3/10/2008

Korkmaz: "This year is going to be even better for Turkey”

The Economist - The credit crunch and the slowdown in America are making foreign investors wary... Alpaslan Korkmaz, the boss of Turkey's investment agency, insists that he is not worried. Foreign-direct investment reached a record $22 billion in 2007. “This year is going to be even better,” he declares. Born to a Turkish Gastarbeiter in Switzerland, Mr Korkmaz was snatched from his job as the head of Freiburg's FDI agency in 2006. He has since toured the globe, wooing investors by vowing to cut through bureaucracy and push for business-friendly reforms. On February 28th he claimed his first victory, when a law was passed offering tax breaks to companies employing more than 50 people in research and development. Mr Korkmaz believes the new law will draw in more automotive and technology firms and help to boost high-tech exports. Magna International, a Canadian car-part giant, is planning to spend as much as $500m expanding its plant in Turkey, which would create around 4,000 jobs. Russia's third-largest steelmaker, OAO Magnitogorsk Iron & Steel Works, has said it will build a multi-billion dollar steel factory on Turkey's Black Sea coast. Most Western investors agree that the business environment in Turkey has improved a lot since the mildly Islamist Justice and Development (AK) party came to power in 2002. GDP growth has averaged 6.6%, inflation has been tamed, and FDI has boomed. Red tape has been cut, too. “In the old days it would take months to register a company—now it takes days,” says a corporate lawyer. In a World Bank study evaluating the ease of doing business in 178 countries, Turkey ranked 57th in 2008, up from 65th in 2007. Looking ahead, a report released this week by PricewaterhouseCoopers, a consultancy, predicts that Turkey's economy will equal Italy's in size by 2050.