Aya Sofia. Istanbul, Turkey

How Do Taxpayer-Backed Government Agencies Market Themselves? With Misleading Interactive Maps.

Using an interactive map, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is marketing itself as a supporter of small and women-owned businesses.

Like many emerging markets, Turkey has a base of small businesses that provide a key source of employment, but still struggle to access financing. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), defined in Turkey as those with less than $20 million in revenue, collectively account for about 78% of all employment in Turkey but receive only about a third of all loans.

In 2012, OPIC provided $400 million in financing to Turkiye Garanti Bankasi A.S., in collaboration with MBIA Inc. of New York, to support lending to SMEs in general and female entrepreneurs in particular. 

A compelling tactic though this may seem, they conveniently leave out something Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner brings to light — OPIC also gave $50 million in financing to subsidize a Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Istanbul, Turkey.

If you’ve ever visited Istanbul and stayed at the Ritz-Carlton, however, you’ve enjoyed the benefits of OPIC.

“This luxury hotel, set in the heart of the city and overlooking the Bosphorus, beautifully blends modern sophistication with historic Ottoman touches, found everywhere from the spa’s traditional hammam to the exceptional accommodations,” the hotel’s website reads. “[T]he graceful lobby is adorned in Turkish carpets, antique furniture and an oversized oil painting from contemporary artist Timur Kerim Incedayi.”

OPIC extended $50 million in financing in 2000 to subsidize the hotel.

Under the headline “Planning for Growth” OPIC’s 2000 annual report details another $26.5 million in financing going towards a Ritz-Carlton, this time in South Africa:

A different type of power is wielded by the decision makers whose business brings them to the centers of emerging markets. Because business accommodations are part of the business infrastructure, OPIC is involved in quality hotel projects around the world. In conjunction with financing from the International Finance  Corporation, OPIC will provide $26.5 million in financing for the development, construction and operation of the 250-room Ritz Carlton at Spier hotel in Stellenbosh, near Cape Town, South Africa. In addition to providing 433 permanent jobs, the hotel will facilitate new foreign investment  and result in an estimated $110 million in local purchases.

OPIC — they’re almost as good at marketing as they are at corporate welfare for wealthy companies.

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