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Wednesday / March 20.

Turkey curbs growth ambitions in a bid to stem market rout

Measures are Albayrak’s first whack at fixing the $880 billion economy’s vulnerabilities


In their first response to the market rout in the past week, Turkish policymakers said they’d curb economic growth ambitions to reduce borrowing.

The government has set a growth target of less than 4 per cent, down from 5.5 per cent originally, Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak’s office said.

The measures are Albayrak’s first whack at fixing the $880 billion economy’s vulnerabilities since the most recent market rout was triggered by last week’s US sanctions. The penalties on two ministers in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government were imposed over Turkey’s continued detention of an American pastor, sending lira assets to record lows and sparking fears that what began as a markets meltdown might spill over into the rest of the economy.

Although it’s good news that Turkey’s new economy tsar finally spoke about his plan, investors are sceptical, according to Tim Ash, a senior emerging-market strategist at BlueBay Asset Management LLC in London.

“It’s a case of seeing is believing in terms of delivery,” Ash said. “Albayrak needs to be specific in terms of how exactly he is going to cut the budget deficit this year. It’s great having nice targets but let’s not forget the Turkish central bank has a 5 per cent inflation target and has not met it over the past decade.”

A lower growth target goes to the heart of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s dispute with the International Monetary Fund and others warning that the Middle East’s largest economy may have overheated.

Erdogan rejects the notion that slower growth is the answer. He’s a fierce opponent of higher interest rates, and backed a wave of fiscal stimulus in the run-up to his re-election in June. He also prides himself on having freed Turkey from the “tutelage” of the Washington-based lender.

Read more on Erdogan’s road map out of market meltdown: Erdogan’s Road Map Out of Market Meltdown Is Full of U-turns (2)

The lira initially erased some of its losses following Albayrak’s statement before falling again. It had weakened 3.85 per cent to 5.4821 per dollar at 6:06pm in Istanbul.

This article first appeared on GulfNews.com