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Wed 3 Aug 2016 04:14 PM

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Turkey eyes sovereign wealth fund following coup attempt

Failed coup caused economic damage amounting to about $100bn, according to the Customs and Trade Minister Bulent Tufenkci

Turkey eyes sovereign wealth fund following coup attempt
(Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images)

Turkish lawmakers on Tuesday put forward legislation to create a sovereign wealth fund intended to boost annual growth over the next decade, an ambitious target for a fund with $16 million in start-up capital and a country with little energy revenue.

Its backers hope it will serve to reassure investors unnerved by a failed coup attempt and a subsequent crackdown on the military, police and civil service which has heightened concerns about President Tayyip Erogan's tightening grip on power.

The July 15-16 failed putsch caused economic damage amounting to about 300 billion lira ($100 billion), according to Customs and Trade Minister Bulent Tufenkci quoted by Hurriyet newspaper on Tuesday.

The government plans to form a wealth management company called Turkey Asset Management, according to the draft law, with initial paid-in capital of 50 million liras ($16 million), to be financed from the state privatisation fund.

Its strategic aim is to generate annual growth of 1.5 percent over the next 10 years.

But sovereign wealth funds are owned by governments, with some of the biggest based on energy revenue and, unlike oil-rich Norway and Gulf countries, Turkey imports almost all of its energy needs.

And, with Turkey running a national debt which is at roughly 30 percent of economic output, some commentators raised questions over the wisdom of the venture.

"Why would a country like Turkey that has a savings deficit form a sovereign fund? If the government can create extra revenue it should pay its domestic debt, thus lowering long-term interest rates, and have a much more positive impact on the investment climate," said Ugur Gurses, a former central banker and a well-known commentator on economics.

Asset sales

Finances for the fund will be provided from the government's asset sales, cash surpluses from the state privatisation fund and other state institutions, the draft law said.

Some assets from the government's privatisation programme will be transferred to the fund's portfolio. It will be exempted from some regulations, including an anti-trust law, and fees if any of the securities it sells are traded on the stock exchange.

The fee exemption in particular could hamper the deepening of Turkey's capital markets, Gurses said.

Separately, a draft law was also submitted requiring workers younger than 45 years old to be automatically registered with a private pension plan, a move aimed at boosting domestic savings.

The contribution for employees would amount to around 3 percent of their annual income, according to the draft law.

Turkey's domestic savings rate was at 15.63 percent of gross domestic product in 2015, it said.

The failed July 15 coup saw a faction of Turkey's military commandeer tanks, warships and helicopters in attempt to topple the government.