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Syrian Free Trade Zone in Gaziantep launched, two production lines starting soon: Businessman

Translation by Yusra Ahmed

(Zaman Al Wasl- Eqtsad)- The Turkish government offers huge area of agricultural land for investment and provides benefits and donations to investors as well.

Eqtsad, Fellow Zaman Al Wasl's newspaper,  has interviewed Tammam Baroudi Vice-President of the Syrian Economic Forum who has revealed that two Syrian production lines had arrived from Aleppo to the Free trade Zone in the city of Gaziantep.

Baroudi  expressed his anger for preventing the transfer of factories by some revolutionary groups and legal bodies in the city of Aleppo.

Some Syrian groups refuse transferring Syrian workshops to the Turkey, Baroudi said.

"We, the Syrian businessmen, are able to provide jobs to all Syrian laborers here, as well as providing job opportunities for Turkish people," he added.

 The interview:

Q- In July this year, you announced that huge production lines from Syria were about to arrive from Aleppo to the free zone in Gaziantep, And now we are at the end of the year, what have you achieved in this regard?

Two days ago, two production lines arrived in the free zone in Gaziantep, first Line is Plastic Industries, and the second is food production, we are now in the process to start production.

Q- Why have the production lines of Syria delayed in arriving to the Syrian Free Zone in Gaziantep? Is it the practical start of work and production?

The idea started in the last month of the year 2013, but the actual arrival of the first production line took place in the middle of this month, it is almost two years, we faced significant obstacles, most important was the lack of facilities provided by the Turkish government, resistance by Turkish businessmen and Syrian businessmen fear from this experience and did not want to be the spearhead. However most importantly, were troubles and obstacles businessmen faced by some Syrian groups in transfering factories to Turkish territory. In regard to second part of your question, yes, it is the actual beginning of work of the free zone.

Q- Which groups you are talking about?

I am talking about the groups which have influence on the ground, and also the Sharea bodies in Aleppo, which they banned moving factories out of liberated areas, in this act they violate the Islamic laws which give an adult full authority to control his or her property, note that they rule in the name of Islam, or so they claim.

Let me explain it more, today we are talking about huge factories and their owners may not be able to afford to pay the transfer cost of these factories to Turkey, Because of the prevailing circumstances, and These factories are exposed to bombing, rust and other things. So why not allowing them to transfer their production lines to Turkey, in this we will benefit them and also the Syrian refugees in Turkey.

In the Forum, we studied the free zone, and we fund that the area able to accommodate 40 thousand Syria worker, and certainly this figure is not small.

Q- Reason to prevent transferring factories could be the need to keep the production requirements for the next phase of the new Syria, which is a good reason according to some people?

People who claim this, do not have enough understanding about production bases, technological development is in continuous change, in other word, these lines have limited life and the specifications of these lines is renewed constantly, Therefore, if we waited longer these lines may become out of order and not able to function ., Thus, I say, if the industrialist was able to work, we certainly will help him to building new Syria, because he will be able to re-establish his factory in the country with the latest production lines in a timely manner.

Q- As a forum, you are the body which guarantee the ownership and the legitimacy of these lines to the Turkish government, therefore, any industrialist will not be able to move his factory without coordinating with you in the forum, the question is: what is the number of industrialists who communicated with you?

I can not disclose the real numbers, but the numbers are good, and now we are trying to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of the transfer of these factories.

Q- Economists believe that the Turkish government would in the next year provide more facilities to Syrian investors, which comes as an initial step to resolve the problems of Syrian refugees, do you agree with this?

This is what must happen, and this is what we asked of Turkish officials in late 2013. We told them then: "Syrian refugee owns nothing, therefore he will accept low wage offered by the Turkish industrialist, he thus will take jobs opportunity from the Turkish job seekers.

We also told them that it they offered us facilities the Syrian businessmen would be able to to provide jobs for Syrian laborers, and we might provide job opportunities for Turkish citizens as well.

We are talking today about the city of Gaziantep only, this city is home to more than 500 thousand Syrian refugees, we can join them to the field of work and production, and provide them with an income that Keep them away from begging.

Q- For example, we did not notice any establishment of Syrian joint-stock companies here in Turkey, which it may be able to accommodate small Syrian capitals?

*This is what we are looking for. This is the role of businessmen, and allow me to appeal to businessmen through your platform, to tell them from here that the role assigned to them is a great role, history will judge them, all of them benefited from Syria, many of them have become rich, we don’t envy them, but there is a role they must do whether they like it or not.

We must establish joint-stock companies, to save the small capitals and to provide job opportunities for Syrians.

I would like to point out to investment in the field of agricultural here, the Turkish government today offers a huge area of agricultural land for investment, and provides benefits and donations to investors, and today we are in the Forum in the process of communicating with the Ministry of Agriculture of Turkey for establishing Syrian-Turkish joint-stock holding companies to invest in the agricultural field and we are famous in agriculture and it was our main business previously.

I’m telling you from here that when the project succeed we would not see any refugee staying in camps as Syrian people do not like stay dependent on others.

Q- Is It possible that a link is missed among Syrian businessmen, therefore, the responsibility lies on you and other institutions who are interested in the economy?

Our responsibility compels us to communicate with owners of large capital in the Gulf or in other countries which do not host refugees or to the industrials who are still hesitant, We must activate the Syrian businessmen Union, we have failed militarily and politically, we must not fail economically.

It is hard to know that Syrian businessmen are either fearful or cautious until now and in both cases it is not justified. Who owns huge capital must offer something, we are not asking for help, just we say to them, come to work, and help the Syrians only with small amount of the money deposited in banks.

Q- in regard to Syrian capitals in banks, why we have not seen establishment of huge investing blocs of Syrian opposition which it may be able to support the revolution, as you know that the whole world today welcomes giant investment?

It is true, countries welcomes giant investments while individual investors are not considered, for example, Saudi businessmen are very much welcome to invest in Turkey together. For your question, I think it is "cowardice” which control most of them.

Q- Could the cause of cowardice because they fear of losing the rest of their investments and their money in the regime’s areas, and everyone knows it’s impossible to invest in Syria without the partnership with the regime?

I'm not looking for those, and your question is right, but not all businessmen accept the partnership with the regime, I know industrialists refused to work with the regime and they succeeded, they may not be as rich as the corrupt businessmen but they are wealthy.

We are Talking about the nobility of Syrian traders, did you know that Aleppo Chamber of Commerce was the second in the Middle East followed to the Chamber of Commerce "Istanbul", Certainly, the regime did not make this noble descent, the Syrian trader, is one of the oldest and cleanest traders, but they have to look beyond the state of fear that control their brain.

Blocs and investing groups is coming, who would like to join us is welcome, and he or she would be one of the people who have a role in the present time and the future, later Syria will not allow the investors who are satisfied with their bank funding.

Q-Do we understand from last talk that the rule will be applied in the future Syria ? Future Syria will be in disparate need for smaller capital, what do you think about the huge capitals?

This is logic, their coming investments would be on the cost of Syrian lives, many of them withdrew their money and run away, it is in the end their right, but in future they have to participate in financial and industrial blocs, can imagine that some of them have invested in Malaysia.

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