Turkish Government Offers Syrian Businessmen A ‘Free Industrial Zone’ Inside Turkey

The Turkish government has offered Syrian businessmen to move their factories in Syria to a ‘free industrial zone’ inside Turkey, Syrian Economic Forum Chairman Ayman Tabbaa said yesterday.

Tabbaa revealed the latest development at the Doha Forum where he addressed a session on ‘Entrepreneurship Ecosystems in the Arab World.’

According to the Syrian businessman who is based in Turkey, more than 50% Syrians today were unemployed and the situation was expected to get a lot worse in the coming days.

There are an estimated seven million Syrians displaced in neighbouring countries, including Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Businessmen such as Tabbaa, who have formed the SEF in Turkey, came up with the idea to employ these refugees by shifting their factories to the countries where they have taken refuge.

“The Turkish government has agreed to give us a piece of land to establish a free industrial zone on their territory and now we are at an advance stage to implement this plan. In fact, it is not just a piece of land, but a proper developed infrastructure with facilities. The idea is to move our factories and machineries here and give employment opportunities to the Syrian refugees there,” he said.

Tabaa said that he was talking about moving factories that are in the rebel held areas in Syria. “We have already held talks with the Free Syrian Army representatives, who agreed to dismantle the machineries and factory on their own in exchange for a small fee and move them to Turkey in this industrial zone. The Syrian regime [led by Bashar Assad] of course wants to create bottlenecks, which is why they bomb by air the already shut factories inside. But we want to do this to give employment opportunities to the Syrian refugees instead of making them dependent on just foreign aid and handouts,” he said.

He added that they were in talks for a similar plan in Jordan as well, where authorities have told that they would first wait and see how their plans work out in Turkey. The businessman hoped that around 100,000 jobs would be created for Syrians in Turkey because of this step.

Tuba Ozlem Terekli, Co-founder and CEO Qotuf Al Riyadah Co, said that the notion that all women in Saudi Arabia were suppressed and lacked opportunities was not true. The Saudi lady of Turkish origin presented herself as an example of a successful entrepreneur from Saudi Arabia. About the challenges for women entrepreneurs in Saudi she said, “Like women elsewhere, we too at times face a glass ceiling. Guys suffer a lot more than we do, I think. The number one challenge women entrepreneurs’ face is a lack of support from other women entrepreneurs. Women don’t hire other women as much as they should.”

She said that despite the fact that Saudi Arabia was an oil rich country, an estimated 60% of Saudi families live on less than $1,000 per month, where ‘decent living’ for a  small family around $2,000 is needed.

She said that the perception of the Saudi government regarding entrepreneurs was that it was already doing all it could to facilitate them. But she pointed out that the basic approach was wrong. “Just throwing money at a problem and thinking it would get solved will not solve the issue. The problem is that the funds meant for the entrepreneurs are given in the hands of a government employee, who then decides on his whim, who will get the funding and who will not.”

Moreover, risk taking entrepreneurs also face the threat of going to jail. “I know somebody who was sent to jail for being late on a payment due for only 120$,” she said.

She also said that GCC government policies to offer ‘free government jobs’ to citizens inevitably hurts the entrepreneurship spirit. “The main wish of a Saudi mother is that she wants her son to be a minister instead of him setting up a multi billion dollar company,” she said.

Terekli also dispelled the ‘GCC syndrome’ about lazy youth of the Middle East and said that on the contrary youth in Saudi were highly competitive and worked very hard.

She also pointed out that around 50% of the Saudi society had been divorced at least once, so there was a big pool of single mothers, who could be turned into entrepreneurs.

Sami Atallah, Director, Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, said that the greatest challenge in the Middle East today was job creation. He said that the countries need to understand what their economy produces first before they try to create jobs. Source: Gulf Times