Turkey’s Trade-Off Between Growth, Inflation Worth It for Simsek

(Bloomberg) -- Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek signaled the government is unafraid to sacrifice some economic growth as it tries to lower inflation under the watchful eye of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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Asked whether the Turkish leader would tolerate a period of economic stagnation or worse if price rises can be tempered, Simsek said those trade-offs are “worth living with.”

“My sense is there will be tolerance to some moderation in domestic demand,” he said at the Qatar Economic Forum in Doha on Wednesday. “So we’re re-balancing growth, we’re changing the composition of growth.”

According to Simsek, in the long run there are no trade-offs between growth and disinflation. “In fact, disinflation or low inflation is absolutely essential for sustainable, high growth,” he said.

Turkey’s economic strength in recent years has been predominantly driven by high consumption — though that came alongside cheap borrowing that fueled an inflation crisis and currency slump. Simsek, a former strategist at Merrill Lynch, was brought in by Erdogan a year ago to revamp that unorthodox monetary policy and lure more foreign capital.

Much progress has been made, particularly through a sharp increase in interest rates, and the central bank governor has vowed to do more if needed. Still, inflation remains the main problem, with officials expecting it to peak above 70% this month.

On Tuesday, when asked whether the central bank would hesitate to raise rates further, Governor Fatih Karahan said: “We’re not in the business of being popular. We’re in the business of doing our job.”

Simsek said the monetary-policy course correction was “largely done,” though work is still underway on Turkey’s fiscal plans. The minister announced a series of spending cuts and other measures earlier this week, though the adjustments fell short of investor expectations.

What Bloomberg Economics Says...

“Turkey’s latest fiscal austerity measures, while complementing the central bank’s restrictive stance, are unlikely to be a significant factor in improving the country’s budget deficit. The cutbacks will help the central bank’s efforts to reign in runaway inflation — nearly a year after the monetary authority implemented a flip to its restrictive policies. We expect the impact on price gains to be drawn out over time, however.”

— Selva Bahar Baziki, economist. Click here to read more.

Speaking hours after Simsek made his remarks, Erdogan said fiscal discipline will help increase the effectiveness of monetary policy. “We’ll give strong support to fight against inflation,” he said.

The government of the State of Qatar is the underwriter of the Qatar Economic Forum, powered by Bloomberg.

--With assistance from Patrick Sykes.

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