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  • Writer's pictureÖztürk Holding

Abroad, the perception that Turkish contractors carry out quality construction has been damaged.

Updated: Jan 9

6 March 2023, Issue 108

The earthquake continues to affect our lives with all its reality. In this period when we are confronted with the mistakes we have made, the most discussed area is our contracting sector. Although it is a sector in which we have achieved great success internationally, it has become controversial in the international arena after the earthquake. Öztürk Holding Chairman of the Board of Directors, Yusuf Öztürk, whose views we received regarding the earthquake process and its effects on the sector, made important statements.

As a contractor who has undertaken successful projects abroad, could you share your observations about the earthquake?

The pain people experienced during the earthquake cannot be described, it is a very sad situation. Apart from this, the recovery of earthquake areas, their recovery, the psychology of people, and their ability to get back on their feet and do business is a serious process and a great loss. Currently, a new financial model, a new resource and the destroyed places need to be rebuilt. There is serious destruction in Hatay. When we talked to some of our friends working in our company from Hatay and their families, 90% of the standing buildings were unusable. This means a city has been wiped off the map. As a contractor, it is very sad that the constructions built in the last twenty years have been demolished. Questioning contractors today is a very important development. It is important at least to ease the conscience. However, when you look from top to bottom, it is a prism and the person at the top is detained. However, there are many legs that complete this prism. It is necessary to hold responsible everyone, from the building inspection company that allows these constructions, to the zoning works, technical works, approving the maps and signing as engineers. Unfortunately, the people who are competent in the contracting industry are not at the job. People make money by doing business and enter this sector because they think there is money in construction. People who are not related to the construction industry are entering the construction industry. Those who signed it do not know how it is controlled. When you get to the end, it's all destroyed. Is this earthquake devastating? Yes, it was devastating. But if you had taken the necessary precautions, at least there would have been no loss of life. Also, there were no high-rise buildings among those destroyed. I saw one residence in Hatay that was demolished, I can say that it was wrong as it was. People in Turkey pay a lot of attention to the cosmetics of houses. When you enter the house, people are impressed by the spotlights, the kitchen and the cosmetics of the house. Because a person who does not understand construction is looking at cosmetics. However, a person who understands construction looks at ground surveys. Also, current contractors can complete and deliver a 9-storey building in 6 months. This is against the nature of the job. Today, when you take one layer, there is only a curing time of 21 days. It doesn't matter what quality cement you use. You have to wait 21 days for the concrete to complete its stretching and reaction. After 21 days, you take a sample of the thrown concrete, do a test, and after you are sure, you move on to the second floor. In Turkey, the system does not work like this. They are trying to finish the construction quickly, as if someone is chasing you. Now, after the devastations, they will give negative points to Turkish contractors in the world league. Türkiye ranks second in the world contracting sector. When you build in Germany or Europe today, you use incredible systems. I have built many rehabilitation centers from the north to the south of Europe. There, the state itself carries out the building inspection work. As a contractor, you connect the rebars, they come and count their numbers, and examine how you made the connection between the rebars. If there are any deficiencies, they tell you to fix them. If there are no deficiencies, you will get permission to lay concrete, that's why they give you a time interval. While pouring concrete, someone from the municipality comes and measures the quality of the concrete, and with his/her permission, the concrete is poured. You cannot progress the construction unless he gives approval. However, in Turkey, a city hospital is built and completed in 24 months. You need to build a hospital with 1000-1500 beds in at least 5 years according to German norms. You can't finish it in 24 months. If you commit to this, they will not believe in your engineering. That's why when you build a building in Europe, it stands for a thousand years. Aren't there such buildings in Turkey? But when you look behind it, that building was either built by the Germans or the French. Look at Istiklal Street, all the old buildings that are still standing were built by foreigners. In the constructions carried out during the Ottoman period, technology was purchased from Europe. But when you look at the current construction speed, it seems that we have a problem. Turkish contractors are generally seen as the best rough cutters in the world. We do not know fine manufacturing. Development moves are very important for Türkiye, but if we had not done it so quickly, the results would not have been like this. I think the same thing about Istanbul. There are the same problems in the latest buildings built in Istanbul. The projects carried out by Emlak Konut in 2001 are not the same as the projects it carries out now. The construction quality he built in 2001 is not available now. They say that the houses built by TOKİ remain standing, of course they will. Because TOKİ built the project on rock grounds and chose the right places. Since they did not prefer the city center, they moved to more suitable places outside the city. There were no demolitions, not because they did a high-quality job, but because they chose the ground correctly. If those projects had been in the city center, they too would have been demolished. Construction companies in Turkey say they drove 20 meters of piles. OK, you drove a 20 meter pile and were you able to place that pile on the right ground? Maybe you need to go 40 meters. Engineers don't go and look anyway, they sign on paper. The person you call the contractor doesn't know the job anyway. This requires a correct control mechanism and correct timing. That's why they say that the houses built by Turkish contractors abroad are obvious, and 10 cities were destroyed in an earthquake. They say about Istanbul that if there was an earthquake, so many buildings would collapse. When an earthquake occurs in a region, the building is damaged but not destroyed. When there is no destruction, you save human lives. First of all, there should be no destruction. There were buildings that did not collapse in the 1999 earthquake and they were not built in accordance with the regulations at that time. Many people built their own houses. Right now, everyone around the world is helping Turkey, but at the same time they are asking the question: Do the Turks build such bad buildings? These are a very bad image. The perception that Turkish contractors carry out quality construction abroad has been damaged. They will say that we saw with our own eyes that the buildings built by the Turks are being demolished. Because these events are seen all over the world. If you cannot get such constructions done by contractors in Germany today. For this reason, they did not enter the tender for the airport construction in Turkey. Because there is a time problem. Today, Italian Astaldi postponed bankruptcy and we are in negotiations to buy its shares. One of the world's largest companies postponed bankruptcy. When you look at the reason, it is due to the money he cannot receive in Turkey. Look at the decision in the court's justification, he wants a bankruptcy decision due to the payments he could not receive from the state. The completion certificate for the work done belongs to Astaldi company. That company also suffered damage in the Bolu tunnel and the construction was left unfinished. Afterwards, when Mr. President took office, he completed the Bolu Tunnel by re-tendering it. Now everyone is asking why foreign contractors don't come to Turkey. One of the world's largest companies is seeking bankruptcy postponement and the reason is the payment it could not receive from Turkey. In this case, who could come?

Turkey also has very good contractors.

Of course there is. Today, Enka does very good work in many parts of the world. There are only a few companies left.

It is emphasized that the average market in the world contracting sector is 550 billion dollars, and Turkey does business worth 17 billion dollars annually. The President emphasized that this figure should now increase to 100 billion dollars. So how do we achieve these goals?

I said the same thing when we met with our President. If Türkiye wishes, it can increase this figure to 1 trillion dollars. I am not exaggerating this number. For this, we need to establish a financial model. We can reach this figure specifically for Africa. Sub-Saharan countries need almost everything. As a country, their national income is obvious and it is also clear what they will mine as minerals. The USA, England and France are not standing idle anyway. Today, the economy in Mali is getting a little active, but it is being hit directly by France. Because the world's largest uranium enrichment mines are here. Countries in Africa have a lot of resources. We get jobs like that too. That's how we got our job in South Sudan. We are trying to control the national income of those countries. But if you, as a company, cannot do this. You can only do these things on a state scale. The state will present itself as a company. In the past, there were companies like Oyak İnşaat or companies like Emek İnşaat will emerge. We will take the government job, get the guarantees and bonds from the Central Bank, and put these bonds in the Turkey Wealth Fund. We will keep these under guarantee, we will print a new fund, we will sell them to the European market and we will use the resources from there in Africa. Turkey will not suffer any losses from those to whom we sell the debtor funds. Türkiye will only share in the profits. For example, Oyak İnşaat won the tender for 20 projects in Senegal. He will also tender them in Turkey. It will award the tender to companies that are qualified here. When you look at it in terms of qualification, a maximum of 20 companies can enter these tenders. Because no company in Turkey has the competence to complete the job. All of them enter the tender by taking another company with them. The government needs to establish such a system. In this company, it will determine the unit price every year and work with contractors who accept that price. If the price is 10 TL in Turkey, it will publish a booklet saying 12 TL for abroad. You will publish technical specifications. The winner of the tender in Turkey will go abroad and do their job. Currently, a US company produces this system in the world, and that company outsources some of the work it undertakes to Enka. The US state and its intelligence are behind it. No company can handle this burden. But the state can shoulder this burden. Now we can say a similar situation for Ukraine. Turkish contractors are already known in that region. Turkish contractors will have a lot of work to do there. However, after the earthquake, Ukrainian officials will have problems giving us jobs. That's why political steps will come to the fore. But there are also problems in our political relations. In the past, when we went to Europe, an officer who saw the Turkish passport would directly tell us to go ahead. Now they are being cautious. A small incident is happening in Turkey. England is telling its citizens not to go to Turkey. The British people also comply with these. Today, they even portray the earthquake in Syria as if it happened in Turkey. This is a perception operation and Europe is doing it. European citizens are not very intelligent people, they live monotonous lives. He cannot do a single job other than what he is told to do. People in Turkey do 150 different jobs.

It is emphasized that the construction sector is revitalizing in Eurasian countries outside Africa.

We are currently working to participate in a tender in Turkmenistan. We are carrying out important projects in Tajikistan. There was a change of President in Turkmenistan, Serdar Berdimuhammedov took office. He has new visions, projects he wants to do. We are currently interested in two road and train line projects. We are mostly interested in infrastructure projects in Turkmenistan, because they have implemented many projects on the superstructure side. There are 15 thousand housing projects in the Uzbekistan border region alone. Turkmenistan is a very good market and they are very loyal to their debts. It is just recovering in Kazakhstan. But we want to focus more on the African market.

The Senegalese market has come to the fore recently. How do you see the developments there?

Senegal is a special country in Africa. For a while, it was wanted to establish the African Union, if it were established, Dakar, the capital of Senegal, would be the capital of Africa. However, 15 countries in West Africa signed a monetary union agreement under the ECOWAS identity and created the single currency African franc. They use the same legal system, the same currency, and 15 countries sign together against foreign debt. This situation led to a very good development. In this respect, the Senegal market attracts everyone's attention. You can do business with 15 countries through Senegal. There are also opportunities in Senegal. It has a wide variety of minerals. Turkish companies with capital of $10 million, slightly above the SME level, can be very successful in Senegal.

What is the current situation in the projects in Sudan?

We had a road project in Sudan and it continues. We have 144 km of road construction. We also started the construction of a sports facility. We have 16 different projects. We also opened a bank account in Turkey for South Sudan. We carry out the work from here. We still have airport work. We have a military base project in Ivory Coast. We also have rail line projects for two mining roads. MARCH2023 Source:

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