Sat 22 Sep 2018

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Private Turkish Companies Impose Themselves on Northern Aleppo

“Euro Beton” machines during the construction process of the Qabasin Residential project – March 2018 (Qabasin Local Council)

“Euro Beton” machines during the construction process of the Qabasin Residential project – March 2018 (Qabasin Local Council)

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Private Turkish Companies are imposing a new investment reality on the northern countryside of Aleppo, after they have indulged themselves and have created their own investment space in the area through large enterprises, in the major service-related sectors, which people are in need for.

This phase followed slow steps and consecutive rehabilitation operations, conducted by the Turkish government in the northern countryside of Aleppo, after the “Free Army” factions had entire control over it. These investments, thus, turned into a continuation of the Turkish role, however, played by business tycoons, who presented themselves through individual contracts and tenders with the councils in northern Aleppo, in which the Turkish states performed the function of intermediary.

The investment reality in rural Aleppo cannot be seen as separate from the reconstruction file in Syria, which Turkey is trying to be part of through the cities and towns, destroyed during the battles against the “Islamic State” along its borders; it attempts to prove its presence in the area economically via the enterprises it officially announced, in addition to the projects which private companies seek to implement following a different mechanism.

7Million Dollars in Azaz

At the beginning of 2018, three private companies participated through investments in Northern Aleppo, the last of these was the company that brought electricity back to the city of Azaz, years after its total absence. The implemented enterprise is the largest of its kind in the area, based on the people’s need for electricity in rural Aleppo, for they are, currently, dependent on electricity generators.

The enterprise falls in the frame of a contract signed between the city’s local council and “ET Energy,” a privately owned Turkish company, the intermediary in this enterprise was the province of Kilis; the company has pledged to feed Azaz with a capacity of 30 MW, in return, the city has to provide land and the raw materials, necessary for launching the enterprise.

The enterprises’ total budget, to the day, is about seven million dollars under a ten years contract.  According to Mohammad Haj Omar, the director of the services department in Azaz Council, the province of Kilis will handle disputes incase any were to irrupt between the company and the local council. The council, however, will be responsible for addressing any disputes between the company and the citizens, as the contract’s terms provide.

In an interview with Enab Baladi, Haj Omar said that the local council is an administrative partner, for the Turkish company will be tackling all other issues, adding that the council has offered the company a land for the thermal power station, administrative buildings and others for storage, as well as equipment, including copper, aluminum and land cables, the value of which ranges between 400 and 500 thousand dollars.

The electricity transmission lines will be directly extended inside houses; the Turkish company will provide new special electricity clocks, according to Haj Omar, who explained that the payments will be done through the centers of the Turkish Postal Foundation “PTT,” which offices lately have been spreading in rural Aleppo. The recoverable subscription fee is 400 Turkish liras for each house.

At a practical level, the enterprise has offered massive services to the city of Azaz and its residents, especially that electricity will be offered on a daily basis and around the clock, but the local council will make 1% only as a benefit.

According to Haj Omaar, the local council’s little share is due to the enterprise’s nature, for it is a none-profit service-based project, the thing that will enhance the trust between the people and the local council’s members, stressing that the council is focusing on providing services only.

The cost of the offered electricity power is not yet defined, and Omar has pointed out that the cost will be nominal and cheaper than that of amperes provided by generators, each house’ share is about 100 amperes.

The subscribers will not receive electricity before registering in the company; the process is then followed with the certification of the papers by the local council, which functions as a communication tool between the people and the owners of the enterprise.

The Plans Include Qabasin and al-Bab

After having entire control over the area, Turkey made futuristic plans at different levels. In terms of security, it imposed certain laws on the area and obliged the factions to unify and move their military positions out of the cities; in the economic field, it has opened a number of crossings which led to an unprecedented economic revival in the area. In terms of services, it supported the local councils, restored facilities and roads, opened “PTT” branches in Azaz, al-Bab, al-Rai, and Jarabulus; it also installed telecommunication towers that belong to Turkish companies.

The Azaz electricity enterprise was preceded by a residential project in the city of Qabasin which the city Local Council signed with the private Turkish company “Göktürk” for Building and Construction.

The project was named “Qabasin Residential District;” it is composed of five concrete blocks, 225 residential apartments and about 30 shops, of different areas, built according to the Turkish style. The implementation of the project is supposed to finish in August 2019.

Following a similar mechanism to that of Azaz electricity project, the contract between the local council and the company provides for the local council’s responsibility of offering a land, valid for construction, in Qabasin, while the company will be responsible for the rest of the project’s terms.

According to Ali Aubaid, the project manager, an understanding memorandum was signed with the company, under which the Council will be receiving shares in the form of departments as a price for the land, and, prior to the implementation, the council was informed of the construction conditions and specifications.

Since the beginning of last March, the construction operations started, however, the demand on the apartments was not as expected; he told Enab Baladi that the council expects a rise in the buying process after completing the construction process.

The city of al-Bab has also witnessed Turkish investments, but in specific fields that are not related to the services which the people need such as water and electricity.

In the a few past months, the local council of the city of al-Bab has signed a contract with the “Euro Beton” Company, which provided for building a concrete plant in the city. Mahmoud Nassar, the director of the council’s media office, said that the signed contract provides for the production of concrete ready for the building process, under which the council is supposed to provide a location for project.

He told Enab Baladi that the project’s steps are being planed amidst attempts to secure electricity or importing it from Turkey.

Projects that Depend on the Contractor’s “Mood”

Aubaid pointed out to the problems that the city of Qabasin is facing in terms of providing water and gas, saying that a Turkish investor has proposed a project to provide the area with water, which was not implemented, for the investor has received orders from Turkish officials who told him to suspend the project.

He added that another Turkish investor proposed a gas bottling facility project for the local council, on the condition that 500 bottles must be sold daily, which is a massive amount that the city’s market cannot accommodate, thus, creating another obstacle in the face of another project.

The Qabasin local council have estimated the costs of a water project with 150 thousand dollars, for the town has two wells, that require fixing pumps on the mountain, but so far, no investor has shown readiness to indulge in the project.

In addition to the above-mentioned projects, Azaz local council is adding the final touch to a water extraction project from Midanki dam in Afrin to the city through the Sharan station, according to the services department director, the local council has communicated with Kilis province and sent an engineering delegation to examine the damage that befell the station and the network.

He said that the water extraction project is suspend for the lack of operation costs, which require 72000 liters of fuel, that only the council is concerned with, providing that the water unit in Mara’sh supply Azaz with water in the upcoming days.

The water pumping rate is eight hours a day, with 7000 Syrian pounds as a subscription fee. The project, as a priority, will target the residential units at the city center.

Individual Communication away from the “Interim”

In sync with the projects, being implemented in rural Aleppo and their varying nature, service oriented or seeking profits, many questions were raised about the mechanism through which these Turkish investments are finding their way into Syria, the steps undertaken by the local councils, and the role that the Syrian Interim Government is playing, being the preliminary entity responsible for the local council’s action in the area.

Enab Baladi has interviewed the Minister of Services in the Interim Government, Abdullah Rizzk, who explained that the private Turkish companies’ investment projects that are conducted in Aleppo are implemented in an individual manner, without a reference to the Interim Government, for each council communicates with the company interested in investing in Syria, and they both agree to implement the proposed projects.

The director of the services department in the city of Azaz explained the mechanism, according to which communication with the private Turkish companies is conducted, saying that the investments and the contracts are arrived at through the Turkish government, for each council has a specialized legal committee, technical and a financial department, who either agree to or refuse a project.

Haj Omar added that most of the contracts are signed in Turkey, either in Kilis municipality or the province of Kahramanmaraş, and sometimes in Gaziantep, according to the contract and the project.

The council files the project to the concerned province, where tendering starts as to choose a broker for the execution process, after this comes the stage of discussing the contract’s terms, the implementation mechanisms and the rate of benefits.

The Qabasin Project Director, Ali Aubaid, said that the residential project was proposed in an individual manner; the concerned person introduced himself and the name of the company and presented residential housing plans to the council which approved the proposal.

According to Aubaid, the “Interim Government” does not play a role and does not have a saying in the implemented projects, for its work is limited to supervising the council’s work every now and then.

Syrians Are Left out of the Calculations

With the consecutive investments that private Turkish companies are leading in different parts of Syria, the viewer can only notice the absence of Syrian businessmen and investors, despite the fact that many of them have succeeded in launching projects in Turkey, especially in the two cities of Istanbul and Gaziantep.

The Syrian investments varied between large real-estate and residential building projects, and others in the form of restaurants and factories, which are the most active in Gaziantep, to form 50% of the total percentage of the city’s industrial action, according to what Turkish officials have lately announced.

According to Haj Omar, the Syrian businessmen’s investments in the northern countryside of Aleppo are limited to small projects, such as road-paving, and the restoration of accompanying residential building on a limited scale.

He mentioned that the investments, which indulge Turkish companies, are of a larger scale and are conducted in the fields to which Syrians cannot contribute, pointing out that the large projects in Aleppo are exclusively done by the Turkish government and private Turkish companies.

In a former interview Mulham al-Jazmati, an economist, said that the commerce chamber in Gaziantep has repeatedly invited Syrian businessmen to invest in rural Aleppo, with a constant attempt at gathering them to be the party to benefit the most of these areas and investments in them. However, neither the Turkish company nor the Syrian businessmen based in Turkey have undertaken any serious steps.

Jazmati pointed out that a number of Syrian merchants have filed an application to the commercial chamber about their desire to invest in Jarblous and to start a business there. The Turkish government has not provided an answer so far.

According to the economist, a study has been applied to the commercial chamber in Gaziantep about the ability to copy the Turkish municipalities’ model in rural Aleppo, for each municipality is independent from the rest and it has its own budget, amidst the demands provided to the Turkish government to transfer its municipalities’ model to the area.

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