Turkey set to raise rates, balancing lira and growth concerns

The Turkish Central Bank is worried about economic slowdown. (Reuters)
Updated 12 September 2018

Turkey set to raise rates, balancing lira and growth concerns

  • The lira has slumped 40 percent against the dollar this year, weakened partly by unease over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s influence on monetary policy
  • The central bank confounded expectations for a rate increase at its July meeting, fueling the belief it is under pressure from Erdogan

ISTANBUL: The Turkish Central Bank is expected to raise interest rates on Thursday to calm a currency crisis, but forecasts for the scale of the increase vary widely as the bank balances concerns over lira weakness with worries about an economic slowdown.
The lira has slumped 40 percent against the dollar this year, weakened by unease over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s influence on monetary policy and more recently a bitter row with the US that has unsettled investors.
The central bank confounded expectations for a rate increase at its July meeting, fueling the belief it is under pressure from Erdogan, who has called interest rates the “mother and father of all evil” and frequently urges they be kept low.
But after inflation surged in August to its highest in nearly 15 years, the central bank said that it would take action against “significant risks” to price stability — a rare move to soothe financial markets.
It said its monetary stance will be adjusted at Thursday’s policy committee meeting. Analysts saw this as pointing to an increase in the benchmark one-week repo rate, now 17.75 percent — less than the annual inflation rate of 17.9 percent.
Phoenix Kalen, strategist at Societe Generale, forecast the repo rate would be raised to 20.75 percent and would be restored as the main policy instrument after a period during which the effective funding rate has been 19.25 percent.
“Although this amount of monetary tightening may disappoint market expectations and spark renewed TRY weakness, the decision would reflect the prioritization of Turkish authorities’ concerns regarding a rapidly decelerating economy,” Kalen said.
Turkey’s economic growth slowed to 5.2 percent in the second quarter, data showed this week, and the economy is expected to slow again in the second half.
In a Reuters poll, all 11 economists predicted the benchmark one-week repo rate would be raised.
The average forecast was to 22 percent, but predictions ranged from an increase of 225 basis points to 725 basis points.


EU pledges to stay green in virus recovery

Updated 29 May 2020

EU pledges to stay green in virus recovery

  • To help economies from the 27-nation bloc bounce back as quick as possible

BRUSSELS: The European Commission pledged on Thursday to stay away from fossil-fueled projects in its coronavirus recovery strategy, and to stick to its target of making Europe the first climate neutral continent by the middle of the century, but environmental groups said they were unimpressed.

To weather the deep recession triggered by the pandemic, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has proposed a €1.85 trillion ($2 trillion) package consisting of a revised long-term budget and a recovery fund, with 25 percent of the funding set aside for climate action.

To help economies from the 27-nation bloc bounce back as quick as possible, the EU’s executive arm wants to increase a €7.5-billion ($8.25 billion) fund presented earlier this year that was part of an investment plan aiming at making the continent more environmentally friendly.

Under the commission’s new plan, which requires the approval of member states, the mechanism will be expanded to €40 billion ($44 billion) and is expected to generate another €150 billion in public and private investment. The money is designed to help coal-dependent countries weather the costs of moving away from fossil fuels.

Environmental group WWF acknowledged the commission’s efforts but expressed fears the money could go to “harmful activities such as fossil fuels or building new airports and motorways.”

“It can’t be used to move from coal to coal,” Frans Timmermans, the commission executive vice president in charge the European Green Deal, responded on Thursday. “It is unthinkable that support will be given to go from coal to coal. That is how we are going to approach the issue. That’s the only way you can ensure you actually do not harm.”

Timmermans conceded, however, that projects involving fossil fuels could sometimes be necessary, especially the use of natural gas to help move away from coal.

The commission also wants to dedicate an extra €15 billion ($16.5 billion) to an agricultural fund supporting rural areas in their transition toward a greener model.

Von der Leyen, who took office last year, has made the fight against climate change the priority of her term. Timmermans insisted that her goal to make Europe the world’s first carbon-neutral continent by 2050 remained unchanged, confirming that upgraded targets for the 2030 horizon would be presented by September.

Reacting to the executive arm’s recovery plans, Greenpeace lashed out at a project it described as “contradictory at best and damaging at worst,” accusing the commission of sticking to a growth-driven mentality detrimental to the environment.

“The plan includes several eye-catching green `options,’ including home renovation schemes, taxes on single-use plastic waste and the revenues of digital giants like Google and Facebook. But it does not solve the problem of existing support for gas, oil, coal, and industrial farming — some of the main drivers of a mounting climate and environmental emergency,” Greenpeace said.

“The plan also fails to set strict social or green conditions on access to funding for polluters like airlines or carmakers.”

Timmermans said the EU would keep investing in the development of emission-free public transportation, and promoting clean private transport through the EU budget.