Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is intent on following unorthodox economic policies that few people endorse but that he expects to bear fruit before elections scheduled for 2023, the New York Times reported.
Erdoğan is ignoring warnings from business groups, investors and economists despite a slump in his approval rating among ordinary Turks and record falls for the Turkish lira.
“He believes he knows best,” said Akif Beki, a former adviser to Erdoğan, according to the New York Times. “I don’t think he listens to advice.”
Erdoğan said at the weekend that his government would press on with lowering interest rates, invoking an Islamic ban on usury. He accused the Turkish Business and Industrialists Association (TÜSİAD), made up of the country’s largest companies, of seeking to overthrow his government. It said on Saturday that he should reverse his economic policies, which foresee a surge in exports and strong economic growth.
“Interest rates make the rich richer, the poor poorer,” Erdoğan said. “We have prevented our country being crushed in such a way. We will not allow this.”
Turkey’s lira has slumped to successive record lows against the dollar, losing about a third of its value this month alone, after Erdoğan ordered the central bank to cut interest rates despite accelerating inflation. The bank has lowered rates to 14 percent from 19 percent since September, reducing them most recently on Thursday. Consumer price inflation has accelerated to 21.3 percent and is expected to spike higher in December.
Beki said Erdoğan believed his policies would work and he would be able to convince the electorate of their validity.
“He is trying to keep the boat afloat in his own way,” Beki said. “He believes that he can turn things around and he can convince people again when elections come closer.”
Özgür Ünlühisarcıklı, the director of the Ankara office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said Erdoğan was displaying the hallmarks of an authoritarian.
“He is not listening to the economists which is typical of strongmen,” Ünlühisarcıklı said. The president is “increasingly less tolerant of dissent, particularly from within the party,” he said.
“Turkey may for the first time in its history have the opportunity to follow an economic policy in line with its own needs and realities,” Erdoğan said at the weekend.
The president is now focused on elections, regaining political momentum and preserving his power, Ünlühisarcıklı said.
“The only thing that is going on now is the upcoming elections,” he said. “He is looking for a way out.”