Cablegate: 2003 Investment Climate Statement for Turkey -
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ANKARA 004545
STATE FOR EB/IFD/OIA
TREASURY FOR OASIA
DEPT PLEASE PASS USTR
FAS FOR ITP/THORBURN
USDOC FOR ITA/MAC/DDEFALCO
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EINV KTDB EFIN TU
SUBJECT: 2003 INVESTMENT CLIMATE STATEMENT FOR TURKEY -
Ref: STATE 128494
The following is the third of four cables transmitting the
2003 Investment Climate Statement for Turkey:
9. EFFICIENT CAPITAL MARKETS AND PORTFOLIO INVESTMENT
The government has taken a number of important steps in
recent years to strengthen and better regulate the banking
system, whose weaknesses had contributed to macroeconomic
instability over the previous decade.
Parliament passed a law in June 1999 creating an independent
agency, the Banking and Regulation and Supervision Agency
(BRSA), to monitor and supervise Turkey's banks. BRSA is
headed by a board whose seven members would be appointed by
the cabinet for six-year terms. The law's provisions also
toughen conditions for establishing new banks or branches,
set credit limits to protect bank solvency, and strengthen
regulatory and sanctioning powers, including authorizing the
board to merge weak banks with stronger ones.
The State Deposit Insurance Fund, under BRSA's management,
has taken over 21 undercapitalized or failing banks,
including Imar Bankasi which was taken over on July 4, 2003.
It has recapitalized these banks, and has been selling or
BRSA launched an auditing and recapitalization program in
early 2002 that resulted in increased transparency and
better accounting for non-performing loans The BRSA also
has issued regulation limiting the extent of connected
lending (between a bank and related corporate entities) and
requiring frequent BRSA on-site monitoring.
One of the most significant achievements of the reform
program has been to restructure the state banks, which
continue to control more than one-half of Turkish banking
assets. The government liquidated one state bank (Emlak
Bank), is trying to privatize another (Vakif Bank), and has
significantly downsized (Ziraat Bankasi and Halkbank).
Also, it largely eliminated state bank duty losses -
unreimbursed subsidized loans from these banks - which had
created an enormous financial hole that helped bring about
the most recent financial crisis
Because of high local borrowing costs (real interest rates
can exceed 25 percent), short repayment periods, and limited
liquidity condition during the current economic crisis, both
foreign and local investors frequently seek credit from
international markets to finance their activities. As of
July 2003, there were 51 commercial banks (including 14
foreign banks) and 14 development or investment banks
operating in Turkey. Total sectoral assets were
approximately USD 130.1 billion, or about 75 percent of GNP,
as of July 2003 according to data from the Banking
Regulation and Supervision Board. The three state-owned
commercial banks and the top six privately capitalized banks
hold approximately 69 percent of total assets.
There is a regulatory system established to encourage and
facilitate portfolio investments, though it needs
improvements in transparency, accounting, and enforcement
provisions to bring it up to EU and US standards. The
Istanbul Stock Exchange (ISE), formed in 1986, is becoming
one of the major players among emerging markets. As of end-
2001, 310 companies were listed on the exchange. However,
Turkey has yet to develop other capital markets. The
Capital Markets Board is responsible for overseeing the
activities of capital markets, including activities of ISE-
quoted companies, and securities and investment houses.
The Turkish private sector is dominated by a number of large
holding companies, whose upper management is controlled by
prominent families. Most large businesses continue to float
publicly only a minority portion of company shares in order
to limit outside interference in company management.
Hostile takeovers are unknown in Turkey. There has been no
attempt at a hostile takeover by either international or
domestic parties in recent memory.
There are no laws or regulations that specifically authorize
private firms to adopt articles of incorporation or
association to limit or prohibit foreign investment,
participation, or control. Neither is there any attempt by
the private sector or government to restrict foreign
participation in industry standard-setting consortia or
10. POLITICAL VIOLENCE
The general security situation throughout Turkey is stable,
but sporadic incidents involving terrorist groups have
occurred. The Turkish government is committed to
eliminating terrorist groups such as the Kurdistan Workers'
Party (PKK - now renamed Kadek) and various other militant
groups. These groups have used terrorist activity to make
political statements, particularly in Istanbul and other
urban areas of Turkey. In 2000 and 2001, terrorists
targeting Turkish officials and various civilian facilities,
such as fast food restaurants, in Istanbul were responsible
for the deaths and injuries of several dozen people. In
2002 and 2003, civilian venues such as fast food restaurants
have been the targets of minor bomb attacks. Operation
Iraqi Freedom triggered largely peaceful demonstrations in
most major Turkish cities, but a series of bombings also
occurred in several of Turkey's larger cities.
Although the Turkish government takes air safety seriously
and maintains strict controls, particularly on international
flights, hijacking attempts have occurred as recently as
2003. In 2001, a flight attendant was killed during a
hijacking by Chechen terrorists.
CORRUPTION IS PERCEIVED TO BE A MAJOR PROBLEM IN
TURKEY BY PRIVATE ENTERPRISE AND THE PUBLIC AT LARGE.
THE TURKISH GOVERNMENT CONDUCTED TWO SIGNIFICANT ANTI-
CORRUPTION OPERATIONS IN 2001, ONE IN THE ENERGY
MINISTRY AND THE OTHER IN THE PUBLIC WORKS MINISTRY.
SEVERAL INDIVIDUALS WERE CHARGED WITH CORRUPTION AND
WRONGDOING IN GOVERNMENT CONTRACT TENDERS. THE
OPERATIONS RESULTED IN THE RESIGNATION OF BOTH
MINISTERS AND THE ARREST OF MANY HIGH-LEVEL
OFFICIALS. PARLIAMENT CONTINUES TO PROBE CORRUPTION
IN THE ENERGY MINISTRY AND OTHER GOVERNMENT BODIES.
Corruption is reputedly a serious problem in public
procurement, with frequent allegations that contracts are
awarded on the basis of personal and political relationships
of businesspersons and government officials. The judicial
system is also perceived to be susceptible to external
political and commercial influence to some degree.
Turkish legislation outlaws bribery and some prosecutions of
government officials for corruption have taken place, but
enforcement is uneven.
Turkey ratified the OECD antibribery convention, and passed
implementing legislation in January 2003 to provide that
bribes of foreign officials, as well as domestic, are
illegal and not tax deductible. Bribes cannot be deducted
from taxes as a business expense.
The Turkish government became a party to three conventions
of the Council of Europe in 2001: the Strasbourg Convention
on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the
Proceeds from Crime; the Criminal Law on Corruption; and the
Civil Law on Corruption. By becoming a party to these
conventions, the Turkish government agreed to define
corruption as a predicate offense for money laundering and
to address private sector corruption, as well as public
sector corruption, as a crime. The Turkish government has
signed the UN Convention against Transnational Organized
Crime in 2001 and has submitted a draft proposal to become a
party to the UN Convention Against Corruption.
U.S. firms have sometimes alleged that corruption, or at a
minimum nontransparent practices, have been a barrier to
direct foreign investment. American companies operating in
Turkey have complained about contributions to the community
solicited, with varying degrees of pressure, by municipal or
The Prime Ministry's Inspection Board, which advises a new
Corruption Investigations Committee, is responsible for
investigating major corruption cases. Nearly every state
agency has its own inspector corps responsible for
investigating internal corruption. The National Assembly
can establish investigative commissions to examine
corruption allegations concerning Cabinet Ministers for the
Prime Minister; a majority vote in the parliament is needed
to send these cases to the Supreme Court for further action.
Transparency International has an affiliated NGO in
12. BILATERAL INVESTMENT AGREEMENTS
Since 1985, Turkey has been negotiating and signing
agreements for the reciprocal promotion and protection of
investments. Turkey has signed or initiated negotiations on
bilateral investment treaties with 79 countries. Forty- six
of these agreements are now in force, including with the
United States, United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands,
Belgium Luxembourg, Denmark, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland,
Spain, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Tunisia, Kuwait,
Bangladesh, China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Croatia,
Cuba, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Russian Federation,
Kazakhstan, Georgia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan,
Belarus, Macedonia, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Moldova,
Kyrgyzstan, Albania, Bulgaria, Argentina, Bosnia, Malaysia,
Egypt, Mongolia, Greece and Israel.
Turkey's bilateral investment treaty with the United States
came into effect on May 18, 1990. A bilateral tax treaty
between the two countries took effect on January 1, 1998.
Turkey has signed avoidance of double taxation agreements
with 59 countries; 39 of these are in force.
13. OPIC AND OTHER INVESTMENT INSURANCE PROGRAMS
The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) offers a
full range of programs in Turkey, including political risk
insurance for U.S. investors, under its bilateral agreement
with Turkey. OPIC is also active in financing private
investment projects implemented by U.S. investors in Turkey.
OPIC-supported direct equity funds, including the USD 200
million Soros Private Equity Fund can make direct equity
investments in private sector projects in Turkey. Small-
and medium-sized U.S. investors in Turkey are also eligible
to utilize the new Small Business Center facility at OPIC,
offering OPIC finance and insurance support on an expedited
basis for loans from USD 100,000 to USD 10 million. In
1987, Turkey became a member of the Multinational Investment
Guarantee Agency (MIGA).
The U.S. Government annually purchases approximately USD 19
million of local currency. Embassy purchases are made at
prevailing market rates, which fluctuate in accordance with
Turkey's free floating exchange rate regime.