The Turkish government is playing a dangerous political game that risks hitting the country with a full-blown currency crisis and ratings downgrade, experts warn.
Over the past week, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's administration has lashed out at the central bank, urging it to aggressively lower interest rates to shore up economic growth ahead of general elections in June. The political pressure has troubled investors, sending the lira to an all-time low of 2.6290 per dollar on Thursday, the third straight day of record declines.
Erdogan's demands come after the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey (CBRT) lowered benchmark rates last month, its second cut since December. While the CBRT has been under pressure to ease policy for years, markets are worried recent scathing attacks could spell the end of the central bank's independence.
"The CBRT's dovishness has coincided with a period of intense political pressures, which has only bolstered the market's skepticism regarding central bank independence and credibility," stated Barclays analysts in a note.
"There's nothing wrong with a collaborative policy between government and central banks, but this type of confrontation undermines the CBRT's authority. It's also counterproductive as it doesn't translate into macro stability," said Vishnu Varathan, senior economist at Mizuho Bank.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu attempted to reassure investors on Thursday, stating that the country's central bank remains independent: "There is no need to worry about Turkey's institutional set-up," he told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.