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Turkey’s Economic Policies Cause Its Money’s Value to Drop

A money changer counts Turkish lira bills at an currency exchange office in central Istanbul, Turkey, Aug. 21, 2015.
A money changer counts Turkish lira bills at an currency exchange office in central Istanbul, Turkey, Aug. 21, 2015.
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The value of Turkish money, called the lira, hit another historic low compared to the U.S. dollar on Tuesday.

Among the reasons for the drop is that currency traders are concerned that the Turkish economy is growing too quickly.

With elections coming soon, the government is pushing economic growth. Currently growth is over seven percent. That makes Turkey one of the fastest-growing economies.

But international investors are becoming more worried about the cost of such growth. Turkey has inflation of over 10 percent. The country also is importing more goods than it exports leading to an increasing trade deficit, or current account deficit.

"Investors are disappointed by the fact the government is pushing growth even faster,” said economist Inan Demir of Nomura Holdings. He added that most investors believe the government should be trying to lower inflation and the current account deficit.

"Some people say this: 'Too much growth is not a good thing,'" Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech Monday in an answer to critics. "Why? Because they are jealous. It is nothing else," he said.

In another move to grow the economy, Erdogan announced $34 billion in new economic programs. Much of Turkey's growth has come from billions of dollars in government spending.

Erdogan challenged international financial markets by restating his strong opposition to increasing interest rates. Often central banks increase interest rates to keep the exchange value of a currency from falling.

Without an increase in interest rates, the lira will continue to depreciate, and the value of the lira will be set by international investors, Demir said.

Since the start of the year, the exchange value of the lira has fallen over seven percent compared to the dollar.

Last week, the lira fell sharply after reports that Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek had resigned after an angry telephone call with Erdogan over interest rate policy.

Simsek is responsible for the economy. Experts say he is important in keeping the confidence of financial markets in Turkey because he formerly worked for the investment bank Goldman Sachs. Some in Ankara say Simsek later agreed to stay in his job after heavy government pressure.

But with presidential and general elections upcoming in 2019, a growing economy is important to Erdogan and his ruling AKP Party's re-election chances.

Abdulkadir Selvi is a writer and presidential expert for the Hurriyet newspaper. Earlier this week, he wrote, "He [Erdogan] knows the way to win the election is by improving the economic situation." Selvi added, "That is why he declared 2018 as the year of performance, growth and employment."

Market expert Atilla Yesilada is with the business support company Global Source Partners. He said Erdogan’s party has nothing but economic growth to offer after abandoning human rights and modern democracy. Without economic growth measures, the economy will slow and they will not win re-election, he said.

But a falling currency brings other economic risks. Experts warn that sharp currency decreases usually hurt consumer confidence and lead to less spending on goods and services. That causes economic growth to slow.

A greater threat faced by Turkey is debt.

Two of Turkey’s largest companies have been seeking to re-organize $12 billion in bank loans. International investors are watching Turkish banks. They want to know about the quality of loans they have provided and whether borrowers are still making payments.

Yesilada explained that the government, the banks and the companies agree that the system must continue, so nobody will declare that there is a problem.

Turkish bank stocks continue to lose value and are now at their lowest level in nine years. However, most experts believe that the banking system is still strong.

But some market experts warn that banks may reduce their lending in the future. Such a move would likely affect growth.

Demir said Erdogan and his government's push for growth could end in failure. He said that if investors continue to sell the Turkish lira, it will hurt companies that have loans, forcing them to cut back on workers and investment, and that will lead to much slower growth.

I’m Susan Shand

Dorian Jones reported this story for VOA. Susan Shand adapted the report for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.


Words in This Story

disappoint v. to make (someone) unhappy by not being as good as expected or by not doing something that was hoped for or expected

jealous adj. feeling or showing an unhappy or angry desire to have what someone else has

challenge v. something that causes something else to happen, develop, or become more active

currency n. the money that a country use

depreciate –v. to lose value

confidencen. a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something

abandonv. to leave and never return to

consumern. one who buys things