Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Selling the homeland

Again and again, there is an outcry that foreigners are buying up land, real estate or firms. Again and again, politicians are asked to step in and stop this hemorrhage. This happened when the Japanese bought big on a strong Yen, when Western European bought capital in Eastern Europe, when Northern Europeans bought vacation homes in Southern Europe and the Alps. Now it is Turkey's turn.

In the six years since the start Premier Erdogan liberalization policy, 73,000 houses went into foreign ownership. This is quite a change for Turkey, as it took about eight decades before that to reach a similar number. The government is trying to deregulate foreign ownership further, but the opposition is quick to capitalize on nationalist sentiment.

But why resist foreign ownership? It is like foreign direct investment, which is courted everywhere. Revenues from sales can be used to obtain foreign goods (and even foreign real estate!). And in general, it is good to diversify anyway.

Still, there are complaints, especially in the case of foreign ownership of businesses, that profits would leave the country. If it is that profitable, why was is not sold at a higher price or kept in local hands? What if foreign ownership actually makes the business profitable? In the case of real estate, the complaints are more about "strange people" coming into long established communities. Openness to new cultures never hurts, and these foreigners are typically richer, and thus bring good business for locals. The fact that foreigners want to buy drives prices higher, and those that benefit from that are the locals (those that sell).

On economic grounds, there is no reason to limit foreign ownership. There are emotional reasons to oppose, but they are emotional. Once you think about it, it makes sense.

No comments: