Category Archives: Economy/Finance and Startups

The Economic Outlook of Turkey in June 2021


From humble beginnings Recep Tayyip Erdogan has grown into a political giant, reshaping Turkey more than any leader since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the revered father of the modern republic.

But in recent years the economy has deteriorated. Inflation is nearly 12% and the Turkish lira has slumped against the dollar. Coronavirus is exacerbating Turkey’s economic woes.

When he became Turkish leader back in March 2003 the lira rate was 1.6 to the dollar – now it is above 8.0. His early years in power were marked by solid growth and a development boom.

1: Turkish Lira Exchange Rate to US Dollar, Source: XE

The World Bank on April estimated that Turkey’s poverty rate rose to 12.2% last year, from 10.2% in 2019, and said returning to pre-pandemic levels would be a challenge. The World Bank also states that Turkey’s economic and social development performance since the early 2000s has been impressive, leading to increased employment and incomes and making Turkey an upper-middle-income country. However, in the past few years, growing economic vulnerabilities and a more challenging external environment have threatened to undermine those achievements. 

The World Bank said the impact of the pandemic would be a “struggle to shake off” globally but that Turkey’s economy is expected to grow 5% this year due a recovery in exports.

It warned that rising inflation in advanced economies could lead to “destabilising movements in global liquidity away from emerging markets” and added that growth prospects could also be hit by a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.

Analysis

For most of the period since 2000, Turkey has maintained a long-term focus on implementing ambitious reforms in many areas, and government programs have targeted vulnerable groups and disadvantaged regions. Poverty incidence more than halved over 2002–15, and extreme poverty fell even faster. 

During this time, Turkey rapidly urbanized, maintained strong macroeconomic and fiscal policy frameworks, opened to foreign trade and finance, harmonized many laws and regulations with European Union (EU) standards, and greatly expanded access to public services. It also recovered well from the global financial crisis of 2008/09.

The Turkish economy was one of few globally to expand in 2020 despite coronavirus fallout, thanks largely to a credit boom around mid-year.

Overall inflation was around 12% – and near 20% for food – for much of last year before climbing. Tourism revenue sharply declined and exports fell, leading to a large current account deficit.

The government in response topped up employee wages and banned layoffs, keeping a lid on the unemployment rate.

The recent Turkish crisis, started in 2018, was caused by the Turkish economy’s excessive current account deficit and large amounts of private foreign-currency denominated debt, in combination with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s increasing authoritarianism and his unorthodox ideas about interest rate policy.  Some analysts also stress the leveraging effects of the geopolitical frictions with the United States and recently enforced tariffs by the Trump administration on some Turkish products such as steel and aluminum.

The Turkish lira keeps to fall when comparing to the dollar and euro (as strong currencies) and has come under more pressure in recent weeks, in a continuing crisis that started in 2018, as investors try to assess whether the country’s central bank will heed the demands of its president to cut interest rates. But a rate cut could drag the lira down further at the same time that the country’s high inflation rate is already diminishing the currency’s buying power.

The overall macroeconomic picture is more vulnerable and uncertain, given rising inflation and unemployment, contracting investment, elevated corporate and financial sector vulnerabilities, and patchy implementation of corrective policy actions and reforms. There are also significant external headwinds due to ongoing geopolitical tensions in the subregion. 

COVID has deepened gender gaps and increased youth unemployment and the poverty rate. The risk of inequalities has also been increasing. The COVID-19 crisis is expected to have severely negative consequences for Turkey, further weakening economic and social gains.

There is an “exchange rate illusion” in Turkey’s economic growth data, according to Enver Erkan, chief economist at Istanbul-based Tera Yatirim, who’s ranked by Bloomberg as the most accurate forecaster on Turkish GDP data.

Noting that the GDP per capita in U.S. dollar terms dropped nearly 40% since 2013 to around $7,700 last year, Erkan said Turkey’s recent economic model isn’t sustainable as the growth is mainly driven by consumption supported by government spending and loan campaigns.

A stronger dollar would also add further pressure to the Turkish lira. Turkey’s currency hit a record low on June 4, when it fell to 8.7532 lira to the U.S. dollar, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for lower interest rates by July or August. That has left investors to assess whether the country’s central bank will heed Mr. Erdogan’s demands.

Mr. Erdogan has fired three central bank chiefs in less than two years, and he prefers low rates as a part of a strategy to encourage growth. His reluctance to have higher interest rates could mean that investors’ returns are eroded. A recent rise in the cost of oil past $70 a barrel is also likely to boost inflation in Turkey.

Turkey’s consumer price inflation eased to 16.59 percent year-on-year in May 2021, from a near two-year high of 17.14 percent in the previous month and below market expectations of 17.25 percent. Still, the rate remined well above the central bank’s medium-term 5 percent target, with upward pressure coming from food and non-alcoholic beverages (17.04 percent vs 16.98 percent in April), transport (28.39 percent vs 29.31 percent), housing and utilities (14.08 percent vs 13.60 percent), furnishings, household equipment and routine maintenance (21.79 percent vs 22.27 percent), hotels, cafes and restaurants (17.73 percent vs 16.81 percent), clothing and footwear (5.75 percent vs 11.03 percent), and miscellaneous goods and services (17.92 percent vs 18.27 percent). The core consumer price inflation rate, which excludes volatile items such as energy, food and non-alcoholic beverages, alcoholic beverages, tobacco and gold, slowed to 16.99 percent in May from 17.77 percent in April.

2. Turkish Inflation Rate, Source: Trading Economics

Turkey’s Industrial Output

3.Turkey’s Industrial Output in March 2021

Turkey grew faster than all Group of 20 nations except for China in the first quarter after nearly stalling a year ago when Covid-19 struck. It’s been bolstered by robust consumption on the back of last year’s government-led push to cut interest rates and boost lending.

Gross domestic product rose 7% from a year earlier and 1.7% from the fourth quarter. The median of 22 forecasts in a Bloomberg survey was for 6.3% growth compared to the same period in 2020.

“This comes at the expense of lira and price stability,” he said.

The government pushed banks to ramp up lending to help businesses and consumers ride out last year’s Covid-19 emergency. The credit boom was coupled with a front-loaded easing cycle that helped prime the economy. That growth push weakened the currency by 20% last year and kept headline inflation in double digits. The size of the economy dropped to $717 billion last year from $760.8 billion a year earlier.

  • Automotive Industry

Turkey’s automotive production, including light commercial vehicles, tractors, and automobiles, amounted to 532,441 million units in January-May, a sectoral report revealed on Monday.

The sector posted a strong recovery with a 28.2% increase year-on-year in the January-May period, after dramatic falls last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic measures.

Last year, the automotive production narrowed by 11% versus 2019 and decreased by 34% year-on-year in the first five months.

While the sector surpassed 2020 figures, it could not reach 2018 and 2019 figures yet, when the production was 712,022 and 625,946 units, respectively.

4. Turkey’s economy Outperforming in first quarter of 2021, Source : Bloomberg
  • Exports

According to the country’s Trade Minister ,Turkey’s foreign sales powered ahead as exporters achieved their second-best May ever.

Exports surged 65.5% year-on-year to reach $16.6 billion (TL 142.48 billion) last month, Muş told a news conference in the capital Ankara.

Sales were up from nearly $10 billion a year ago, battered by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic that had temporarily shut borders.

They increased despite the strictest lockdown yet that covered part of May. Turkey remains a big trade power in the world as its trade continues rising.

Turkey shipped US$169.5 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2020. That dollar amount reflects an 18.8% increase since 2016 but a -0.9% drop from 2019 to 2020. That figure also represents roughly 0.9% of overall global exports estimated at $18.709 trillion one year earlier during 2019 (calculated as of February 17, 2020).

Applying a continental lens, 55.7% of Turkey’s exports by value were delivered to European countries while 26% were sold to Asian importers. Turkey shipped another 9% worth of goods to Africa. Smaller percentages went to North America (6.9%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (1.7%) then Oceania led by Australia, Marshall Islands and New Zealand (0.7%).

5.Turkey’s Trade with the European Union, Source: EUROSTAT
6.Turkey among the world’s largest traders of goods, 2019, Source: Eurostat
7. Turkey’s Top Trade Partners, 2019 , Source: Eurostat
8. Turkey among the EU’s main partners for trade in goods, 2020, Source : Eurostat
9. EU trade with Turkey by product group, 2010 and 2020, Source Eurostat

The breakdown of EU trade with Turkey by SITC groups is shown in Figure 6. The red shades denote the primary products: food & drink, raw materials and energy, while the blue shades show the manufactured goods: chemicals, machinery & vehicles and other manufactured goods. Finally, other goods are shown in green. In 2020, EU exports of manufactured goods (84 %) had a higher share than primary goods (12 %). The most exported manufactured goods were machinery & vehicles (44 %), followed by other manufactured products (22 %) and chemicals (18 %). In 2020, EU imports of manufactured goods (87 %) also had a higher share than primary goods (12 %). The most imported manufactured goods were other manufactured products (43 %), followed by machinery & vehicles (39 %) and chemicals (6 %).

10. EU trade with Turkey by group, 2010-2020, Source: Eurostat
11. EU imports of goods from Turkey, 2020 Source Eurostat
12. EU exports of goods to Turkey, 2020, Source: Eurostat

Sources:

1; The Wall Street Journal: Turkey’s Troubles Point to Emerging-Market Risks as Economies Recover, Accessed: 19th of June 2021

2. World Bank. Country : Turkey : Overview. Accessed : 19th of June, 2021

3. Wikipedia: Turkish Currency and Debt Crisis, Accessed : 19th of June, 2021

4. Bloomberg: Turkish Economy Likely Outperformed Most Peers But at a Cost, Accessed : 19th of June, 2021  

5. Borzou Daragahi (25 May 2018). “Erdogan Is Failing Economics 101”. Foreign Policy.

6.“Inflation rise poses challenge to Erdogan as election looms”Financial Times. 5 June 2018.

7.  Matt O’Brien (13 July 2018). “Turkey’s economy looks like it’s headed for a big crash”Washington Post.

8. “Turkey’s Lessons for Emerging Economies – Caixin Global”http://www.caixinglobal.com. Retrieved 20 August 2018.

9. Goujon, Reva (16 August 2018). “Making Sense of Turkey’s Economic Crisis”Stratfor. Archived from the original on 16 August 2018.

How Political Corruption Weakens Democracy and Economic Growth in Cyprus and Malta


Today, the European Union has to take the role to protect and preserve democracy while authoritarianism is felt everyday by the state during the Covid-19 flu and in a lot of cases measures are unjustified. The COVID-19 crisis has offered corrupt and authoritarian leaders a dangerous combination of public distraction and reduced oversight.

This new authoritarianism made more obvious the problem of corruption in some weak democracies. To analyze the corruption problem and how it can destroy all the country’s system i’m taking as an example two small countries in the European bloc, Cyprus and Malta where the implications of corruption and political clientelism in these two countries is obvious in all country’s structures and has already done a lot of damage.

The two countries used to issue “Golden Passports” during the previous years, something that skyrocketed the rent prices while salaries remained very low. Corruption weakens democracy to produce a vicious cycle, where corruption undermines democratic institutions and, in turn, weak institutions are less able to control corruption

Why High Corruption Index hurts Democracy

The term corruption is defined as the misuse of public office for private gains which costs every country a large amount of financial, political and social resources every year. Research on the causes, consequences and combat strategies of corruption are manifold and very revealing. Worldwide studies indicate, for example, that well-established democracies show lower levels of corruption than authoritarian regimes or young democracies . At the same time, high levels of corruption undermine democracy. By diverting rare resources from disadvantaged people, it damages the rule of law, social justice and lowers the trust of citizens in political institutions and processes.

Economies that are afflicted by a high level of corruption, which involves the misuse of power in the form of money or authority to achieve certain goals in illegal, dishonest, or unfair ways, are not capable of prospering as fully as those with a low level of corruption. Corrupted economies are not able to function properly because corruption prevents the natural laws of the economy from functioning freely. As a result, corruption in a nation’s political and economic operations causes its entire society to suffer.

Political competitors in younger democracies have had less chance to develop policy reputations with voters and their political parties are likely to be less well-established as vehicles for conveying credible
policy stances. As a consequence, they should be more susceptible to reliance on patrons as a means to establish credible bonds with voters. This implies that the policy choices of young democracies should resemble most closely those predicted by the foregoing arguments: lower levels of public good provision, high levels of private, targeted goods, and high rent-seeking. More systematic empirical evidence comes to support this claim.

Looking now at the profiles of Ministers and politicians, in these two countries, we can take as common measures the rent-seeking tendencies, measures of bureaucratic quality, the rule of law, secondary school enrollment and government ownership of newspapers. The misuse of these measures affect directly the democratic system and there are disadvantages for the middle class and the poor.

Studies tend to conclude that political competitors in young democracies are less credible, more reliant on patrons, and more likely to focus public policy on transfers and rent-seeking than broad public good provision finds substantial implicit support in the case study literature. Various contributors in Malloy and Seligson (1987), looking at countries experiencing the transition from authoritarian to democratic government, repeatedly note the reliance of new political competitors on narrow benefits to targeted constituencies.

Corruption can lead to an uneven distribution of wealth as small businesses face unfair competition from large companies that have established illegal connections with government officials. In a corrupt economy, resources are inefficiently allocated and companies that otherwise would not be qualified to win government contracts are often awarded projects as a result of bribery or kickbacks. Moreover, the quality of education and healthcare also deteriorates under a corrupt economy, leading to an overall lower standard of living for the country’s citizens.

Uneven Distribution of Wealth

Corrupted economies are characterized by a disproportionately small middle class and significant divergence between the living standards of the upper class and lower class. Because most of the country’s capital is aggregated in the hands of oligarchs or persons who back corrupted public officials, most of the created wealth also flows to these individuals.

In a corrupt economy, small businesses are not widely spread and are usually discouraged because they face unfair competition and illegal pressures by large companies that are connected with government officials. Certain industries are more prone to corruption than others, making small businesses in these sectors even more vulnerable to unethical business practices.

Corruption in the way deals are made, contracts are awarded, or economic operations are carried out, leads to monopolies or oligopolies in the economy. Those business owners who can use their connections or money to bribe government officials can manipulate policies and market mechanisms to ensure they are the sole provider of goods or services in the market.

Small businesses in corrupt countries tend to avoid having their businesses officially registered with tax authorities to avoid taxation. As a result, the income generated by many businesses exists outside the official economy, and thus are not subject to state taxation or included in the calculation of the country’s GDP.

Another negative of shadow businesses is they usually pay their employees decreased wages, lower than the minimum amount designated by the government. Also, they do not provide acceptable working conditions, including appropriate health insurance benefits for employees.

Press Freedom and Corruption

Press Freedom is at risk in these two countries. This factor leaves a window open to more and more corruption of the country’s system. In Malta, Daphne Caruana Galizia, a prominent investigative journalist, was murdered in 2017 after writing about alleged money laundering by powerful officials, as well as the business dealings of the prime minister’s wife. The investigations and public demonstrations that followed her death eventually led to the resignation of the prime minister, Joseph Muscat, and to the arrest of his chief of staff, Keith Schembri.

On the other hand, although press freedom in the Republic of Cyprus is guaranteed by the constitution, political parties, the Orthodox Church and commercial interests have a great deal of influence over the media. In both sides of the island (greek and turkish) according to Reporters without Borders , journalism is also hampered by certain bans on the use of geographical names not accepted by the state; on the denial of crimes against humanity, and war crimes not recognised by the state.

The Golden Passport Scheme and its links to Corruption Risk

Last October, in a plenary debate with Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders, MEPs stressed the inherent risks that these programmes give rise to, namely money laundering, tax evasion and corruption. They insisted that Europe must not have “a fast-track entrance for criminals”.

The Cyprus Papers – a series by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit – shows that the European Union (EU) is currently defenceless against the haphazard sale of EU citizenship and residency to criminals and the corrupt.

On October 20, the European Commission launched an infringement procedure against Cyprus and Malta over so-called “golden passport” schemes, in which individuals can get a fast track to citizenship after investing between € 1 and 2.5 million in the countries’ economies.  

This practice has been lucrative for both governments. Since 2013, Cyprus raised € 4.8 billion, amounting to 5% of its GDP, by selling thousands of passports to foreign investors. Malta gained about € 718 million in this manner in foreign direct investment since 2014. 

This in turn undermines the integrity of the status of EU citizenship and is incompatible with the principle of sincere cooperation between the EU and member states.  In addition, journalists revealed that high-profile criminals were able to obtain Cypriot passports. The Commission argues that this represents a security threat for the EU as a whole, and increases the risk of money laundering, tax evasion and corruption. 

Without ensuring individuals applying for citizenship have a  genuine connection to their countries – an internationally recognized legal standard for citizenship – they have been taking risks for the EU as a whole.  Corruption in any country, however small, affects the EU as a whole. Every country has a veto over some crucial policies, such as the EU budget. Each country also gets a turn at chairing the EU and shaping its agenda. A passport from any EU country confers the right to live and work anywhere in the EU27.

For example, many of the new owners of a Cypriot passport sought to evade criminal prosecution in their home countries. Mykola Zlochevsky, the owner of the Burisma energy company who is wanted in Ukraine, obtained his passport in 2017. At the time, he was already under investigation in Ukraine for corruption where he offered prosecutors a $ 6 million bribe in cash. 

The government of Cyprus was also accused of issuing passports to foreign criminals and the relatives of despots such as Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Cambodia’s Hun Sen.

Not only were the lax requirements to “buy” citizenship in Cyprus and Malta legally and morally questionable, in practice, these schemes were also a harbour of corruption. Anyone willing to pay for it could get a passport with no difficulty. The most direct result of this is to give access to the EU to wealthy people evading criminal charges at home. 

Thank you for your time!

Sources:

Inequalities might lead to an end of the Eurozone


The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 showed that the time for much closer, stronger European bonds had grown near. Hopes for a peaceful and prosperous future were higher than ever, among both leaders and citizens. This led to the signing of the Maastricht treaty, which formally established the European Union in 1993 and created much of its economic structure and institutions – including setting in motion the process of adopting a common currency, the euro.

The eurozone structure

The basic idea behind the structure of the Euro was that self-regulating markets would ensure prosperity across the Eurozone as long as:

  • Inflation was kept in check by the European Central Bank
  • Member States had fiscal discipline, keeping their public deficits and public debt low

For these purposes, the European Central Bank was given a sole mandate to hit a 2% inflation target – regardless of patterns of unemployment and economic activity across the Eurozone. Unlike other Central Banks such as the US Federal Reserve, its mandate does not include ensuring price stability and guaranteeing full employment. Only the former is within the realm of its mandate.

Similarly, the Stability and Growth Pact required member states to ensure that their public deficit was kept below 3% of their national income (GDP) and their public debt did not exceed 60% of GDP.

The crisis

Since the 2008 crisis, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the European Commission, the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, along with other statistics institutions within the European Trade Union Confederation, have all agreed on this fact: In recent decades, social inequalities have increased significantly across Europe. And not only in Greece or Spain: the situation is the same in Sweden and Germany. In the past twenty-five years Swedish society has experienced a considerable growth in inequality; according to the OECD, between 1985 and 2008 the country recorded the highest growth of income poverty among industrialized countries.

After its implementation, the euro fairly quickly became the second most important currency in the world, but as of 2015, it has failed to supplant the U.S. dollar at the top of the world’s monetary heap.  Continue reading Inequalities might lead to an end of the Eurozone

Betting on Zero: Herbalife, a major pyramid scam scheme?


Betting on Zero is a 2016 American documentary directed by Ted Braun. It investigates the allegation that Herbalife is a pyramid scheme, and follows Bill Ackman’s short investment in Herbalife, which is ostensibly a billion-dollar bet that the company will soon collapse.It reveals the ugly side of Herbalife and also other pyramids schemes…

It’s saddening that it hurts the poor and the Hispanic immigrants in the US who believe they can accomplish the American dream but at the end they end up being lied.

FR/Ce documentaire explore le fonctionnement nébuleux d’Herbalife, une société spécialisée dans les compléments alimentaires accusée de pratiquer la vente pyramidale. lien en français: NETFLIX

From ‘Darfur Now’ writer/director Ted Braun comes a riveting docu-thriller following controversial hedge fund titan Bill Ackman as he puts a billion dollars on the line in his crusade to expose Herbalife as the largest pyramid scheme in history. Herbalife claims Ackman is simply a market manipulator out to make a fortune from short-selling their stock, but Ackman insists Herbalife deliberately targets low-income and immigrant communities and robs them of their life savings. Herbalife is joined on the counterattack by longtime Ackman nemesis (and fellow Wall Street billionaire) Carl Icahn, while Ackman finds an unlikely ally in Chicago activist Julie Contreras, who rallies the Latino community to get the Federal government to intervene. Blending tales of high-stakes corporate intrigue with working-class people caught in the crossfire, Braun paints a stirring picture of the American Dream gone wrong. bettingonzeromovie.com

The documentary follows billionaire hedge fund titan Bill Ackman and several former Herbalife distributors after Ackman takes a billion dollar short position in Herbalife, alleging it is a pyramid scheme destined to collapse. The film also chronicles Ackman’s feuds with Herbalife CEO Michael Johnson and investor Carl Icahn, and the resulting controversy over both the short and Herbalife’s business practices. Continue reading Betting on Zero: Herbalife, a major pyramid scam scheme?