Turkey has resisted the temptation to cut borrowing costs, for now. The new head of the central bank, Sahap Kavcioglu, on Thursday kept the main rate at 19%, while hinting at a possible relaxation.
Tayyip Erdogan’s apparent goal of easing monetary policy falters. In March, he abruptly replaced the governor, Naci Agbal, who had raised rates that month by 200 basis points, the third dismissal from the post in two years. Kavcioglu seemed more inclined to please him, having argued that high rates can cause, rather than slow down, inflation.
So far, you have avoided any rough action. But you are setting the stage for relaxation. He spoke of keeping rates above inflation. Since the annual exceeded 16% in March, you can raise them up to 300 points. Meanwhile, the promise of March to maintain a tight monetary policy “for an extended period” disappeared.
But Turkey is worse than before. The lira has lost more than a tenth of its value against the dollar since the appointment. And, having spent more than $ 100 billion in 2020 to shore it up, the bank only has $ 10 billion in net foreign exchange reserves, the lowest level since 2003, giving it little ability to fight a sell-off. Also, the Turks are avoiding it in warehouses.
That means inflation can continue to rise. The growing current account deficit, of 2.6 billion dollars in February, is another cause for concern, especially since the restrictions mean that tourism will suffer again this year, which will hurt exports. Kavcioglu is unlikely to be able to slash rates without risking rising inflation, or even a currency crisis.
Your biggest problem is a lack of credibility. Société Générale estimates that another $ 5.9 billion of capital will leave Turkish assets in the short term. The central bank’s twists and turns make a rate cut even more risky.
The authors are columnists for Reuters Breakingviews. Opinions are yours. The translation, of Carlos Gomez Down, it is the responsibility of Five days