Over the past 10 years, the Aegean Free Zone (AFZ) has attracted 10% of all FDI in Turkey and more than 50% of FDI relating to exports. A modern industrial park with 13 years of successful operation, the AFZ has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on its environs. The sub-municipality of Gaziemir, where the zone is located in Izmir, has experienced development in tandem with that of AFZ.

There are now new schools, medical facilities, parks, eight-storey apartment blocks and other amenities. About half of the zone workers live there. “When one considers that today’s workforce collectively earns about $50m a year, the impact of this income is very important to the surrounding region. When you add the value of goods and services needed for the zone, you can see the economic importance it plays for the region and for Turkey and its development,” Mr Tuncer says.

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These days free zones could use a champion in Turkey. In February 2004 certain tax advantages for free zones were removed. “This has caused an adverse reaction for foreign investment in free zones as well as in the rest of the country, with a considerable decrease in FDI,” Mr Tuncer explains. “We are making every effort with the government to rectify this action in order to show Turkey as a stable place for investment with a government that honours contracts. The prime minister promised that corrections would be made. We are hopeful and waiting.”