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Erdogan Appoints Himself as Head of Turkey’s Wealth Fund

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday appointed himself the chairman of Turkey’s sovereign wealth fund and named his son-in-law and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak as deputy chairman, sparking reactions from the opposition.

Zafer Sonmez, who was head of Turkey and Africa for Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd, was named as the fund’s general manager in presidential decrees published in the official gazette.

One of Erdogan’s advisors mainly known for his outlandish statements, Yigit Bulut, was removed from the board, while new members included Rifat Hisarciklioglu, the president of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB).

Erdogan last year said the fund needed a “reorganization” after the first chairman Mehmet Bostan was removed from his post in September 2017.

The fund was established in August 2016 and tens of billions of dollars worth of state assets including — wholly state-owned — Ziraat Bank were transferred to it in 2017.

The fund’s other assets include the state’s minority 49.12-percent shareholding in flag carrier Turkish Airlines, as well as state-owned enterprises such as the PTT Turkish post office.

Turkish Airlines is regarded as one of Turkey’s crown jewel assets and its size is set to grow further with the move to a giant new Istanbul airport as its main hub in October.

The fund was set up in the aftermath of the attempted overthrow of Erdogan in July 2016. Its establishment was seen as a way of tightening state control over Turkey’s assets.

Such funds can be used for large projects, maintaining pensions and national welfare programmes, or in times of crisis.

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