The Turkish Army and Economic Liberalism: Major Turkish Bank founded by Army Pension Fund is Sold to Foreign Investors

Readers who take an interest in Turkish society, politics and economics will be aware that the Armed Forces (English language website) are often linked with statist nationalist economics; and will have noticed that the present governing party AKP (English language website) is often credited with a contrasting spirit of economic openness. However, today I see that Oyak Bank (English language website) is going to be bought by ING. They announced it on their website a few days ago, but I picked up the news today from the print version of Cumhuriyet newspaper. Oyak is the pension fund of the Turkish army (a body of over a million members) and also provides general banking services to the public. The news has yet to be finalised but ING seem very confident and very happy.

This really does refute the idea that from an economic liberal point of view that AKP is good and the Turkish Army is bad. It is true that AKP has privatised and opened up the economy, but that has been the continuation of the policies of the previous government led by the arch statist-nationalist leftist Bülent Ecevit. AKP, like previous government parties, has expanded public employment to give jobs to its supporters.

The symbolism here is very rich. ING is Dutch in origin, tracing its history back to the Eighteenth Century. Therefore it comes from the Dutch commercial-financial-trading tradition, a tradition that goes back to the early years of the independent republic, the United Provinces, an inspiration to Early Modern Republicanism and the pioneer of stock markets and government finance through debt sold to private investors. That tradition strongly influenced British policy, including the development of the Bank of England and the London Stock Exchange, particularly after 1688 when William of Orange was invited by Parliament to rescue it from royal absolutism.

While I doubt that you would find many enthusiasts for pıre economic liberal doctrine in the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces, no doubt they would explain this in terms of strengthening the nation-state and no doubt political bargaining is part of the background, responsible people in Turkey and internationally can no longer refer to Turkey’s Armed Forces, who continue to be political players in Turkey, of being a barrier to economic liberalisation and internationalisation.

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