Erdogan asks Turks to prop up lira amid currency volatility

The Turkish currency has lost about 20 percent of its value since the beginning of the year.

Lira turkey
Ankara has blamed 'manipulations' for the foreign exchange rate volatility [Chris McGrath/Getty Images]

At the end of a volatile week for the embattled Turkish lira, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on Turks to convert to convert foreign currency savings into the country’s currency.

The lira, which has fallen about 20 percent this year, hit a low of 4.93 against the US dollar on Wednesday, before Turkey’s central bank raised its top interest rate by three percentage points to 16.5 percent in an attempt to help stabilise the currency.

The emergency rate hike, which helped reduce some of the losses, was followed up by the central bank also saying on Friday that it would allow some foreign currency debt to be repaid at fixed lira rates.

Speaking to supporters in the eastern city of Erzurum on Saturday, about one month before Turkey heads to the polls, Erdogan said: “My brothers who have dollars or euros under their pillow. Go and convert your money into lira. We will thwart this game together.”

Ankara has repeatedly said the lira’s fall was a “conspiracy” by unnamed foreign powers to weaken Turkey.

“If the financial sector plays such games to work against our investors and entrepreneurs, know that you will pay a steep price,” Erdogan said on Saturday.

‘Structural problems’

Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, said that according to economists, what the Turkish lira has been suffering from is no different to what currencies from any other developing country are going through.

“But they emphasise that the Turkish economy has some structural problems: high external debt – above $450bn – and accumulated foreign currency debt for the private sector,” she added.

The political situation in Turkey, as well as the instability of neighbouring countries, is also a factor, Koseoglu noted. 

There is a state of emergency under way since the failed coup in 2016 which is a major problem for many foreign investors … [as is] the ongoing the ongoing military operations in northern Syria.”

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Friday blamed “manipulations” for the lira’s weakness, “especially ahead of the elections”.

“Our economy is based on strong foundations,” Yildirim said during a rally in Izmir.

Call to lift state of emergency

Turkey is holding snap presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24.

Erdogan on Wednesday said he would not let “global governance types” ruin the country and said the lira’s volatility did not reflect economic realities.

Faik Oztrak, the deputy chair of Turkey’s main opposition party Republican People’s Party (CHP), issued a statement in which he asked parliament to lift the state of emergency as a means to “find a solution” to the currency volatility.

“The presidential office’s influence on economic management should also be lifted and the public should be guaranteed through a written statement that the Central Bank is free to use its tools,” Oztrak said in the statement carried by Turkish newspaper Hurriyet. 

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies