Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has replaced the country’s finance minister after weeks of economic turmoil in which inflation soared as the lira plummeted to record lows.
The currency has lost more than 40 percent of its value against the US dollar this year, making it the worst-performing of all emerging market currencies.
According to a presidential decree issued near midnight on Wednesday, Erdogan accepted the resignation of Lutfi Elvan and appointed his deputy, Nureddin Nebati, as the new finance minister.
Nebati, 57, has a bachelor’s degree in public administration and a master’s degree in social sciences from Istanbul University. He also holds a doctoral degree in political science and public administration from Turkey’s Kocaeli University.
His predecessor had only been in the role since November 2020, when he was appointed after the resignation of Erdogan’s son-in-law, Berat Albayrak.
Elvan’s year-long tenure was marked by numerous crises.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Turkish Central Bank intervened in markets to prop up the nosediving lira, which has lost nearly 30 percent in value against the dollar in just a month.
Erdogan believes that high interest rates cause high inflation – the exact opposite of conventional economic thinking – and has insisted he would keep rates low.
Under pressure from Erdogan, Turkey’s officially independent central bank lowered its key interest rate in November for the third time in less than two months. It did so despite inflation approaching 20 percent – four times the government’s target.
Turkey’s currency hit yet another record low of more than 14 to the dollar before recouping some losses on Wednesday after a central bank move to sell reserves. One dollar bought 13.22 lira as of Wednesday afternoon.
The recovery, however, was short-lived after Erdogan appeared again to defend his “new economic model” against the “malice of interest”.
On Tuesday, figures showed Turkey’s economy had grown by 7.4 percent in the third quarter, compared with a year earlier, but some analysts believe the surge could be short-lived due to the high inflation and currency meltdown.
Since 2019, Erdogan has sacked three central bank governors who opposed his desire for lower interest rates. The president, who has blamed the lira’s troubles on foreigners sabotaging Turkey’s economy and on their supporters in the country, believes lower rates will fight inflation, boost economic growth, power exports and create jobs.
Meanwhile, public discontent appears to be on the rise.
Last week, demonstrators protested economic policies in the largest city of Istanbul and the capital, Ankara, while the main opposition Republican People’s Party plans a rally for early elections on Saturday in the southern city of Mersin.