Turkey plans to tap into $6.6 billion reserves

Turkish Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak attends a news conference in Istanbul, Turkey, on April 10, 2019. (REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo)
Updated 14 May 2019
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Turkey plans to tap into $6.6 billion reserves

  • Turkey’s budget recorded a 36.2 billon lira deficit in the first quarter of 2019
  • Turkey’s economy tipped into recession last year after the lira fell sharply

ANJARA: Turkey is working on legislation to transfer the Turkish Central Bank’s 40 billion lira ($6.6 billion) legal reserves to the government’s budget, three economic officials have told Reuters.

The country’s budget, the sources claimed, are much deeper in deficit than had been expected, prompting the move. It is unclear when a draft law would reach parliament, though one of the sources said it could happen “soon.”

Turkey’s economy tipped into recession last year after the lira fell sharply. The currency is now under pressure partly due to worries over the bank’s depleted foreign exchange reserves, meant to defend against another crisis.

Separate to foreign exchange reserves, “legal reserves” are what the central bank sets aside from profits by law to be used in extraordinary circumstances. At the end of 2018, they stood at 27.6 billion lira, according to the bank’s balance sheet data.

A second source with knowledge of the matter said last year’s “legal reserves” combined with this year’s amounted to the 40-billion lira figure, which was cited by all three people who spoke to Reuters.

“The Turkish Central Bank has around 40 billion lira in legal reserves. The transfer of this amount to the 2019 central administration budget was seen as suitable. This step aims at improving and strengthening the budget,” the second source said.

It remains unclear how much of the reserves would ultimately be transferred and what, if any, new requirements would apply to the bank.

Officials from the bank and the Treasury could not immediately be reached for comment.

The transfer would mark the second recent move by Ankara to tap the bank’s funds to boost its budget. In January, it transferred some 37 billion lira in profits to the Treasury three months earlier than scheduled.

“I do not remember the use of legal reserves before. This method came up to stop further deterioration of the budget,” the first source said.

“There needs to be legislation to transfer the bank’s legal reserves. The new legislation is planned to be presented to parliament soon.”

Turkey’s budget recorded a 36.2 billon lira deficit in the first quarter of 2019, according to Treasury and Finance Ministry data. The deficit is expected to reach 80.6 billion lira by the end of 2019, not taking the possible tranfer into account.


British Airways to resume Pakistan flights next week after a decade

Updated 23 May 2019
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British Airways to resume Pakistan flights next week after a decade

  • BA halted service to Pakistan in the wake of the 2008 Marriott Hotel bombing in Islamabad
  • BA will begin the London Heathrow-Islamabad service with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner

ISLAMABAD: British Airways will resume flights to Pakistan next week a decade after it suspended operations following a major hotel bombing, becoming the first Western airline to restart flights to the South Asian country.

BA halted service to Pakistan in the wake of the 2008 Marriott Hotel bombing in the capital Islamabad that took place during a period of devastating Islamist militant violence in Pakistan.

Security has since improved, with militant attacks sharply down in the mainly Muslim country of 208 million people, reviving Pakistan as a destination for tourist and investors.

“The final touches are coming together for the airline’s return ahead of the first flight on Sunday June 2,” British Airways said in a statement. It will launch a three-per-week service to London Heathrow, it said.

“We’re on board,” Pakistani Civil Aviation spokeswoman Farah Hussain said about the flights resumption.

BA, which is owned by Spanish-registered IAG, will begin the London Heathrow-Islamabad service with the airline’s newest long-haul aircraft, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

At present, only loss-making national carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flies directly from Pakistan to Britain, but its ageing fleet of planes is a frequent source of complaints by passengers.

Middle Eastern carriers Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates have a strong presence in Pakistan and have been eating into PIA’s dwindling market share. Turkish Airlines also lays on a regular service to Pakistan.

Islamabad has been running international advertising campaigns to rejuvenate its tourism sector, which was wiped out by Islamist violence that destabilised the country following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States and the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

“We hope customers in both the UK and Pakistan will enjoy the classically British service we offer, with thoughtful bespoke touches,” Andrew Brem, Chief Commercial Officer at British Airways, said in BA’s statement.

BA said there will be a halal meal option in every cabin and the airline would also ensure sauces in every meal do not contain alcohol or pork.