Turkey’s economy and 2016 government action plan

The Turkish motor industry is in good shape... as UKTI prepares a market visit in February 2016

The strengths of Turkish business lie in areas such as civil engineering, manufacturing and construction. Italian engineering company Exergy’s has taken the lead and invested in a turbine production plant in Izmir to become the number-one supplier of geothermal power generation equipment in the country.

Exergy founder and CEO
 Claudio Spadacini said that Turkey would continue to be a primary market for his company. “Our focus is on the Turkish market but exporting to other countries from Turkey can be considered in the future,” he noted.

The Turkish motor industry in good shape. A January 2016 report on the Turkish Economy Outlook by the Ministry of Economy celebrated that automotive plants had rolled out 1,360,000 vehicles in 2015, according to the Automotive Manufacturers Association of Turkey. With 992,000 vehicles produced in Turkey going to export markets, the country broke records in both production (up by 16 per cent year on year) and exports (up by 12 per cent).  

The chairman of the Automotive Manufacturers Association of Turkey, Kudret Onen, forecast even higher figures for 2016. The association’s data ranked Turkey 1st in commercial vehicle production and 7th as automotive producer in Europe, and 16th in the world. Turkey is home to Ford, Fiat, Hyundai, Renault, Toyota, and Honda among other automotive companies.

In December, Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu unveiled a 2016 action plan with new measures ranging from reducing costs in organized industrial zones to easing licensing procedures for investors. 
“Obtaining energy permits and licenses will be made easier, while company establishment procedures will be more streamlined,” he said. “A new patent law will be introduced in accordance with the reform package pertaining to science, technology and innovation.” Land costs in organized industrial zones will also be reduced. 
The plan also gave new powers to regional development agencies.


Commercial ties between Turkey and the UK

As UKTI south east prepares a market visit at the end of February,  there is a strong relationship between Britain and Turkey; bi-lateral trade, currently at around $12-13 billion, is growing. While some 65% are exports from Turkey to the UK, a promising shift came in 2014 when Ülker bought United Biscuits.

The British Chamber of Commerce in Turkey (BCCT) has more than 400 members, including big British investors in the country, such as Unilever, BP, Vodafone, Shell, and HSBC. Their presence on the Board shows that the Chamber has “serious experience and knowledge” available for UK companies, says Chris Gaunt, the chairman.

The Chamber works very closely with UKTI in Turkey, and has links with 14 of the biggest Turkish chambers, helping to create a wider network for British businesses to explore beyond Istanbul. It sometimes seems to me that Britain, once the great global traders, really has lost its trading mojo, but the upcoming UKTI mission to Turkey offers a chance to rediscover it.


Never mind the traffic ... the motor industry in Turkey is thriving

Scrumming down for Guinness in Istanbul

There are many fine sights to see in Istanbul, from the Blue Mosque and Haghia Sofia in Sultanahmet, to Eyüp and Fener along the Haliç (Golden Horn), and Kadiköy and Fehnerbahçe on the Asian side. Visitors to Istanbul will have their own favourites. It’s hard to choose.

But when the Six Nations Rugby kicks off there’s only one place to be in Istanbul. That’s the U2 Irish Bar, five minutes walk from Taksim Square via Istiklal Street.

Turkey is not a rugby nation – football and basketball are the favourite sports. So, before I first set off for Istanbul, I asked an English rugby fan where to find rugby on TV in a country where the oval ball is not the football of choice. He told me to find an Irish pub. And so I made my way to the U2 Irish Pub, where I encountered the larger-than-life Leo who has run the place for 9 years.

Leo is the host with the most at this warm and welcoming nightspot which caters for sports fans, especially those who love fun, rugby and Guinness (not necessarily in that order). Usually open from 5pm in the afternoon to 5am (but closed on Mondays), U2 is the go-to bar for people from many countries - Turkey, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, France, Germany, Italy, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US (to name a few). The Guinness is good and the community spirit is great. It's just like being in a small bar in Dublin. This is a club where everyone is welcome. As the Irish would say, there is a great 'craic' at this Irish pub. No wonder it ranks so highly in Trip Advisor ratings (in the top 10 for nightlife).

Of course it’s not to everyone’s taste. A few people take offence at Leo’s in-your-face cries of ‘Come on Ireland’ and ‘Up the IRA’. But this is all good-humoured banter and just part of the fun.

This weekend has been great fun with the first round of games in the 2016 Six Nations. As an Englishman who supports Ireland (my father was Irish and is buried in Dublin) I celebrated the results. England’s win over Scotland was pragmatic and dull, while Ireland’s 15-15 draw against Wales was gripping.



Caption: Leo with one of his Celtic ‘club’ friends


The sun shines on UK trade with Turkey

There is a big opportunity to sell the British brand or 'UK plc'.

As Istanbul basked in warm sunshine on a day in the first week in February, thoughts turned to a UK Trade & Investment trade mission heading for Turkey at the end of the month. This will be my third experience of such a mission. They are always interesting and bring home the opportunities and realities of exporting.

The simple facts are: any company can export; Turkey offers opportunities and a springboard to local markets in Iran and the South Caucasus; and would-be exporters can find on-the-ground help through the UKTI at the British Consulate and the BCCT (British Chamber of Commerce in Turkey).

What many UK companies don’t seem to realize is that the world greatly values British skills and experience in design, engineering, energy, health, marketing, branding and education.  There is a big opportunity to sell the British brand or 'UK plc'.

“Turkey has a strong manufacturing capability and capacity, producing products for other companies and other brands,” Christ Gaunt, Chairman of of the British Chamber of Commerce in Turkey (BCCT), told The Business Year magazine in a recent interview, “but it doesn’t have international brands itself. The country wants to change.”

It is often said that the country’s cities look like perpetual building sites with the constant construction of new roads, houses, hotels, offices, hospitals, and airports. But these are good signs of infrastructure improvements. UK companies are already involved in projects to build the third Bosphorus bridge and Istanbul’s third airport. A big programme is under way to improve health care and provide new facilities.

The energy sector is just one of those pinpointed by the British Chamber of Commerce in Turkey as needing “both investment and technological capabilities to develop self-sustainable energy production”. 

There are also big opportunities for UK firms in R&D to help a wide range of business, according to Chris Gaunt. In fact, R&D expenditure in Turkey went up by 18.8 per cent in 2014 to reach US$6.1 billion, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute. 
Spending surpassed 1 per cent of the country’s total GDP last year, with private-sector outlay accounting for almost half, at 49.8 per cent.

In education, state schools, colleges of higher education, and universities need support for providing English language teaching and for examinations. And business English training is required for Turkish executives and managers of companies looking to export – especially as Mr Putin has slammed the trade door to Russia in Turkey’s face after a Russian jet fighter was downed by the Turkish air force. While the political situation in Turkey and geopolitical instability in the surrounding region are causes for concern, business life goes on, even if companies are now more cautious and risk averse than they were a year ago.

Next week this blog will bring more news about the state of the Turkish economy and the strengthening commercial ties between Turkey and the UK.


Caption: Chris Gaunt, Chairman of BCCT, at the Istanbul Stock Exchange

Turbulence, terrorists and tea in Turkey

British media showed they were waking up to the realities of situation in Turkey


Last week it was very cold and snowing half-heartedly in Istanbul. I sat in my hotel room reading the press online. The British media showed they were waking up to the realities of situation in Turkey, featuring bitter clashes between the government and Kurds (BBC News) and an interview with a Nobel prize-winning Turkish author in The Times.

‘PKK defiant over the long war with Turkey’ proclaimed the headline on the BBC website (http://bbc.in/1Qyb9DL). The PKK is the Kurdistan Workers Party which is branded as a terrorist organization by the Turkish government, NATO and the EU. There has been a long war between Turkey and the PKK with more that 40,000 deaths.

Last summer the Turkish government launched air strikes on Kurdish camps, on the grounds of renewed insurrection, and that abruptly ended a near three-year ceasefire with the PKK. In the BBC article last week a PKK representative told the BBC: "No-one can choose what they are, and we are Kurds. Please, don't not forget… this war has been going on for 40 years. People should stop thinking about us as terrorists. We are just people who want their human rights."

Meanwhile Orhan Pamuk, an Istanbul novelist who won the Nobel Literature prize in 2006, was profiled in The Times. While Pamuk bemoans the growing authoritarian nature of the current regime under President Erdogan, he notes that it was ever thus. After the 1980 military coup more than 600,000 people were detained, including some leading politicians. When these politicians returned to power, Pamuk tells The Times, “they did not improve free speech, they only improved their own conditions. Not very different from Erdogan, actually.

“All the people who complain — and they’re right, and I’m with them — the secular opposition with whom I feel I’m in the same boat, unfortunately when they were in power they were also repressive. The whole national culture of intolerance should change.”


Hospitable and polite

The irony is that Turkish people are polite, hospitable and caring in an old-fashioned way when you meet them on the street, on public transport or at social gatherings. Tourists feel less jostled and threatened than in Arab countries.

Entertaining guests is a key part of Turkish culture – they enjoy conversation, parties, the ‘craic’ as the Irish call it – and visitors must learn to accept tea whenever it is offered as a matter of common courtesy. There is a big gulf between this natural courtesy and the intolerance of the Turkish governing class All over the world, that gulf between governments and their electorates gets wider than ever.



The picture shows treasured Turkish tea, traditionally served in a glass with no handle. In the background is the Bosphorus and Rumeli Hisari, the castle built in four months by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed in 1452. The following year saw the fall of Constantinople, which Mehme re-named Istanbul.

Life in Istanbul: passion for people

Istanbul is a simply wonderful city, rich in culture, history and with a passion for people and business.

In 2016 I’m spending a year in Istanbul – on and off – enjoying Turkish culture and food, and providing some part-time consultancy help with the English language to local business executives and managers. I took my first faltering steps as an exporter after participating in two UK Trade & Industry trade missions in the Februarys of 2014 and 2015.

Istanbul is a simply wonderful city, rich in culture, history and with a passion for people and business. Turkey is also a young (average age 30) and vibrant country. English people ask me, ‘Do you feel safe in Turkey?’ Well, I certainly did before this month’s terrorist suicide bomb attack near the Blue Mosque which killed 12 people, mainly German tourists. And I feel safer than if I was commuting daily to London or Paris. I just take care to avoid tourist destinations, like the Haghia Sofia (pictured), groups of sightseers, the American Embassy, police stations, and some demonstration hotspots (like Taksim Square during public holidays).

An article on the weekend of 16-17 January by Simon Calder, the Independent’s travel editor, reassured me. He wrote, in answer to a letter from a reader fearful for her family if they holiday in Turkey this year, that “the overwhelming odds” were in favour of safety. He went on to add a three-point a risk-management plan. This involved taking care of rip tides, watching out for traffic when crossing the road, and wearing a hat and taking care with the sea, the cars, and the sun. Of course, we are all being vigilant, avoiding tourist groups in major sightseeing areas (as I do).


The route to exporting

I must break off to listen to a webinar from the UKTI about planning an online business strategy. They follow that up shortly with another webinar on social media. I have to say that UKTI have provided huge support and help in my exporting efforts.

Exporting is for companies of all shapes and sizes, not just multi-nationals. In Britain it is not generally appreciated how much the commercial world respects brand UK, especially in design, architecture, project management, consultancy, creativity, culture, and much more. The world is indeed your oyster – or, in my case, my Istanbulkart (the local equivalent of an Oyster card).

Build credibility with quality content on your website

While web design and development, and images and videos are vital, it is even more important to keep your English writing clear, concise and comprehensible.

Who is the most important person for a website owner? Apart from the developer and the designer, a good writer is vital. Content is king. As a writer I would say that, wouldn't I? But don’t just take my word for the importance of writing on your website.

Graham Jones, the Internet  Psychologist,  has written recently:

“At a recent talk I gave, I was asked what would be the single most important person a website owner could engage? ‘A professional writer I said, ‘Someone who can provide you with well-written, quality material’.”  ‪http://bit.ly/1io7SkM 


That’s the whole point about the online world. While web design and development, and images and videos are vital, it is even more important to keep your English writing clear, concise, comprehensible, and targeted.

Picture your target market – imagine the people who will be looking at your website or your email and address readers with care and attention. If they are young, keep the language quick and colloquial.

Remember that idioms like 'cool', 'awesome' and 'wicked' mean different things to different age groups. So if your audience is older, consider being more serious. Adopt the right tone for your target audience.

Build credibility, and give evidence of your expertise and experience. Keep hype out of your website content and also out of your emails.

Use words which are easy to read on laptops, tablets and email. Most web browsers are window shopping and are easily bored or distracted so they will be quick to click away from your page or your emails if they are bored. Keep words, sentences and paragraphs even shorter online. For more advice about good quality writing and communication, visit: www.bestbusinessenglish.com


How to communicate best in English

How we express ourselves in English has always been important. After all, English is the language of business

Do you wonder about the best ways to communicate with people? Meeting face-to-face remains the best and most satisfactory means of communicating. However, we know that, when we meet face-to-face,  people take far less from what we say than from our body language. But we must also face the modern problems of time and access. Time is restricted while access seems global, and instant. There are just not enough hours in the day to meet as many people as we want. And some people in the corporate world spend all their time in ‘meetings’, which is just as bad.

 Online, we are told, ‘content is king’, and there is also the familiar adage that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ (from an article in 1911 by American newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane). So content has tended to be confused with image, brand and design.

How we express ourselves in English has always been important. After all, English is the language of business. So I was interested to read Internet Psychologist Graham Jones in his blog: “The number one online activity is … READING. We read more than ever before and each day billions of words are added to the web. So, given that reading is the most common online activity, what kind of person do you really need to produce your website? An IT specialist? A designer? Nope. They’ll help, for sure, but the key person you need is a writer.

“Writing is the number one skill required to produce a great website these days. Hence if you don’t have an in-house writer, you need one. If you don’t have a team, hire a freelance writer ….” http://bit.ly/1bhLoAt

 While design and brand have their place, they need to underpin the words (rather than overwhelm them). It has been said that websites with the right words will often work better than beautiful-looking websites which pay no attention to the language. Whether or not you are a native English speaker, always remember that the best business English is simple, yet powerful. Always prefer shorter words, sentences and paragraphs to long-winded ones. That takes time, as Pascal wrote in the 17th century: “I have made this longer than usual only because I did not have time to make it shorter.”

 So, get help with your English communications from professional writers, especially those who keep their writing short and simple.


Going East to export Best Business English

have just taken my first steps on the road to making Best Business English an international brand


Export seems a very long word for small businesses but I have just taken my first steps on the road to making Best Business English an international brand. You see, I want to train and teach business English abroad as well as teaching adults in the UK.

The first foreign fields in my mind’s eye were in faraway places such as South America, Japan and China. However, well-reasoned opinions from friends and colleagues warned that South America really is far away; and that Japan and China have the added disadvantages of totally different cultures from what I’m used.

 As a result, I’ve settled on Europe, and specifically Turkey. To start my export drive I’ve contacted UKTI (UK Trade & Investment), who have become my new best friends. I have known about UKTI since my business partner Gareth Gammon went on a trade mission to China with Lord Green a couple of years ago. He was impressed by their service and by their network of contacts.

 Then I emailed UKTI South-East, and Graham Snape, my adviser, agreed to meet me in a local coffee shop. We discussed my background, my ambitions and my target market, and he told me there was a trade mission to Turkey on the horizon. I quickly registered my name for that and also joined the UKTI’s passport to export scheme.

 Passport to Export helps companies to:


1      Get started in international trade

2      Assess and develop their capability to export

3      Save time and money in achieving international trade

4      Get help and support in selecting and visiting a market


So far so good for the purposes of advancing best business English abroad. Three out of four have been realized. The one remaining benefit item is “achieving international trade”.

 If you want to know more about my progress, follow this blog. If you can’t wait to find out,  contact me at nick@bestbusinessenglish.co.uk

English business must get more involved with education

It is time for UK business to get involved with education rather than just complaining


Students who are not native English speakers often work harder at speaking and writing good English than native English speakers. This has been rammed home to me by the recently published study on international literacy and numeracy by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development).


The UK (excluding Scotland and Wales) came 13th for literacy and 16th for numeracy In a study published in October 2013 0f more than 150,000 people aged 16 to 65 in 24 countries. For people aged 16 to 24 the UK ranking was 22nd and 21st respectively.


Adults with the highest levels of literacy (4 or 5) are three times as likely to enjoy high wages as those with level 1, according to the OECD. And the study reports that countries are more successful economically where businesses are closely and proactively involved with the education process.

In the UK, business are not proactively involved with education, despite the trend for internships (often unpaid – scandalous).


It is time for UK business to get involved with education rather than just complaining when confronted with people from school and university who are ill-prepared for life and unfinished in their literacy and numeracy skills. In my old job as director of a marketing company we often employed school-age students as interns during their summer holidays, and we were impressed with their brightness, industry and productivity.


Sadly, we can’t trust the politicians to deliver. An Education Minister is in post for only 3 or 4 years, and his or her successor is bound to move the educational goalposts, even if they are from the same political party. Constant change is not a good business model and makes teaching very difficult. Let’s leave education in the hands of the teachers, supported by parents and businesses – politicians can have an overview but not control of the curriculum.


BBC business editor Robert Peston has written in his blog on 8 October: “… the OECD would argue is that, where employers have more of an impact on what is taught in schools and subsequently, both skills attainment and economic performance improve. This is not about companies bossing schools around but about a social compact between the private sector and the education system, where there is a mutual acknowledgement of the imperative of preparing younger people for the better jobs of tomorrow.”


Bad marks for English literacy and numeracy

Scorn and humiliation have been heaped on the literacy and numeracy skills of adults in England and Northern Ireland. The UK (excluding Scotland and Wales) has scored poorly – 13th in literacy and 16th for numeracy – in a major new study by the OECD of more than 150,000 people aged 16 to 65 in 24 countries.

In the OECD study, published in October 2013, Japan came out top both for literacy and numeracy, with Finland 2nd in each case. In literacy places 3 to 5 in the rankings were filled by the Netherlands, Australia and Sweden; in numeracy it was Sweden, the Netherlands and Norway in that order.

One bright spot in the findings for the UK – it  is rated much better in getting people to use their skills at work. Andreas Schleicher, OECD deputy director for education, comments that the UK and US is “very good at extracting the maximum out of limited skills bases”, but Japan is only “so so”. Individuals “that are highly skilled get a lot out of this, those that are poorly skilled pay a high price”, he said.

The study shows that England is the only country in the survey where results are going backwards – with the older generation better than the younger. It is worrying that England's 16 to 24-year-olds lag behind in 22nd place for literacy and 21st for numeracy out of 24.The study reveals that there are 8.5 million adults in England and Northern Ireland with the numeracy levels of a 10-year-old.