Erdogan’s at it again: Turkish president renews unorthodox call for lower rates

Erdogan’s at it again: Turkish president renews unorthodox call for lower rates
Turks won't want a return to the chronic inflation of decades past. Pictured are old Turkish lira banknotes with the requisite extra zeroes.
By bne IntelliNews June 19, 2018

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on June 19 renewed his call for interest rates to come down in order to attract more investment into the country.

His comments, made on the election trail in the southern city of Adana, come soon after analysts concluded that with Turkey’s financial markets under severe pressure he raised the ‘white flag’ to assent to rate hikes introduced by the central bank in late May and early June to address economic ills including the collapsing Turkish lira (TRY) and worsening double-digit inflation. Those ministers trying to steady the lira and wider economy as Turkey heads into the June 24 snap presidential and parliamentary elections may be annoyed by Erdogan’s latest intervention in monetary matters given that it is investors’ fear of the economic populist president demanding cheaper money once he is safely re-elected that has partly restricted the impact of the rate increases.

Erdogan’s remarks were also delivered just as Capital Economics was concluding that an expected sharp slowdown in Turkey was materialising and Bloomberg was reporting that Turks are joining foreign investors in shifting their assets—and in many cases themselves—out of the country amid fears for their money and security should Erdogan win more power if elected as the country’s first executive president in the elections.

“If we are going to strengthen investors, we have to do it through low interest rates,” Erdogan told the Adana gathering.

The Turkish central bank raised its policy rate by 300 basis points after an emergency meeting on May 23, then by another 125 basis points on June 7.

“(The bank) raised rates 3 points, then another 1.5 points. They are telling me I shouldn’t talk about this before the election. Why wouldn’t I? I have to speak the truth, so we can reach the truth,” Erdogan added.

The emergency rate hike was brought in hours after the TRY hit an all-time low of 4.9294 to the dollar. By around 14:00 Istanbul time on June 21 it stood at 4.7527, meaning the currency remained around 20% down against the USD in the year to date. It started June 19 at 4.7112.

Looking at the prospects for Turkish rates in a note released on June 19, Capital Economics concluded that any further moves will hinge on swings in the currency and “that the lira will depreciate steadily over the next couple of years, to 4.8/$ by the end of 2018 and to 5.0/$ by end-2019. In this situation, the CBRT [Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey] will probably hold off from further rate hikes. But Turkey’s large external financing needs mean that the lira is vulnerable if global investor sentiment deteriorates again. In the event of a shock, the central bank could be forced to raise interest rates further.”