Turkish lira plummets after Erdogan fires central bank chief

ANKARA, TURKEY (AP) – The Turkish currency plummeted against the United States (US) dollar yesterday after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fired the central bank governor over the weekend for hiking interest rates.

The lira was trading at around 7.9 against the dollar – nearly 10 per cent down from Friday’s close.

It had been weaker earlier yesterday at 8.4 per dollar but recovered some of it losses after Finance Minister Lutfi Elvan assured markets that Turkey was committed to free market rules and to a liberal currency exchange regime.

Erdogan, who advocates keeping interest rates low to tame inflation, unexpectedly fired Naci Agbal with a decree on Saturday, just four months after he took office. He replaced Agbal with a banking professor who has argued for lower interest rates.

Agbal, a respected former finance minister, was brought in to lead the central bank after the Turkish lira hit record lows and inflation soared.

In his months in office, Agbal had hiked the benchmark rate a total of 875 basis points, working to rebuild the credibility of the central bank after it was damaged by years of unorthodox policies. Agbal’s most recent hike of 200 points on Thursday took the rate to 19 per cent, which was higher than analysts expected. The bank said tight monetary policy would be maintained until inflation, which has hit 15.61 per cent was brought under control.

Erdogan’s decree on Saturday appointed Sahap Kavcioglu as the new central bank head.

Kavcioglu is a banking professor and a columnist in a pro-government newspaper, where he has argued for low interest rates. He previously was a lawmaker in Erdogan’s ruling party.

Pedestrians and customers walk inside The Spice Bazaar in Istanbul. PHOTO: AFP