Turkish finance minister says he will not fight markets

The Turkish lira has been hammered this year, losing a fifth of its value against the US dollar. (Reuters)
Updated 23 July 2018
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Turkish finance minister says he will not fight markets

  • Turkey’s economy continues its strong growth momentum

ANKARA: Turkey will not fight with markets but instead pursue a win-win relationship with them while ensuring Turkey has an effective central bank, Finance Minister Berat Albayrak was quoted as saying on Sunday.
Concerns about the central bank’s independence had intensified when President Tayyip Erdogan appointed son-in-law Albayrak as treasury and finance minister, boosting expectations that the president — a self-described “enemy of interest rates” — would look to exercise greater influence over monetary policy.
The Turkish lira has been hammered this year, losing a fifth of its value against the US dollar, on concerns about the central bank’s ability to rein in double-digit inflation, while Erdogan has repeatedly called for lower interest rates.
Albayrak, speaking to reporters on a flight to Argentina for a G20 summit, also said the government would not compromise budget discipline and that there would be a noticeable improvement in inflation, broadcaster NTV reported.
“We will not compromise budget discipline and a program that is down to earth will be prepared,” Albayrak was quoted as saying.
“We aim for an effective central bank. The central bank sees and builds the fiscal life in a correct way. Turkey will never again be this attractive for foreign investors.”
The government’s medium-term program (OVP) will also change into a “strong and solid” five-year strategy, Albayrak said.
With Erdogan having merged the Treasury and the Finance Ministry, Albayrak’s appointment effectively saw him replace both Mehmet Simsek and Naci Agbal in a cabinet that now has no obvious investor-friendly ministers.
Albayrak’s comments, therefore, are closely watched by investors for clues on whether he will seek to calm financial markets by adopting a more orthodox approach to monetary policy or reiterate Erdogan’s views that high interest rates stoke inflation.
Following his appointment, Albayrak had said the central bank is independent and will do whatever economic realities and market conditions necessitate.
Earlier on Sunday, state media quoted Albayrak as saying that Turkey was continuing its strong economic growth trend and that the foundations of its economy were strong.
The state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Albayrak as saying that the government aimed to maintain prudent fiscal policies and healthy credit growth, carrying out structural reforms and strengthening Turkey’s monetary policy framework.
“Turkey’s economy continues its strong growth momentum. Our economic foundations are going to be strong and our outlook is promising,” Albayrak said.
The central bank’s monetary policy committee, which has raised rates by 500 basis points since April in an effort to put a floor under the currency, will meet on July 24.
On the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Albayrak said on Twitter that he had met with his US, Chinese, German, Brazilian, South Korean, French and Indonesian
counterparts.


Mahathir: Some Malaysian state-owned entities may be listed

Some analysts have speculated the Malaysian government could list a small portion of its stake in state energy firm Petronas to generate revenue. (Reuters)
Updated 9 min 1 sec ago
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Mahathir: Some Malaysian state-owned entities may be listed

  • Malaysia is saddled with debt and liabilities of more than 1 trillion ringgit ($245.52 billion)
  • A government panel to cut debt is looking at strategies
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia may list certain state-owned entities to cut government debt and liabilities, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Tuesday as it seeks new revenue sources to boost its fiscal position.
Mahathir, elected in a stunning upset last year, has blamed the previous administration of Najib Razak for saddling Malaysia with debt and liabilities of more than 1 trillion ringgit ($245.52 billion).
A government panel to cut debt is looking at strategies, such as “identification of opportunities on potential asset monetization, which means mature unlisted government entities may be listed in the stock market,” he said.
State-linked companies could also pare equity stakes, he told a conference of investors in Kuala Lumpur.
“The key guiding principles for monetising any of our assets is that the disposal or monetization must never be done at fire-sale prices, and any disposal of shares, monetization of assets, auctions or other measures will be done in an orderly manner.”
He did not identify specific companies or fix a timeframe for the plan, however.
Sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional announced a new strategy this month, saying it was gearing up to be a “long-term real return provider” to the government through its commercial investments.
Last month Reuters reported, citing sources, that Khazanah’s new strategy aimed at delivering more cash to the government by pruning stakes in non-strategic assets.
Some analysts have also speculated the government could list a small portion of its stake in state energy firm Petronas to generate revenue.
Petronas is the sole manager of Malaysia’s oil and gas reserves. Although some of its subsidiaries are listed on the national stock exchange, Petronas is fully owned by the government.
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said last year the government had no immediate plans to sell stakes in state-owned companies, but did not rule out the possibility in the future.
Lim and Mahathir have blamed corruption scandals in the previous administration for Malaysia’s large debts. The fiscal situation was also hurt after the new government scrapped an unpopular consumption tax, in line with a campaign promise.
Former premier Najib has been slapped with dozens of corruption charges since his defeat in May 2018, many related to alleged money laundering at state fund 1MDB.
He has pleaded not guilty and has consistently denied any wrongdoing.