Turkey: Prime time for privatization
Turkey has ambitious plans for 2010 and 2011. As it seeks to finance a yawning budget deficit, everything is for sale. Lack of finance, legal challenges and a febrile political situation present hurdles but the government is determined to get deals done. Nick Lord reports from Istanbul.
IT COULD HAVE been the draw for the World Cup, or even a TV talent show: men in dark suits sit at a desk and open envelopes before a hushed and expectant crowd. They read out the names and numbers, and show the cards to the television cameras following the action. People cheer. But this isn’t football or a reality-show denouement: this is privatization prime time, Turkish style.
The government of Turkey has honed its privatization process to a level of transparency rarely seen in Europe. When companies make their final bids for assets being sold, the sealed envelopes are opened live on national TV. As a spectator sport it might lack the drama of finding out which city will host the next Olympics but as an indication of how seriously the government takes the sale of public assets to private shareholders it has few rivals.
Observers are in no doubt about this seriousness. It is largely driven by the need for finance but there is also a strong fundamental belief that the private sector makes a better owner of much of the national assets than the government.