Turkey eyes $15 billion foreign investment within three years

ANKARA (AFP) – Turkey is hoping to attract 15 billion dollars of foreign investment between 2005 and 2007 through reforms designed to overhaul its economy and ease the country’s entry into the European Union, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Abdullatif Sener said yesterday. «We give primary importance to foreign investment flow. We are aiming to draw 15 billion dollars (11.36 billion euros) of foreign investment in three years,» Sener told a press conference to unveil a three-year economic program to draw Turkey closer to the EU’s economic norms. «We have already started to take serious steps to improve the investment environment,» said Sener, flanked by Economy Minister Ali Babacan and Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan. He added that foreign investment flow was estimated to reach 2.9 billion dollars at the end of 2004. Foreign investment is vital to the Turkish economy, which is making a firm recovery from a tight economic austerity program to pull the country out of its worst recession in decades. Turkey is betting on an increase in the number of foreign investors coming to the country if EU leaders agree at a summit on December 17 to invite Ankara to membership talks. Under the three-year program, Turkey is aiming for a yearly growth of 5 percent, Sener said, adding that growth was expected to be around 10 percent in 2004, double the year-end target of 5 percent. Inflation, which is expected to undershoot the year-end target of 12 percent this year, will be brought down to 4 percent at the end of 2007, Sener said. The program also aims to decrease gross public debt stock some 10 percentage points to 68.3 percent of GDP. Tourism revenues, which hit 13.2 billion dollars in 2003, are expected to be about 21 billion dollars in 2007. The government also plans to bring unemployment, which stood at 10.5 percent last year, to 9.3 in 2007 and create 1.65 million new jobs in three years. The program was to form the basis of a new standby deal Turkey is hoping to sign with the International Monetary Fund when its current 16-billion-dollar deal expires in February 2005, Babacan explained. Officials have not released any details of the new standby deal, but Turkish newspapers have said that it will involve a credit line of about 8 billion to 10 billion dollars.