To attract Gulf funds, special incentives might do the trick

May 04, 2012, Friday/ 14:39:00/ AYDIN ALBAYRAK

A specific incentive plan aimed at investors in Gulf countries may help Turkey attract more investment from the Gulf, according to economy experts.

Although Turkey's relations with Arab countries have developed considerably in the last 10 years, the country has had difficulty attracting investment from Gulf countries despite its stable, fast-growing economy. Turkey has only received $30 billion in investment from Gulf countries, Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu stated at the First Turkey-Gulf Cooperation Council Business Forum in İstanbul back in February. Yet the amount of investment these countries control is $2.5 trillion, putting Turkey's share at a hundredth of the total.

According to Harun Öztürkler, professor of economics at Afyon Kocatepe University, Turkey should determine the areas of priority in investment and then consider a special incentive plan to attract Gulf investment. “Gulf funds are now as important for the world as the oil in the Gulf is for the energy markets,” Öztürkler told Today's Zaman, drawing attention to the crisis in the global financial markets.

And Turkey is in need of stable, relatively cheap funds to keep its economic growth going steadily and healthily, given that it has an 8 percent gap in savings, investing 20 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) while saving only 12 percent of GDP. “If we could increase our share in Gulf investments to 5 percent, we would be able to rid ourselves of the high interest rates causing Turkey problems,” Öztürkler said.

Öztürkler is of the opinion that Turkey needs to take steps that would lead to economic integration with the Middle East if it is going to claim to manage developments in the region, as the foreign affairs minister recently declared. He believes that Turkey's failure in the past to attract more Gulf funds had to do with the European Union, an economic giant in terms of attracting funds until it was hit by an economic crisis. “Turkey has particularly come to the forefront as a stable economy in the region after the economic crisis,” Öztürkler said, adding that Turkey now stands a greater chance of attracting Gulf funds.

The second reason Turkey has a better chance now of bringing in Gulf investment, according to Öztürkler, is the ongoing armed clashes in the region, including the one in Iraq, as well as the instability the Arab Spring has brought to the countries of the region. All these have served to make Turkey stand out as a stable port for investment.

Muhsin Kar, professor of economics at Konya Necmettin Erbakan University, told Today's Zaman that Turkey could also attract more Gulf investment by offering alternative financial mechanisms to capital owners in the Gulf countries who are sensitive about financial interest on account of religious beliefs. Noting that Malaysia has been able to attract such interest-sensitive capital in a major way, he added, “Turkey is already preparing to produce financial instruments that will attract this interest-sensitive capital from the Gulf.”

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