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Lira slips as Erdogan defends former ministers’ economic policies

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22 Feb 2021

ISTANBUL – Following a five week rally which has seen the Turkish lira rise 7% against the dollar since the start of the year, the currency slipped on Monday, losing around 1% in a political dispute in which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan defended his record. son-in-law and former finance minister Berat Albayrak.

The reshuffle comes after Turkey’s main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), launched a social media campaign last week criticize Albayrak for overseeing a sharp decline in Turkey’s foreign exchange reserves during his two-year tenure, which ended abruptly with his resignation in November. The CHP claimed that Albayrak, who has remained largely out of public sight since his resignation, has spent nearly $ 130 billion in reserves to prop up the lira against an economic downturn triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response, Albayrak broke his four month silence Saturday via a statement shared by his attorney who threatened to sue the CHP and other critics for libel to the tune of 500,000 lire ($ 71,150), claiming the proceeds would go to the families of fallen soldiers. He also linked the criticism to terrorist organizations trying to undermine Turkish sovereignty.

“The transactions on the reserves of the Central Bank were carried out in accordance with the regulations in force and in accordance with the objectives of financial stability and prices, in a manner consistent with the requirements of the balance of payments,” said the lawyer of ‘Albayrak in the press release.

Erdogan then defended the former minister’s policies during a speech in Izmir on Monday at a rally for the ruling Justice and Development Party. The Turkish leader said Albayrak had performed his duties under “market rules and laws” to support the party’s monetary policy goals in the face of the downturn due to the pandemic.

Claiming that Albayrak had come under more scrutiny for his family ties to the Turkish president“Erdogan said on Monday,” His greatest misfortune is that the title of married came before his efforts and his track record. ”

The Turkish lira climbed 1.35% on the president’s comments, reaching 7.07 per dollar before falling to 7.02 at 7:30 p.m. Istanbul time.

Emre Peker, director of political consultancy Eurasia Group, said the row comes at a fragile time for Erdogan, who has seen his support drop in recent public inquiries due to economic hardship and rising food prices. Across the country.

“When I look at both the trial and Erdogan’s comments, I see a typical attempt to shift the blame and change the conversation with these conspiracy theories, and allegations and unfounded links to terrorism to try to relieve the government of its responsibility, ”Peker told Al-Surveiller.

The sentiments of foreign investors towards Turkey have become more favorable since the appointments in November of Lutfi Elvan as finance minister and Naci Agbal as head of the central bank. Through a pair of interest rate hikes last year, Agbal sought to restore the bank’s credibility by maintaining a tighter and more orthodox monetary policy than its predecessor.

In the middle of the weekend exchanges, Elvan also defended Albayrak Sunday on Twitter, saying he condemned the “unfair and crass rhetoric of the CHP.”

“It is unacceptable to distort foreign exchange reserve transactions carried out in accordance with the objective of financial stability in the context of the 2020 pandemic in an environment made necessary by extraordinary fluctuations in global markets,” Elvan tweeted.

Although the lira has advanced under the new economic leadership, prompting the International Monetary Fund to raise its growth forecast for the Turkish economy to 6% in 2021, Peker said that much of recent cash inflows of the country was speculative and that foreign direct investment continued to lag behind, as in other countries, due to the pandemic.

Such momentum, Peker said, has prompted Erdogan to seek national political victories to bolster voter support ahead of the elections slated for 2023, in which he will need at least 50% of the popular vote to extend his term to 18. years.

“It’s not a good image for Erdogan,” Peker told Al-Monitor. “He knows it and every two weeks we have a new talking point to try to distract, keep the audience busy, and find the magic bullet that will push their support above 50% again.”



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