(Releads with comment on expat deposits)
By Hatice Aydogdu
ANKARA, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Turkey said on Monday it would guard against risks of money laundering associated with a plan to draw in expatriates’ funds to help the nation weather the global financial crisis.
Millions of Turkish people live in European countries, mainly in Germany, the Netherlands and Austria. Some economists estimate the value of their savings at over $100 billion.
“We will be taking on all the risk,” Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday when asked by reporters about the plan to draw in expatriate deposits. He gave no further details.
Some economists and bankers have questioned the plan, given the failure of similar schemes in the past, and expressed concerns that it could be vulnerable to money-laundering.
Turkish banks are viewed as better placed than many European and U.S. rivals because of their relatively strong balance sheets and limited foreign exposure. Erdogan said at the start of October Turkey planned to maintain its current deposit guarantee of 50,000 lira ($35,800) per person.
Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan called in an interview last week for Turkish citizens not to borrow in foreign currency. The lira IYIX= has weakened 20 percent against the dollar this year to 19-month lows. It rebounded some 3 percent on Monday.
Erdogan also said on Monday Turkish exports were expected to exceed $136 billion this year while foreign direct investment would reach $15 billion despite difficult global conditions.
Turkey achieved a record $22 billion in FDI in 2007, when exports stood at $107.2 billion.
Referring to the impact of the global financial crisis on Turkey, he said in a speech: “We are taking whatever measures are necessary. Nobody should be concerned.” He did not elaborate.
Turkish shares have nearly halved in value this year as investors fled emerging markets seeking safe-haven assets. Markets rebounded on Monday as international bank bailouts restored confidence.
Since coming to power in 2002 in the wake of a Turkish financial crisis, Erdogan’s government has presided over a period of unprecedented economic growth. Loan accords with the International Monetary Fund have supported the recovery.
However, Finance Minister Unakitan warned last week the global crisis would affect Turkish growth, which some economists project could slow to 3 percent, after annual expansion of around 7 percent over the last five years.
Turkish business leaders have criticised the AK Party government as doing too little to protect the economy.
A Turkish delegation, headed by Economy Minister Mehmet Simsek, is in Washington for talks with IMF officials after the expiry of a $10 billion three-year IMF loan deal. A final decision on any follow-up deal is expected by November. (Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)