Turkey: A Rising Economic Power

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The Middle East is sometimes viewed as an economic failure story. But at the Western fringe of that region, a new global economic powerhouse is rising - Turkey, the transcontinental country positioned strategically between Asia and Europe. With a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of USD786 billion for 2014, the nation opens its doors to investment across multiple sectors. Will Turkey continue to be a safe haven for investment and can it be a springboard into Europe and the Middle East?
Turkey's steady progression
The 1980's marked a turning point in Turkey's history. The liberalizing reforms by visionary Prime Minister, Turgut Ozal opened up the economy. Even though the latter years were marred by economic disruption, the Kurdish conflict and a banking crisis, Turkey's economy consolidated its gains after 2002 when the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came into government. The AKP have since made concerted efforts to institute structural reforms, new fiscal policies and macroeconomic strategies to attract foreign investment.
Turkey's steady GDP growth - an average of 13 per cent (year-on-year) from 2002 to 2012 - is proof of its progress. As of June 2014, Turkey is the 17th largest economy in the world and the sixth largest compared to the countries in the European Union (EU), which Turkey still does not belong to, but which it would like to join.
Growth potential
Global investors have every reason to explore this burgeoning economy for business opportunities. Some pull factors that make Turkey an attractive destination for diversified Foreign Direct Investment FDI include:
Strategic location
Turkey's strategic location - at the intersection of Europe, Central Asia and the Levant - provides access to major markets and 1.5 billion customers across Europe, Eurasia, Middle East, and North Africa. This makes Turkey a springboard for accessing a market worth approximately USD25 trillion. The country also plans to further develop three key hub ports to position itself as a leading regional shipping logistics center. The largest port project underway - the Candarli Port - is estimated to provide 11.4 million twenty-foot equivalent units upon full completion, at a cost of €910 million.
Turks: a young and skilled labor force
Turkey has a population of 77.7 million (for 2014), with 50 per cent of the population under the age of 31 - which makes it home to the largest youth population among all European nations. 610,000 students graduate from its universities and around 700,000 students graduate from its high schools every year. Around 50 per cent of these students are from vocational and technical high schools, positioning Turkey well for high-tech and R&D investment.
Robust infrastructure
Turkey's infrastructure plays a key role in maintaining strong growth. It continues to upkeep new and highly developed infrastructure in transportation, telecommunications and energy.
North of Istanbul, a new airport is under construction at an estimated cost of €22 billion. A bridge is under construction at a cost of €2.6 billion across the Bosphorus strait that separates Europe from Asia. Moreover, Turkey's extensive transportation system facilitates sea and land communication with other European countries.
At the same time, Turkey plays an important role as an energy transit partner. Geographically, the nation is located in close proximity to more than 70 per cent of the world's proven oil and gas reserves. Some projects undertaken to increase connectivity include the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline (2006) and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum (BTE) Natural Gas Pipeline (2007) projects - aimed to ease transit for energy imports across European nations. Turkey is located close to more than 70 per cent of the world's proven oil and gas reserves.
Renewable energy as a resource for Turkey
Turkey does not own any significant energy resources but its strategic location gives it access to more than 70 per cent of the world's energy reserves. Although 60 per cent of the country's energy consumption depends on imported energy, Turkey has the capability to reduce its dependency by using renewable resources to target 30 per cent of its total energy needs. In 2013, the World Bank Group provided USD1 billion to advance renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in Turkey.
Progressive investment climate
Turkey's reformist and pro-growth political culture keeps investors coming to Turkey. The country promises equal treatment for all investors. As of 2014, it took only six days to set up a company while it takes more than 11 days, on average, to do the same in the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Tax benefits along with incentives for strategic and large-scale investments have succeeded in pulling in FDI. For instance, the Corporate Income Tax was reduced from 33 per cent in 2000 to 20 per cent in 2006.
EU Customs Union
Turkey is a member of the Customs Union with the EU since 31st December, 1995 which covers all industrial goods (except agriculture, public or services procurement). Turkey also has Free Trade Agreements with 20 countries. More Free Trade Agreements are in the pipeline. Most exciting of all, the country is pursuing accession negotiations with the EU. Turkish entry into the EU would create ample business opportunities for local and foreign enterprises within the nation.
Sizable domestic market
With a population of 77.7 million in 2014 and the GDP per capita of a middle-income country (USD 10,500 in 2010-2014), Turkey's domestic market is not to be sniffed at. The country is becoming more and more middle-class. Sectors such as telecommunications and banking have registered strong growth in both user base and revenues.
Broadband internet subscribers have increased from 0.1 million in 2002 to 39.9 million in 2014 and mobile phone subscribers increased from 23 million in 2002 to 71.9 million in 2014. Moreover, there were 57 million credit card users in 2014 when compared to 16 million in 2002.
Istanbul catches the eye of global investors
The city of Istanbul is particularly favored by investors due to its strategic location, well-established infrastructure and educated workforce. Istanbul received more than half of the total FDI projects directed to the country between 2007 and 2012.
As costs in Istanbul reflect the influx of FDI, investors have started exploring other cities such as Izmir, Ankara, and Bursa.
Borsa Istanbul (the Istanbul Stock Exchange) has ascended 30 places on the index of global financial centers since 2012. This improvement highlights Istanbul's potential to become one of the top 10 financial centers in the world.
As costs in Istanbul reflect the influx of FDI, investors have started exploring other cities such as Izmir, Ankara, and Bursa.
Measuring investment Risk
To some degree, Turkey still struggles with corruption allegations and occasional political turmoil, which raises investment risk. What factors should investors watch for?
Low domestic saving rate
In 2014, Turkey had the lowest savings rate among 14 large developing countries - currently equivalent to 12.6 per cent of its GDP. The reason is its huge current account deficit (CAD) which stood at USD70 billion in 2013. Turkey needs to ease overdependence on imports of investment goods to improve this.
Furthermore, the nation is highly dependent on international borrowing - any increase in borrowing rates is likely to have adverse effects on the country's economy. For instance, Turkish bank lenders suffered a substantial loss in May 2015 due to new reforms introduced by the government.
Inadequate Research and Development resources
Investors seeking to buy into innovation will have to look elsewhere, as Research and Development (R&D) capacity in Turkey is not very strong. The government has limited policies in place for research and development capacity building.
Political unrest
The political situation in Turkey has improved tremendously since the moderately Islamic AKP party came to power in 2002. The AKP government introduced several reforms such as the abolition of civilian-military courts, changes to the anti-terrorism law and greater empowerment of labor unions. However, the political instability in Turkey's direct neighbors still poses a threat to the stability of the economy. Turkey is right next door to civil-war-wracked Syria and Iraq. Within Turkey, tensions periodically flare up between the more religious supporters of the current Turkish government and secular Turks who are skeptical of the AKP.
Future outlook
Turkey's GDP growth rate is projected to remain steady at 3.6 per cent through 2016 - a far cry from the heady growth in its heyday, but still respectable for a middle-income country. Its liberal and attractive investment climate will continue to help Turkey to invest in sectors such as infrastructure, telecommunications and energy.
The government has set a goal of generating over USD250 billion in GDP by 2023 through investments in energy, transportation and information technology. Such projects are intended to attract big players to invest in the Turkish economy.
There is no doubt that Turkey is a large and important country that holds a great deal of promise as a market as well as an investment location. Its geographic location and skills base make it an excellent hub to export to the Middle East and Europe - and one that is deeply under-appreciated among the international business community. Turkey is an oasis of stability and development in a turbulent region of the world.
However to realize its full potential, Turkish policy makers need to put in place effective long-term institutions to protect its gains in attracting foreign investment. It also needs to address the problems of corruption and potential political divisions in the society between religious and secular Turks. Such divisions, if not addressed through strong, independent and fair institutions that command respect from all Turks, can lead to political instability of the sort that has plagued another middle-income country in the past decade, Thailand.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Nidhi_S_Kumar/1896180

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