Erdoğan names himself chairman of Turkey’s Wealth Fund

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (L) and Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak Berat Albayrak. AFP PHOTOS

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appointed himself chairman of Turkey’s sovereign Wealth Fund and his-son-in law and Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak as his deputy chairman, Turkish media reports said on Wednesday.

According to a decree published in the Official Gazette, Zafer Sönmez, head of Turkey and Africa for Malaysia’s government investment vehicle Khazanah Nasional Bhd, was named as the Wealth Fund’s new general manager. Treasury and Finance Minister Albayrak will also sit on the board,

The overhaul comes two years after the Wealth Fund was formed to try and capitalize on state assets and put a lid on market turmoil in the wake of a failed coup attempt. But the fund’s goals and strategy were never clearly defined, and internal strife led to the firing of its first chief executive officer after Erdoğan publicly expressed his disappointment.

The shakeup consolidates the president’s influence over another key financial institution in Turkey. Erdoğan had promised in an interview with Bloomberg in May to exert greater influence on economic policy after he was given expanded executive powers following an election in June.

He’s delivered on that pledge, ousting the old guard of policy makers who’d guided the economy since 2002 and giving himself the sole authority to make appointments at the central bank and other state organizations.

The wealth fund has stakes in assets including Turkish Airlines, Türk Telekom, state lenders TC Ziraat Bankası AŞ and Türkiye Halk Bankası AŞ, state oil and pipeline companies, the national postal service, the stock exchange, the national lottery and the national railway.

Since its formation, officials have debated the purpose of the fund, with some saying the companies should be managed to add value in line with a traditional sovereign vehicle, while others argued that its assets could be deployed to subdue market turmoil. Others pushed for the assets to be securitized and for the state to borrow against them.

In the shakeup, Erdoğan ousted one of his own advisers from the board, Yiğit Bulut. The new board members include Rıfat Hisarcıklıoğlu, head of the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB); Hüseyin Aydın, head of the banking association and Ziraat CEO; Arda Ermut, head of Turkey’s investment support and promotion agency; Erişah Arıcan, a professor and member of the Borsa Istanbul board; and businessman Fuat Tosyalı.

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