Turkey's pro-market bank chief resigns after scandal

Turkey's pro-market bank chief resigns after scandal

Turkish central bank chief Hafize Gaye Erkan was a Western investor darling
Turkish central bank chief Hafize Gaye Erkan was a Western investor darling. Photo: Adem ALTAN / AFP/File
Source: AFP

Turkey's central bank chief Hafize Gaye Erkan said Friday she was resigning after less than a year in the job over a media scandal involving her family.

The respected former Wall Street executive's decision threatens to unsettle Turkey's recovery from a dire economic crisis that saw the annual inflation rate reach 85 percent in 2022.

Erkan won major plaudits from Western investors for spearheading a rapid series of interest rate hikes that helped stabilise the slumping lira and tame Turkey's dire cost of living crisis.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- a lifelong opponent of high interest rates -- dropped his support for unconventional economics and repeatedly praised Erkan for her work.

But the 44-year-old has came under withering attack on social media and in some opposition publications for allegedly allowing her father to make unauthorised personnel decisions at the bank.

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Erkan has reportedly also angered Erdogan by telling one major newspaper last month that she had to move in with her parents because inflation had made renting in Istanbul unaffordable.

The attacks on Turkey's first woman central bank governor alarmed investors and created uncertainty about Erdogan's long-term commitment to his team.

"A major reputation assassination campaign has recently been organised against me," Erkan said in a social media statement.

"In order to prevent my family and my innocent child, who is not even one-and-a-half-years-old, from being further affected by this process, I have requested from our president to be pardoned from my duty, which I have been carrying out with honour since the first day."

'We will continue'

Erdogan appointed Erkan just weeks after winning a tough May re-election in which his main opponent focused on Turkey's economic ills.

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She joined a team led by Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek and other market-friendly technocrats that Western analysts saw as Turkey's best bet at pulling itself back from the brink of economic doom.

Their reforms have helped Turkey start winning back foreign investments and save the country from a potential banking crisis.

Erkan resigned just a week after completing a historic series of interest rate hikes that have taken the baseline rate from 8.5 percent to 45 percent.

The bank said last week that it intends to keep rates high for the immediate future to make sure inflation is brought under control.

Erkan's resignation puts the immediate focus on whether Erdogan intends to keep his pro-market team in place.

Simsek called Erkan's decision "completely personal" and in no way reflective of Turkey's future economic course.

"Our economic programme, carried out under the leadership of our President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, continues decisively and without interruption," he said in a statement.

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"We will continue to take firm steps towards our price stability target," Simsek said.

Some analysts said that Erkan's resignation could actually help Simsek and his team pursue their reformist programme by removing a distracting scandal.

"I do not think that the resignation of the central bank governor will have a negative impact," Ankara's TOBB University of Economics and Technology professor Fatih Ozatay said.

"Moreover, this is a development that will take the pressure off the central bank."

Source: AFP

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