30 July 2012by Mehmet Ezer
Hatay, on the border between Turkey and Syria, is feeling the brunt of the unrest in the neighboring country with many local businesses on the brink of bankruptcy. Some firms are unable to pay their debts tourism is almost nonexistent
The southern province of Hatay, which borders Syria to the north, has never before seen a crisis like the one currently unfolding, Hatay Industrialists and Businessmen Association (HASİAD) President Gülay Gül has said in an interview with daily Hürriyet.
Gül said many companies in the province had reached the brink of bankruptcy because of the crisis in Syria and its impact on the local economy. Two years ago 2.5 million people passed through Hatays two border crossings for tourism, but now this number has dropped to zero, she said.
Industrialists, logistical firms, exporters, importers, tourism firms and the agriculture sector have all been impacted very seriously. Local tradesmen, merchants and businessmen have also been hurt economically. The local population is tense, said Gül. She also noted that companies that had taken out loans to grow their businesses are really suffering and that those with debts to banks were on the verge of bankruptcy.
Official support needed
The government needs to see this and take precautionary measures. Tradesmen and merchants who have been hurt need government support. Loan repayments should be deferred and the government should make sure the banks offer long-term loans at low interest rates, she said.
Gül explained that the provinces Civegözü border was the most important door to the Middle East, and that with it shut Middle Easterners are losing faith in Turkey and are instead turning to the German and Chinese markets.
Gül said they were trying to look for tourism solutions and were turning their attention to Lebanon, where they have held important meetings and negotiations. Gül said they want to start reciprocal flights to and from Lebanon, as well as ferry crossings, in order to jump start tourism in Hatay.
Antakya Chamber of Trade and Industry (ATSO) President Hikmet Çinçin also reiterated that the situation in Syria was having a negative impact on Hatay, saying that trade between the two countries was now almost non-existent.
In 2008 our exports from Hatay to Syria were $123 million, they were $186 million in 2009, $250 million in 2010, $150 million in 2011, but now they are nearly zero in 2012, he said. According to Çinçin, after Istanbul Hatay has the highest truck traffic in the country, but since May 2011 the number of truck journeys from Syria has dwindled by 41 percent, which is proof of Hatays economic turmoil.
Meanwhile, Antakya Commodities Exchange President Mehmet Ali Kuseyri has said that economic and trade ties in the 800 kilometer border zone, which includes Hatay, Adana, Mersin, Gazientep, Kilis and Mardin have suffered sharp blows. Kuseyri also said there was growing unemployment, a loss of market share, lower production and exports, and increasing transportation costs.