Turkey is targeting more taxpayers

ISTANBUL – Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan said yesterday Turkey aims to cut its net public debt stock as a percentage of gross national product (GNP) to below 60 percent in 2005 from 63.5 percent last year. Unakitan, speaking to a gathering of Muslim investors from Turkey and the Gulf, said the government would reduce its borrowing requirement, not by raising tax rates but by broadening the pool of taxpayers. Turkey has a large unregistered economy where business transactions are not recorded and on which no tax is paid. The ratio of Turkey’s net public debt stock to GNP was 78.6 percent in 2002 and 70.4 percent in 2003. Unakitan also said his ministry expects privatization deals concluded in 2005 to be worth a total $20 billion (16 billion euros), far higher than previous estimates. Turkey’s nine-month privatization deals this year have already topped $15 billion. «We expect privatization to be $20 billion this year,» said Unakitan. Turkey’s IMF-backed privatization program has had a difficult past, with deals blocked by court rulings or yielding revenues well short of government expectations. But in recent months the campaign has gathered momentum, with the sale of a 55 percent stake in landline telecoms monopoly Turk Telekom for $6.55 billion and a 51 percent stake in oil refiner Tupras for $4.14 billion. The next big sell-off due is of leading iron and steel company Erdemir, with an auction expected next week. Unakitan said that he expected Turkish exports to total $76 billion in 2005, above the original $71 billion target. Officials say Turkish exports in the period from January 1 to September 24 totaled $51.923 billion, up from $44.158 billion in the same period in 2004. The total amount of exports last year stood at $63.12 billion.