Listen to Anatolia

I’ve attended a total of 60 meetings with the sector representatives and listened to the problems faced by 19 Organized Industrial Zones for the past two years. I’ve been every corner of Turkey, except a few cities.

In my visits, I’m trying to put my finger on the pulse of industry and trade professionals while chatting with employees to have a further insight about their problems. Interestingly, wherever I go, it sounds like industry and trade professionals are really concerned about the unemployment rate. A majority of this group who used say, “Unemployment isn’t our problem” in the past now seem like they’ve changed their minds. People on the street, on the other hand, seem more concerned about the high cost of living. The fact that the government has decreased social welfare benefits seems to appear as one of the causes of increasing complaints about inflation for the past two years. As I’ve explained last week, the public finance is having difficulty generating cash. 

On the other hand, business people I met in Anatolian cities told me about a drastically high rate of informal employment, especially in agricultural industry. They’re saying that workers who harvest crops in Anatolia mostly consist of Syrians or other refugees. Some say, “The way things are going, we won’t be able to find anyone willing to work in our fields or gardens” They have to invest in agricultural technology, but they may have to think twice before they do that. 

“Does the government tolerate informal economic activities?”

People who incur large amounts of informal expenses also generate large amounts of informal revenue, which bothers employers who have formally registered workers; because they are the one who are subject to tax audits. As the government avoids or neglects taking concrete actions to reduce informal economy, government spending is being financed through taxation of the formal sector.  

The same thing goes for companies that hire some of their employees informally. Such companies tend to use an intermediary agent or a firm as they know they have to issue a sales invoice whenever they sell products to patisseries, restaurants or hotels directly, which causes an inevitable rise in the price of agricultural goods. The more middlemen there are, the higher the prices go. Seeing all these problems, the children of the industrialists do not want to become industrialists themselves. The modern day youth is more sensitive to injustice than their predecessors.

This was a brief summary of issues and problems I usually hear when I talk to people in organized industrial sites, in farmers’ markets, on the street. Sometimes, little things can cause big problems. Informal economy is not a small problem, but on a local scale, it is considered a “tolerated activity”.