Towards a Turkish Economic Union
Every new joint initiative undertaken with the Turkic republics can lead to great and rapid success. Because there are very powerful religious and historical bonds between Turkey and the peoples of those countries. These factors form the trust, which is a prerequisite in all relations.
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Turkic republics of Central Asia all became independent Republics. Today, both Turkey and the other Turkic republics are all caught in an economic bottleneck. Although Turkey’s position cannot fully be compared with that of the other republics, that is nevertheless the general situation. Yet the Turkish Republic in particular has a great potential to quickly overcome this economically difficult period. Japan, which went through much worse times before pulling itself together and becoming a world economic leader is an obvious model. Despite suffering terrible devastation during the Second World War, Japan entered a very rapid period of regeneration. Economic leap was the main factor behind Japan achieving the position it has today.
There is no doubt that Turkey and the Turkic republics will constitute a major economic and political force when they act together as one in all spheres. With their population of some 120 million, Turkey and the Turkic republics can make far greater use of the advantages posed by their lying in a very large and productive region and by their sharing the same religious and cultural heritage.
Turkey today enjoys only slightly more than a $1 billion share of the some $30 billion trade volume of the Turkic republics as a whole. This 3.4% volume of trade is exceedingly low.
Turkey’s interest in and support for these regions increased considerable in the wake of independence, though it obviously needs to make a more concentrated effort if the desired structure is to be attained.
A Deep-Rooted Economic Initiative
An economic and cultural union including the independent Turkic republics and under Turkish leadership can offer significant advantages, in many respects, both to those countries and to Turkey. Such an initiative, under the leadership of the Turkish Republic, which is far stronger than those republics in military and technological terms, will soon take the place it deserves in the world political and economic spheres.
Today, at a time when there is a huge increase in global market competition, and when natural resources are being increasingly consumed, the Turkic republics possess markets that have never been entered, agricultural wealth, oil, natural gas and raw material resources.
Turkey should be engaged in an intensive exchange with these republics, since economic progress is linked with production , and Turkey’s preferences should lie in the direction of those regions. Turkey can further increase its ongoing support for the region in the technological and educational spheres.
Turkey can today consider similar measures for the Turkic republics to those encouraging investment in the countries of Eastern Europe by providing various cost advantages. Moreover, it can give preference to the Turkic republics. To put it another way, investments in that region should be preferred and as little money should flow out of the zone as possible. Because the foreign borrowing burden, a common problem, can only be lightened by means of production-based revenues.
In Foreign Policy Terms
Turkey must proceed with the greatest care in its relations with the Central Asian republics. Turkey’s concentrating primarily on Central Asia in commercial and political matters should not lead to its ignoring Europe, America or the Middle East. Indeed, in determining a Central Asian oriented strategy it must obviously also treat its relations with other countries as a single whole. If a global strategy can be developed as Turkey looks towards Central Asia in economic terms, this will have the effect of assisting further advances to be made with Central Asia. For example, technical help to be secured from the West in establishing economic co-operation with Central Asia can put Turkey in the position of a bridge between the West and Central Asia. For that, however, it is essential that Turkey take the initiative in Central Asia.
What Needs to Be Done
Some of the factors needing to be concentrated on if Turkey is to develop economic relations with these countries may be set out as follows:
* It can take advantage of the republics’ natural resources and act as a global intermediary for these to be sold to other countries.
* It can sell agricultural products to these countries under advantageous conditions.
* It can increase its market share in the sphere of construction and house building and construction materials.
* A joint stock exchange can be set up, not concentrating on short-term profit from foreign exchange but on Turkish company shares or real estate.
* Investors in Turkey can be encouraged to invest in the region and incentives can be provided.
* A Turkish-based consortium can assume responsibility for heavy industry and technological infrastructure.
Advisory economic institutions can be set up with these countries.
The above suggestions constitute an interesting summary of the kind of relations Turkey could establish with these countries. However, in order for economic relations and other social initiatives to proceed, Turkey must make frequent reference to our shared linguistic, religious and cultural heritage. In the same way that we enjoy the moral values of the Qur’an, with its unificatory characteristics, so we must do all we can to spread those values among our relatives in the Turkic republics. Allah has told us to act as one by abiding by the moral virtues of the Qur’an:
“Hold fast to the rope of Allah all together, and do not separate. Remember Allah’s blessing to you…” (Surah Al ‘Imran, 103)