UK ‘confident’ of Turkey’s potential despite turmoil

UK ‘confident’ of Turkey’s potential despite turmoil

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
UK ‘confident’ of Turkey’s potential despite turmoil

Lord Mayor of City London Fiona Woolf (2nd R) poses with British Ambassador to Turkey Richard Moore (L), British Chamber of Commerce Head Chris Gaunt (2nd L) and ITO Deputy Chair Gökhan Murat Kalsız.

Neither negative forecasts made by certain experts on economy, nor recent political turmoil seems to have deterred British interest in doing business in Turkey.

The British Business Summit held at the beginning of the week in Istanbul with the participation of a big delegation from the United Kingdom reflects London’s long-term confidence in Turkey’s economy, the lord mayor of the city of London said in an interview with Hürriyet Daily News.

While refraining from commenting on the corruption scandals and the audio recordings that allegedly show Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s personal interference in economic tenders, Lord Mayor Fiona Woolf, who led the delegation, said Turkey remained one of the most attractive markets for the U.K.

“As we have come out of recession and growth is looking sustainable, we have new confidence to invest in new markets. Given its economic growth and the growth of its middle class, Turkey is one of the top-10 most attractive markets. It may even be in the top five with its position as hub between the East and West,” said Woolf, the 686th lord mayor of London and the second woman to hold the position.

A potential tapering of the U.S. government’s quantitative easing (QE) program that some believe might have a negative effect on the Turkish economy does not seem to have shaken investor confidence among the British, according to Woolf. “Nobody has mentioned tapering as an issue that would undermine their confidence in Turkey,” said Woolf.

The lord mayor of London, whose mission is to promote bilateral trade and investment, underlined the importance of a long-term perspective while answering whether the corruption scandals and leaked audio recordings allegedly proving the prime minister’s interference with certain tenders had affected U.K. confidence in doing business in Turkey.

 “I can’t comment on allegations; any corruption that is proven is something we cannot condone. Trying to look at the long-term sustainability of the growth in this region; U.K. interests are in the long term. We would hope Turkey would be, based on its strong economic growth, a long-term partner. We see the potential for strong, long-term growth in Turkey and also in Turkey’s role in the region because the region has considerable potential for growth,” she said.

Project accountability ‘crucial’

British interests focus on four areas, according to Woolf: infrastructure, technology, financial services and healthcare.

The construction of the third airport, third bridge, railways and highways are some of the infrastructure projects in which British business have interest.

Woolf recalled that as banks are limited in the long-term loans they can provide, investors are coming to London for new financing instruments and that this was also an area in which the U.K. is interested in cooperating with Turkey.

However, some of the projects are highly controversial, such as the third airport and third bridge, due to environmental and urban-planning objections.

When asked about the controversial nature of the projects and objections, Woolf said that if such issues were not soon resolved, business would go elsewhere.

“I make this point to all governments we work with. Investors will come for what we call ‘oven-ready projects;’ it needs to be well-prepared and the issues with environment and local communities need to be resolved,” she said.

As for Istanbul’s ambition of becoming a financial center, Woolf said the city was well-placed geographically to become such a hub. “The key is to have a very predictable legal and regulatory environment,” she said, adding that Turkey had started the journey in that direction.