Sell Your Dollars, Fight the Enemy!
“My brothers,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addressed party loyalists at the weekend, “Could those of you who have euros and dollars under their pillows invest their money in liras?”
We have no means to know how many of the thousands of Erdoğan fans at the meeting would rushed to the banks on Monday to dump their western currencies in order to buy liras. Nevertheless we can guess that the victims of Mr Erdoğan’s “figth-the-evil-foreign-powers-by-supporting-our-national-currency” campaign will possibly not be the evil foreign powers but poor party loyalists who converted their foreign currency holdings into an ailing lira.
This is vintage Mr Erdoğan. There are bad chaps attempting to overthrow a democratically-elected government by means of a coup d’etat? Our heroic nations should take to the streets, fight the coup-makers and become martyrs. You need popular, non-partisan support? A military incursion into a neighbouring country will help. That will be the nationalistic / militaristic side of the average Turk, regardless of his party choice. You need to stop or slow down the lira slide? Play into the conspiratorial / xenophobic Turkish sentiment: Evil foreign powers are plotting to depreciate our national currency. Would it help? Yes and no.
There will be blind conspiracy-lovers who would blindly buy the conspiracy theories put forward by the leader they adore. Sadly their incomes are too little to shake the markets and a bunch of minimum wage earners could hardly revive the lira when they sell a few $10 banknotes to fight evil foreign powers.
Most Turks are cunning when it comes to matters concerning their pockets. Although average schooling in Turkey is a mere 6.5 years most Turks are able to make simple computations. They are literate enough to calculate that the lira this month alone has lost 16 percent of its value.
The colourful memories of Mr Erdoğan’s previous support-the-lira campaign, also to fight Turkey’s foreign enemies, are still fresh. It was just 17 months ago when Erdoğan loyalists, in support, burned [fake] greenbacks, rushed to the banks to sell dollars and euros in order to counter the global financial attack on Turkey. Some barber shops offered free hair cuts to those who can verify he had converted $250 into liras. Seventeen months ago the dollar traded at 3.41 against the lira. Since then the lira has lost nearly 38 percent of its value.
Mr Erdoğan has a tough task ahead: He wants to keep interest rates as low as possible – in order to sustain his construction-consumption economy. And he wants a strong lira. It’s the simple market forces of supply and demand that say “No” to him, not a big syndicate of global powers whose only job is to plot against Turkey.
Mr Erdoğan has countless times boasted that under his good governance Turkey became a member of the G-20. That’s quite a gross deceit: Turkey was a member of the group that officially became the G-20 in 1999, three years before Mr Erdoğan’s party came to power.
But, never mind. This columnist wholeheartedly supports Mr Erdoğan’s support-the-lira campaign. His supporters should go to the banks and sell their dollars at 4.50 liras – in order to buy back their dollars at 7 liras in two years time.