Turkish Central Bank managers sacked as doubts over independence grow

Several mid-tier managers at Turkey’s central bank have been removed, including two general managers and a private secretary to Governor Erdem Başçı, sources said late on Wednesday.

The sources gave no reason for the dismissals, nor did they say who had ordered them. The central bank itself declined to comment. This firing of officials follows on the heels of fears that political pressure is threatening to dent the central bank’s credibility as an independent institution.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has frequently accused the bank of doing too little to reduce borrowing costs. However, those dismissed include the general manager in charge of foreign relations and his deputy, as well as the general manager in charge of payment systems, none of whom are directly involved in monetary policy decisions, the sources said. Dozens of executives at bodies including the banking and telecoms regulators and state TV have been fired since the start of the year, in what is seen as part of government efforts to clamp down on the opposition and political dissent. Most of these sacked officials were alleged to be sympathizers of the volunteer-based Islamic Hizmet movement, which Erdoğan has accused of trying to topple his government following a large-scale corruption probe that became public in December.

The corruption inquiry also led to the resignation of three Cabinet ministers and the detention of businessmen close to the government.

“If true, [the central bank dismissals] would be disappointing, and again it would raise questions about the independence of the central bank,” said Timothy Ash, head of emerging markets research at Standard Bank in London. “The hope would be that the CBRT [central bank] is still a meritocracy, irrespective of political beliefs and faith.” Ash said the central bank might opt to announce that the changes are normal procedure and that they have nothing to do with the political pressure being brought to bear on the institution. The central bank, which ramped up rates in January, partly to defend the lira, cut them for the first time in a year last month despite stubborn inflation, weeks after Erdoğan had called for such a move.

Erdoğan later said the bank’s 50 basis point cut in its one-week repo rate, the main rate at which it currently funds the market, had not been enough. The bank’s monetary policy meeting will convene on June 24.


About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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