World Politics

Turkey's Erdogan sacking of central bank chief is 'only going to add to the mess,' Egyptian billionaire says

Key Points
  • Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris said Turkey's president firing his central bank head will only add to the "mess" in the country.
  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday sacked yet another central bank chief, the third to be fired in two years.
  • Sawiris also weighed in on Turkey-Egypt relations, North Korea and oil prices.
Turkey's Erdogan doesn't know how to judge central bankers: Naguib Sawiris

Turkey's president firing his central bank head over the weekend will only add to the "mess" in the country, said Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday sacked yet another central bank chief, the third to be fired in two years.

During Naci Agbal's five-month stint, he raised Turkey's interest rate by around 450 basis points to 19%. Economists believe rate hikes were needed to control inflation and stabilize the lira.

Agbal's replacement, Sahap Kavcioglu, has said higher rates won't solve economic problems in Turkey and is expected to be more compliant to Erdogan's orders.

(Erdogan) wants someone who will work based on a political agenda, which is a disaster recipe for central bankers.
Naguib Sawiris
Egyptian billionaire

"I predict that it is only going to add to the mess," said Sawiris, Orascom Investment Holding chairman and CEO. "The inflation is very high, and trying to push down the interest rate when you want to defend your currency … is not the right decision," he told CNBC's "Capital Connection" on Wednesday.

Sawiris added that it's not a good idea to mix politics with economic issues or finance.

"(Erdogan) wants someone who will work based on a political agenda, which is a disaster recipe for central bankers," he said. "Central bankers have to react to economic realities of their country."

Turkey's lira plunged on Monday as the market reacted to the news.

The office of the Turkish Presidency did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment. 

Relations with Egypt

Sawiris also weighed in on Turkey's foreign policy.

"(Erdogan) did a 180-degree turnaround now, and he's trying to appease Egypt … improve his relations with Europe and so on," he said.

Earlier this month, Turkey said it restarted diplomatic contact with Egypt. Relations between the two countries have been tense since Egypt's military overthrew a president who was close to Turkey.

"I think it's based on the new administration in the U.S. who are not so happy with his … behavior, buying the Russian rockets, interfering in the whole Middle East with his troops and also supporting some … terrorist groups," Sawiris said.

Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, executive chairman of Orascom Telecom.
Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Additionally, Egypt's alliances with regional partners were not in Turkey's favor.

"You get sweet talk from diplomats that this is not against anyone, no – it's against Turkey because of their frantic behavior," he said.

Erdogan's attempts to "appease Egypt" are a "win for Egyptian diplomacy," said Sawiris.

"We don't need any more wars in the region so I think it's good," he said.

Do what Trump did

Separately, Sawiris said the U.S. under the Biden administration should return to direct negotiations with North Korea on the nuclear issue, instead of asking China for help.

"My advice is just do the same thing like what Donald Trump did in the beginning. He called the leadership there, sat down with them, went to visit and talked," he said.

He acknowledged that discussions fell apart because the two sides could not reach an agreement on sanctions relief and denuclearization, but said these things can be negotiated.

"I don't think that the differences are too big. They can be bridged, but people just have to forget about ego and who calls who first and so on, and just give them the respect that they want," Sawiris said.

Oil at $100

He also said his view on oil hitting $100 has not changed.

"It's a very simple mathematics … many producers have shut their production facilities once (oil prices) hit the $30 range, and followed by all the shale producers too," he said.

Sawiris also noted that some countries in Europe are still in lockdown, and that influences oil demand and prices. Parts of Europe reintroduced lockdown measures amid a third wave of Covid infections.

"I still hold to my theory that … there is only one way, and it will go up," he said.

In May 2020, he told CNBC that the oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia killed the competition, and that prices would hit $100 in 18 months.

— CNBC's Natasha Turak and Emma Graham contributed to this report.