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Progressive public banking is essential for sustainable development. Turkey’s experience illustrates this point, where state-owned banks have been at the centre of national developmental strategies and public infrastructure building since the early 20th century, collecting people’s savings and using them for domestic loans to fund government projects. Despite neoliberal restructuring, three large state-owned commercial banks and three small development banks continue to offer alternative sources of financing for Turkey’s development today.
This study builds an historical and qualitative perspective on the state banking experience of Turkey, exploring motivations behind changes in state-owned banks (SOBs) and examining differing perceptions of state banking, drawing on extensive interviews with more than 50 key actors in this sector. We conclude that the public banking model can allow these institutions to diverge from private, profit-maximizing imperatives with clear advantages: a focus on extra-market financial coordination; support in times of financial crisis; access to finance; the provision of a savers’ safe haven; and improved efficiency.
However, the public banking model is clearly under threat and there is an urgent need to develop and discuss popular and political strategies that aim not simply to defend Turkey’s SOBs but to reclaim their most progressive mandates and to innovate well beyond their present limitations.
Occasional Paper No. 22