Central Bank Independence Attacked Again

The 2001 crisis and the following the post-crisis period were important milestones for economic policy-making in Turkey as well as for the monetary policy. In 2002 Turkish Central Bank adopted a modern monetary policy with primary objective of achieving price stability after the bank had been vested with instrument independence in the previous year. Thanks to these efforts, Turkey has been able to keep the annual inflation rates in the range of 4%-12% after experiencing a hyperinflation period in 90s with 3-digit numbers. Indeed, the posted inflation figures can not be considered as favorable outcomes as they are still above the central bank’s target.

Turkey - Inflation Rates

However, the independence of the central bank recently became a point to debate for politicians whom led by President Erdogan, Minister of Economy Nihat Zeybekci and Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus who is also a Professor of Economics. Last week (on Jan 16) Mr. Erdogan reiterated his long-established criticism of Turkish Central Bank for not reducing interest rates. Following that, Mr. Zeybekci signaled a change in the law of Turkish Central Bank which organizes the management structure and sets a primary target for the bank. Many pundits attributed this to setting some other targets like growth, employment for the central bank with a law amendment would be a primary agenda item for the new government after the general elections in June 2015.

Interestingly, Turkish Central Bank is more able to cut the interest rates in the upcoming monetary policy committees due to the decline in oil prices and easing inflation rates and is expected to do so by many analysts covering Turkish economics. Therefore Erdogan’s criticism has done nothing but raised the concerns over political pressure on the central bank’s decision. Simultaneously, lira has performed remarkably weaker compared to emerging country currencies, depreciated 2.5% to 2.34 per US dollar.

Post-elections scenarios in Turkey now include a substantial change in the way the monetary policy is made that would lead unpredictable things to occur in Turkish money markets. Investors should carefully keep track of any given remarks by the politicians on the issue.