If you are rich and want to acquire Turkish citizenship, then congrats, your wish has come true. Turkey has significantly eased requirements for acquiring Turkish citizenship. The new regulations reduce the limits for fixed capital investments to acquire Turkish citizenship, reducing the investment from $2 million to $500,000. Additionally, foreigners who own real estate in Turkey worth a minimum of $250,000, instead of $1 million, can also acquire Turkish citizenship.
The aim of the amendment is to attract foreign investment after the collapse of the Turkish lira and the real-estate sector. House sales across Turkey have declined 12.5 percent on a yearly basis in August with a more than 67 percent yearly decrease in mortgage sales. Morover, the Turkish central bank’s total foreign currency reserves have fallensince April 2010.
Taking a look at the International Classification of Passports around the world, there is one clear conclusion: the new Turkish nationality law is not directed at the Western world. According to this classification, the Turkish passport is ranked 39th in the global passport index.
Within that rank, all Western passports are classified at much higher salaries than the Turkish passport. It is therefore natural that most Westerners will not be lured by an offer of Turkish citizenship. Therefore, it seems that the goal of the new law is to attract businesspersons from Arab countries, Iran, and some Asian countries. The Turkish president’s goal appears to leverage Turkish nationality, particularly to his wealthy non-Turkish followers, to save the Turkish economy and to serve his political and social goals.
President Erdogan is now aiming to reduce any remaining economic influence left in the secular camp after having curbed the influence of his secular nemesis from Turkey’s political scene, and forcing a boarder exodus from the country’s secular population. Days ago, the Turkish presidenttargeted the main secular opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) over its shares in Turkish lender Isbank, demanding the transfer of its share to the Treasury. He also called for an investigation into bank members who belong to the opposition Republican People’s Party.
The Turksih president’s policies are reminiscent of similar ones taken by late Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser. Despite the fundamental differences between the two leaders, they share a hatred for any secular aristocracy with their good life, affection for Westerners, and their control of the economy. While Nasser wanted anti-Western socialist totalitarianism, Erdogan aims to mold Turkey into some form of loyal, anti-Western, Islamist capitalism.
Looking back at 1950s Egypt, most pro-Western rich businessmen were forced to leave the country after Nasser tighten his grip on the economy. While the Treasury acquired their money and assets, this did not help Egypt, as Nasser later squandered the cash on his political and militarily adventures. Decades later, Egyptians now watch their old black-and-white movies, and miss a beautiful bygone era.
Arab history books explain how the Ottoman Sultans transferred the most skilled Arab artisans to Istanbul after conquests by their armies. Today, however, the neo-Ottoman president does not want skilled artisans, but instead rich businessmen. He does not care much about the source of money, nor does he care about the investor’s goal of obtaining a Turkish passport, as long as they strengthen his ailing economy.
But will the rich Middle Eastern and other business owners find Turkish citizenship attractive? Iranians may find this offer especially attractive, as the Iranian riyal has severely depreciated and U.S. sanctions are expected to go in effect next November. The acquisition of Turkish citizenship for some within Iran may be an easy way to avoid U.S. sanctions, by transferring their funds legitimately from inside Iran to Turkey. A Turkish passport also facilitates easier global travel.
For wealthy Arabs and business owners, however, especially from the Gulf states, a Turkish passport may not be as enticing. For example, a UAE passport is ranked much higher than its Turkish counterpart, so it is a safe bet to assume that Emirates businessmen will not find such offers attractive. This is similar for most other Gulf country citizens, mainly because of political differences between their leadership and that of Turkey. It is worth remembering that Turkey has sided with Qatar against the Saudi-led boucott imposed on Doha last year. Therefore, it would not be wise for a Gulf businessperson to risk creating conflict of interests by acquiring Turkish citizenship.
One group may find Turkish citizenship appealing; Arab Islamists. Such Islamists can be found among Qataris and other Islamist opponents of Arab regimes. Many Islamists who have repeatedly called for support of the Turkish lira may offer to buy Turkish nationality and invest in Turkey. Buying a beautiful villa on the Bosphorus when prices are low is nice, and now comes with the bonus of a Turkish passport. Nonetheless, it is unlikely that there will be a rush of Islamists seeking to acquire Turkish citizenship. While verbal support of Erdogan is easy, as is urging others to support the Turkish lira; when it comes to passport matters, wealthy Islamists still prefer Western passports and investing in countries with transparant rules and regulations that guarantee the interests of businesses, regardless of political and religious affiliation.
In short, the amended regulations for Turkish citizenship may lure some within Erdogan’s regional fan club to acquire a Turkish passport, but this citizenship sale will not do much to solve Turkey’s economic crisis. Turkey, like Egypt before, will learn that money alone does not build a stable flourishing economy.
An Arabic version of this piece is originally published in Al-Hurra