries in the world are the most developed democracies.”

In an effort to make everyone — but seemingly in particular Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan, who does not hesitate to use a dismissive, insulting discourse towards those who oppose the government’s policies — understand that all are in the same boat, the TuSIAD head said: “Are we all not working to create a Turkey in which individuals can live freely? Can we reach this target with reduced democracy, an economy which does not produce sufficient added value and a polarized society?”

In January, Prime Minister ErdoIan accused TuSIAD of treason following the group’s issuance of a strong warning to the government in which it said foreign investment would not come to a country in which there is no respect for the rule of law in response to the government’s moves to subordinate a graft investigation in December in which some Cabinet ministers are also involved.

In response, YIlmaz said at the time that Turkey was giving the impression of being a country where the rule of law cannot overcome corruption claims, dealing a blow to investor confidence.

Responding to criticisms by the government over the association’s comments on political issues in his speech at the TuSIAD meeting, YIlmaz dismissed the charges as being groundless.

“Time after time, those who criticize us say the association talks about politics too much. Politics and the economy are two different parts of the same reality. We don’t talk politics for politics, but for democracy and law,” the TuSIAD head said.
YIlmaz maintained that Turkey’s economic slowdown in recent years also has to do with the slowdown in democratic reforms. Noting that Turkey’s growth rate is expected to fall from 5 percent to 2.4 percent this year, he said, “Slow democratization is reflected in low economic growth.”

The TuSIAD head, who also underlined the importance of the separation of powers, accountability of the government, transparency and the autonomy of state agencies for a healthy democracy, urged the government to introduce reforms to give the country’s economy a fresh boost.

Gul: Do not be demoralized, focus on business

At TuSIAD’s first high aisory board meeting this year, President Gul, who was the guest of honor, sent the message that the business community should focus on business and not become disheartened by the political tension in the country.

“We need to look ahead. We should not become panicked because the presidential election will be held [in four months],” Gul said.

Though he did not directly target the government in his speech, Gul’s remarks contained obvious criticism of the government’s authoritarian attitude which it adopted following the graft investigation of last December.

Underlining that the rule of law is the topmost issue, Gul said: “To become a high-income country, [you need] high democratic standards, transparency in the implementation of laws and the assurance the rule of law [provides]. [] Equality before the law is the biggest test before Turkey on its way to becoming a high-income country.”

Underlining the fact that the private sector is the engine of economic growth in Turkey, Gul, who is also from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), urged business people to appreciate today’s economic success. The president said: “[] You lived through past periods of high interest rates. That’s why you are being sensitive on some issues. Turkey, which has drawn lessons from many crises in the past, has been progressing on its path.”

Trying to inject optimism into business people who may be feeling choked by the political tension, Gul pointed out that the success of business people is considered the success of the country. In remarks seemingly directed at the government, the president added: “[] I believe everyone is aware of [the importance of] what I said. What is important is that [political] discussions should not be offensive. Everyone will give his opinion. What is being said is surely being paid heed to.”

The opening speech was delivered by Erkut YucaoIlu, head of the TuSIAD High Aisory Board. YucaoIlu focused his speech on various topics such as Turkey’s isolation in foreign policy on the Syrian crisis, the negative impact of the government’s attempt to close down YouTube and Twitter in the world and the incompatibility of the government’s effort to put pressure on the media with democracy. YucaoIlu also stressed that Turkey needs to build an independent judiciary that is not subordinated to the government.

On his way out of the meeting, CHP leader KIlIçdaroIlu also responded to the questions of reporters. When asked about Prime Minister ErdoIan’s comment that he would use all the powers accorded to the president in the Constitution should he run for and become president, the CHP leader said: “We do not need a new Kenan Evren.”

Evren is a former chief of Staff who carried out a coup in 1980 and became head of the state after the then-newly prepared constitution was ratified in a referendum by popular vote.

(CihanToday’s Zaman)