Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have lately become the most significant clients of Turkish banks.

Although television channels are being flooded with SME-attracting commercials, this has yet to be observed in the southeastern region of Turkey. Practicing a sort of discrimination, banks do not accept real estate offered by businessmen as collateral against loans in southeastern Anatolian cities like Diyarbakır, Mardin, Siirt and Van. The banks are asking businessmen of the Southeast to show additional collateral outside their cities.

The same request is also being made of the agriculture sector. Financial enterprises that do not regard farmers’ productive fields as collateral occasionally request to be shown property from İstanbul and Ankara. This attitude from banks perplexes people, causing them to ask: “Is this not a kind of insult? We live on this land. Are we to move somewhere else to get loans?”

“Banks are not keen on business here,” says Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON) member and Mardin Businessmen’s Committee Chairman Faruk Yücesan, giving an example of banks asking for the signatures of all 14 shareholders as collateral for a loan of YTL 40,000 to a company in Gazbeton that was founded with a $12 million investment. On the other hand, Diyarbakır Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Mehmet Kaya asserts: “Banks showing SME commercials on TV are discriminating against the region. They do not provide loans without collateral; they do not accept farmers’ fields as collateral either. It is sort of an unfair treatment of the farmer living off what he produces there.” Nedim Kuzu, the chairman of the Siirt Chamber of Commerce and Industry, attributes it to the inexperience of banks, remarking, “A banking regulator placed here as a manager for the first time may not support businessmen enough when it comes to loans since he wants to avoid taking a risk himself.” Zahir Kandaşoğlu, chairman of the Van Chamber of Commerce and Industry, remarks: “Banks come here not to assist businessmen, but to collect deposits. They try to distribute more and more credit cards and refuse the calls coming from industry.” Nezir Haliloglu, a member of the board for Siirt Business Life Cooperation Association, points out that firms cannot grow and revive themselves as a result of banks’ attitudes.

Businessmen in the district, from Siirt to Mardin to Diyarbakır, are tired of working, as they can neither make use of promotions nor overcome financing problems. There were even people thinking of leaving the region completely, particularly before July 22. Mesut Tokgöz, owner of Aytok Sugar in Siirt, and a number of his colleagues were determined to relocate to Western cities. However the re-establishment of the government after July 22 and Abdullah Gül’s first domestic trip to the region allowed them to hope again. Tokgöz and his friends gave an ultimatum to Ramazan Kızılkan, the head of the Siirt Businessmen’s Association (SİAD), of which they are members, saying, “Either find a remedy or we will leave.” Having obtained licenses for three marble quarries in the territory, Tokgöz is unable to find adequate financial support.

Businessmen in the area also receive little support from the Small and Medium Industry Development Organization (KOSGEB), as experienced by Kızılkan. Owner of Teknik Yapı, Kızılkan produces wheelbarrows and wire netting. He applied for benefits from KOSGEB’s staff support service, but received no reply for a long time. He even mentioned problems at a gathering that was attended by former Industry and Trade Minister Ali Coşkun. While Coşkun was praising KOSGEB, Kızılkan stood up to express objections with evidence in hand in the form of dossiers. The minister then gave instructions and KOSGEB opened a bureau in Siirt. One of the first to get support from the bureau, Kızılkan wants to employ an engineer in his factory. However KOSGEB has not provided adequate support for him to afford to pay the engineer’s wages and, as a consequence, KOSGEB still owes him pay for eight months. Tired of the constant hurdles set in his path, the businessman took down the KOSGEB flag that once flew in front of his factory.

He recently voiced his opinions at an assembly where businessmen were asked to “take a risk and put their hands under the stone,” in other words, to take on more responsibility, asserting, “Let alone our hands, we even put our stomachs under the stone because Siirt’s SMEs cannot benefit from KOSGEB’s advertising and catalogue support the way other provinces do.”

***

Marble in Spanish royal palace from Diyarbakır
Marble leads the way among sectors in Diyarbakır that have recently become prominent. Owned by Gaziantep Organized Industrial Zone Manager Beşir Yılmaz, Beden Marble is one such company. The firm sent the Royal Palace in Madrid 6,000 square meters of marble in 50 separate containers. It exports to Greece, Croatia and Spain and the firm’s marble quarries have a reserve of 35,000 cubic meters. Production is done on request: 60 percent of all blocks are exported while 40 percent goes to the domestic market. Meanwhile 40 percent of their processed marble is exported while 60 percent is sold in the domestic market. The annual production capacity of the factory is 507,000 square meters with 110 people working at the factory. When quarries are taken into consideration the total number of people employed by the firm jumps to 170. The quarries are located in districts like Lice, Kulp and Çermik. Production from a single marble quarry is unusual because it is difficult to secure a lasting place in the market with one type of marble. However there are lots of quarries in Diyarbakır which possess licenses but are not processing for two reasons -- terrorism and a lack of enthusiasm on the part of villagers in the area. It is hard to find both security and workers because of terrorism, while villagers using land that actually belongs to the state do not want quarries opened.


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Silver box is ready for Abdullah Gül

Having presented a silver moon and star to Abdullah Gül when he visited Mardin before July 22, filigree craftsman Suphi Hindiyerli is planning to send him a box this time. Owner of Yerlisan Silversmiths, Hindiyerli, a craftsman for over half a century, wants to hand the president the box himself. A Syrian-trained Muslim craftsmen, Hindiyerli’s door is open to anybody wishing to improve themselves in the field. The first female filigree expert in Turkey trained under him, but has since moved away from the shop since he is not adequately supported and his business is not overly successful. His relatives live in the United States but he settled in Mardin because he loves it here. He had received support from the Culture and Tourism Ministry for a while and was declared a state artist. He wants his filigree work to make it to the European market, but has limited means. For five years he did not even have the money to publish a catalogue.

***

GAP projects more than just pipe dreams

The functioning of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) has affected various sectors in Şanlıurfa. Firms that used to produce irrigation pipes, such as Ufuk Pipe and Industry Trading Inc. founded by Mahmut Öksüzoğlu in 1960, had to change their operations. As the firm’s trade manager, Fatih Öksüzoğlu, states, water drawn from wells by villagers was brought to fields with the steel pipes they produced before GAP started. However when GAP blocked business in this area, the firm started production in a novel area and now 80 percent of the firm depends on exportation. As much as $23 million in contracts were signed and will be valid by the end of the year and exportation is expected to reach $25 million in total. Greece, Croatia and Lebanon are among the countries the firm exports to. The firm’s 140 employees produce steel spiral pipes that range in thickness from four millimeters to 25 millimeters and have diameters up to three meters. These pipes are usually utilized for watering, substructure, petroleum and isolation lines.


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Mardin
Area: 8,891 square kilometers Population: 705,098 Industry: Beans, flour Agriculture: Wheat, barley, red lentils, cottonseed, watermelons, melons, tomatoes, grapes, cotton, eggplants Mining: phosphate, brick-tile raw materials

Habur border gate important for Mardin’s economy

The Habur border gate is significant for Mardin, which is close to the borders with Syria and Iraq, because trucking was an important source of revenue for the province. Today those engaged in this business are few in number in this province which once hosted 50,000 trucks. Sixty percent of those engaged in transportation in Mersin are from Mardin. A transit passage to Syria does not exist, meaning if something is done using the Nusaybin border gate it can serve as an alternative to Habur. “Any embargo directed at the Habur border gate affects Mardin’s people. The more active the Habur border gate is, the more developed the region’s economy is,” says Mehmet Ali Babaoğlu, a leading businessman in Mardin. Also pointing out deficiencies in subsystems in the province, Babaoğlu states that there is no electricity to use for a firm coming to Kızıltepe for investment. Occasionally the water is cut for 15 days since municipalities are usually incapable of providing sufficient infrastructure. Working at 20 percent capacity, there are about 80 firms are in Mardin’s Organized Industrial Zone. Employees in factories are too few in number. Additionally, the way between Şanlıurfa and Mardin should definitely be completed. A worker culture has not been formed in the province where people are lazy in this respect some of whom bring their identity cards after six months they are asked to even if it is for insurance. In addition there are problems with regards to education -- schools are overcrowded and five grades learn together in 100-student classes. The youth, Turkey’s most important asset, are not educated and the concept of “father state” vanishes as the region’s people lose faith in the state. The state should change its “these are the left wing” kinds of perspectives toward the medicine sector and chemists in particular.

***

Diyarbakır
Area: 15,355 square kilometers Population: 1,362,708 Industry: marble, textiles, food Agriculture: cotton, wheat, barley Mining: marble

Marble is an increasing value in Diyarbakır

There is a new outstanding sector in Diyarbakır, where about 60 percent of public is engaged in agriculture -- the marble business. Developing in Diyarbakır since 2000, 50 quarries and 15 factories are now in service. Forty percent of the marble from quarries is processed before being sold while 60 percent is sold in blocks. However financing problems should be overcome so as to let this sector improve even more. Marble excavated in the region is exported to 40 countries, bring in $150 million. A businessman can purchase a marble quarry and license from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. Though licenses include information about features of quarry and how much marble will be mined, banks do not accept them.

Although no foreign investment been seen so far in the area, there is considerable interest in advertising gatherings abroad, since the foreigners perceive Diyarbakır as a center open to both the Middle East and Central Asia. They think it will be an alternative to China given its low-cost labor. Transportation in Diyarbakır is no trouble since 10 airplanes take off daily, providing people with the opportunity to come in the morning and return in the evening. The organized zone for animal husbandry will be located on approximately 2 million square meters, when completed. Diyarbakır Chamber of Commerce and Industry Manager Mehmet Kaya informs us that 300 new SMEs are present in the province and one industrial zone is planned along with three small industrial parks. Currently there are 90 factories and 140 new factories were in project phase, 70 percent of the larger industrial zone is full. The only province in Turkey lacking an express highway, Diyarbakır needs help. The toll road starting in Adana and reaching Urfa should be lengthened to Diyarbakır.

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