Turkey's inflation rate slows sharply to 64.3%

AFP , Tuesday 3 Jan 2023

Turkey's annual inflation rate slowed for a second month in December after hitting a two-decade high, official data showed Tuesday, helping President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's chances in elections due by June.

Turkish Lira
In this file photo money changer counts Turkish lira banknotes at a currency exchange office in Istanbul. AFP

 

Consumer prices rose by 64.3 percent in December from the levels at which they stood a year earlier, the state statics agency said, compared to an 84.4-percent year-on-year increase in November.

Analysts attribute the sharp slowdown to the so-called base effect, which makes year-on-year price increases look smaller when compared to extremely high levels 12 months earlier.

The latest reading is still higher than in any another other emerging market except for Argentina.

But it fulfils Erdogan's campaign promise that inflation will start falling at the start of the year after reaching the highest levels since 1998 last year.

Turkey's economy has been going through convulsions since Erdogan launched an unusual experiment in September 2021 that tried to fight inflation by bringing down borrowing costs.

The lira began to lose value almost immediately, as consumers rushed to buy up gold and dollars to protect their savings.

The price of imports such as oil and gas soared, creating an inflationary spiral that the nominally independent central bank fed further by continuing to lower interest rates.

The annual inflation rate peaked at 85.5 percent in October 2021.

The economic crisis forced Erdogan to alter his foreign policy, resuming economic alliances with petrodollar-rich rivals in the Arab world and ramping up trade with Russia, despite its war on Ukraine.

These deals have helped to prop up Turkey's hard currency reserves, allowing it to stabilise the lira.

The government has further forced exporters to convert 40 percent of their dollar revenues into liras, further supporting the Turkish currency.

The lira's stabilisation has helped temper the pace of price increases.

But analysts warn that a wave of populist social support measures that Erdogan announced heading into the election make the current economic policies unsustainable.

"Turkey faces a very difficult economic outlook after elections, because of the current disastrous policy mix," Timothy Ash of BlueBay Asset Management tweeted.

Erdogan has vowed not to raise the benchmark interest rate, which at nine percent is just a fraction of the annual inflation rate.

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