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What will happen as a result of the Turkish Lira crisis?

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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As often happens in these cases, the financial structure of the current Turkish crisis was quite simple initially: as is always the case during an electoral period, credit to businesses and families was “pumped” to such a point that, before the outbreak of the crisis, the Turkish inflation rate had already reached 16%.

Again during the campaign for the general election of June 24 last, President RecepTayyp Erdogan promised strong investment in infrastructure.

It is the usual, old theory of Napoleon III, quand le bâtimentva, tout va – but currently investment in infrastructure has a relatively low multiplier (1.9 on average) and is increasingly capital intensive rather than labour intensive.

Furthermore, the return on investment over time and the future average return, if any, become technically unpredictable.

Certainly the modern economic theory tells us that also higher infrastructure costs lead to net increases in sectors which are not directly dependent on infrastructure – such as the classic examples of the ferry cost and the restaurant owner’s profit on an island. Nevertheless the money borrowed for these operations is little or is such as to create short and relevant returns -and this can never happen.

President Erdogan’s electoral promises, however, were inevitable: according to the latest internal polls before June 24, 60% of the people who traditionally voted for AKP (Adaletve Kalkınma Partisi, the Justice and Development Party) were already loyal and stable, above all vis-à-vis the Party’s Leader. However, 30-40% of the old AKP voters were dissatisfied, to the point of calling their vote for President Erdogan into question, and 10-15% were fed up with the AKP and its Leader.

It would be the end if, God forbid, the United States sought President Erdogan’s economic destabilization to punish “the tyrant” – ideological nonsense in which it only believes – or if the European Union thought to destroy the “fascist” Erdogan to free the Turkish people, thus destabilizing a ‘huge and essential area for the European security. The uncontrolled migration would turn into an invasion and the direct contact between the EU strategic nothingness and the Middle East jihad would become lethal, but only for Europe.

During the campaign for the general elections of last June, President Erdogan had also promised public investment (and nowadays the globalized economy is such as not to allow to make promises on private investment, without funding State’s investment). He was faced with an unprecedented united front of the four opposition parties against the AKP, which did not augur well for the founder of the first Party in power.

Hence “international markets” need to become aware of it in time: without promises you can never win elections and without some electoral public spending there is no consensus. This holds true for both the West and the East. The Jordanian uprising of last spring is acase in point: nowadays springs are economic  and destabilize a larger area than the purely political ones of 2011.

“Communication”, manipulative spin, and taking some extra erotic “liberties” are no longer enough to win elections – as still happens, but not for much longer, in some Western countries.

People want and will always want employment, security, infrastructure, wages and pensions, and above all stability.

The problem, which also applies to Italy, is that the current capital is post-national and pays taxes nowhere, while the average incomes have been falling for eleven years and cannot be further attacked by tax authorities.

Hence, since we cannot generate inflation – considering that the “markets” are only interested in it – we do no longer understand where we should find the resources, even limited, to give the masses what they have always asked from politicians since the times of Marcus Agrippa.

Hence there is also the Turkish leader’s electoral reference to the figure of Atatürk – that is strange even within a traditionally neo-Ottoman and Sunni project and narrative like the ones of  President Erdogan’s Party – which would have been impossible years before. During the electoral campaign, President Erdogan also underlined the further Turkish engagement in Syria, another clearly nationalistic and even secular factor that no one would find in President Erdogan’s initial storytelling. Finally he also referred to the Turkish ties with the European Union.

Clearly the European Union currently becomes the natural strategic and economic counterpart, faced with the crisis with the United States, an old tension due to the presence of Fethüllah Gülen in the USA.

Gülen is a Turkish preacher and political scientist, allied with Erdogan until 2013, but since 1999 he has been living in the forests of Pennsylvania.

With his movement, namely Hizmit (“Service”), Fethullah Gülenis supposed to be the figure who traditionally inspired the strong penetration of the Turkish AKP bureaucracies’ into the intelligence services and Armed Forces, in particular, as well as the Turkish coup of July 15, 2016.

Probably, the United States has always looked to the Western political scientist and sapiential preacher it hosts as a sort of threat to Turkey, a sword of Damocles enabling America to prompt an “Arab spring” in Turkey or even a “colour revolution” where needed.

Islamic esoteric sects, sapiential and secret networks, halfway between coup and Revelation, often connected with the most refined Western culture and politics, as well as relations between politics, intelligence and esotericism.

Nil sub sole novi: when Italy still counted for something, even the Grand Orient of Italy was the only cover chosen by the “Young Turks”, who organized their political and military action within the ranks of the Italian Lodges of Alexandria of Egypt, Istanbul and Thessaloniki.

However, let us revert to the economy: in spite of everything, the debt-GDP ratio – the obsession of the poor-quality economists so fashionable today – is very low in Turkey (a mere 28%).

However, Turkey currently records a high trade deficit of current accounts, which amounts to 6%. Hence the private debt has risen to over 50% of GDP, thus obviously putting the currency in difficulties.

In early July, all foreign investors expected a sharp rise in the Turkish Lira interest rates- and it was a “rational expectation”.

But obviously Erdogan, who is above all a politician, a leader who, like everyone else, seeks re-election – as the political scientists of the Rational Choice school of thought maintain  – blocked the interest rates downwards, with a view to avoiding impacts on domestic consumption and on the cost of loans.

Apart from Erdogan’s direct and institutional-family influence on the Turkish Central Bank, the idea is that the interest rate growth is generated by high inflation – as maintained by the neoclassical economic theories currently fashionable everywhere. And if the opposite were true? Here the arrow of time is of great importance.

The impact was predictably negative: inflation rose very rapidly, considering that many goods and services came from abroad. Investors got scared and only at that juncture  President Trump’s new duties materialized, just to top it all off.

Furthermore, Turkish companies have always been asking for money, especially abroad, to be considered reliable, given that – like all the recent dangerous economic success stories – the AKP-led Turkey has configured itself as an almost exclusively export-oriented country.

Einaudi’s economic wisdom would recommend a balance between the internal market and the external market dimension. Today, however, everyone superficially read the fashionable manuals, where equations seem to be written for theoretical cases, not for real economies.

Apart from President Trump’s duties, which kill a dead man– as we will see later on – the critical structure of the Turkish economy is made up of the following issues, which are all still on the table: a) the free fall of the Turkish Lira, the primary index of foreign investors’ sentiment; the Turkish currency that fell for twelve days in a row as against the dollar; the longest “fall” of the Turkish lira since 1999, the year when Gülen took refuge in the United States and the International Monetary Fund had to intervene with a bailout in dollars.

Considering that Turkey lives on many strong currency imports as against an export-regulated economy, which must be based on a weak currency to have the size necessary for reaching equilibrium and break even. Hence always keeping the Turkish currency artificially “weak”, a Weimarian inflation rapidly emerged.

  1. b) The financial burdens which, as always happens in these cases, have risen more than inflation, because investors are asking for a guarantee both to offset inflation and to be hedged against the collapse of the currency.
  2. c) As to the current accounts – another structural problem – it is still obvious that, under these conditions, Turkey must attract capital from abroad with very high rates of return – only to balance the economy and break even.

This triggers an imbalance that is resolved as in the case of a drug addict: much foreign capital marginally ever harder to repay, even only for the interest share.

Later, as in a well-known Dürer’s print, the scourge of the greater incidence of foreign debt materializes, just when buying  “good” currency only with the Turkish Lira has a higher cost. Other scourges materialize such as the growth of non-performing loans and the complete Turkish dependence on foreign oil and gas, which are sold in dollars and, incidentally, are increasing their unit price.

As already seen, apart from the current situation, the structure of the Turkish economy is strictly export-oriented, with domestic imports that depend directly on the oil and natural gas prices.

The steadily increasing prices of oil and natural gas rapidly led to a Turkish trade balance deficit equal to 57 billion US dollars in the period between March 2017 and March 2018.

There is virtually no propensity for domestic savings (whereas the high rate of domestic savings is exactly what is rescuing and will rescue Italy) and therefore the Turkish dependence on foreign loans has become chronic. This dependence feeds on the low value of the Turkish lira, which is however the main problem when debt must be repaid.

The foreign debt incurred in 2018 already amounts to 240 billion US dollars.

Obviously, under these conditions, the Turkish companies operating abroad do not repatriate their profits, which remain in the most profitable markets, while the solvency of Turkish banks is exacerbating.

Finally, however, the Turkish Central Bank reacted according to the too little too late classic rule, when the lira reached 4.9290 as against the dollar, thus restricting – only at that juncture – the monetary base and finally increasing interest rates.

Hence who is bearing the brunt of the crisis in Turkey? All the many people who have taken on debts in dollars or euros, but workers are certainly not better off.

Indirect taxation on employees’ incomes now accounts for 65% of their total salaries. Obviously unemployment (and hence the “cost of the politics”) increases and finally Turkish exports will also be devalued for a period covering at least the difference between the pre-crisis levels and those of the point in which markets will declare that the great Turkish inflation is over – inflation they have triggered off by taking advantage of Turkey’s mistakes.

Inflation resulting from the forced repayment of foreign debt, which was politically excessive. A precisely Weimarian structure.

The so-called Vision 2023, which Erdogan had made public in 2011, the year of the “Arab Springs”, will be probably put to an end.

Is it possible that after the stalemate in the Syrian crisis now won by Assad and Putin, the era of “Arab springs” has come, induced by the economic crisis rather than by the “democratic rebellions”, usually managed by the Muslim Brotherhood or by some fundamentalist group, with the agreement of the major Western democracies?

The Turkish crisis as if it were a sort of Egyptian, but only financial Tahrir Square, is a hypothesis not to be ruled out.

According to Erdogan’ statements, Vision 2023 aimed at a strong growth of average incomes and at an average per capita GDP of at least 25,000 US dollars, thus enabling Turkey to rank 10th in the world economy, to triple exports up to 500 billion dollars and create ten “global” Turkish brands (a good idea, which would apply also to Italy). Finally, the idea was to solve the long-standing issue of EU membership.

The Association Agreement between the EU and Turkey was signed in 1964.

The Final Stage of said agreement concerned a complete customs agreement between Turkey and the European Union. Later, in 1999, the “pre-accession policy” came, which imposed, inter alia, the constitutional change of relations between the Armed Forces and the political system, thus ensuring the rapid Islamization of the country. Was it a blind or silly strategy? We do not know the answer to this question.

In 2004 the EU still urged to open negotiations with Turkey – negotiations which are still underway. In 2016, a few days before the coup of July 15, there was a Declaration which “reaffirmed the commitment to implement the action plan as defined on November 29, 2015”, while the Parties agreed that the accession process should be “revitalized”.

Just lip service, as the opponents of the Soviet regime used to say, when they read the CPSU’s official statements.

Reverting to the economy, even the now unlikely Turkish plan for 2023 becomes possible only if a strong and long growth is recorded, or if we seriously increase – first and foremost – domestic savings. Investment and not consumption induced by strong currency regions must be generated, while the dependence of the Turkish lira on foreign capital must be reduced.

The shift between the dollar and the euro would be possible in Turkey, considering that now 70% of Foreign Direct Investment in the country comes from the EU, which is also a sort of legal, sociological and humanitarian minuet.

This will be possible if the Turkish economy is partially dedollarized and investment comes from areas such as the EU, in particular, as well as from the Russian Federation and its friends of the  Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and hence from China.

However, for the NATO’s second Armed Force, this means a radical change of strategic planning.

For China, Turkey should stop supporting the Turkmen jihadists of Xinjiang – something which, however, it is doing ever less. It should also seriously favour Russian operations in Syria, with the guarantee of the territorial non-continuity of the future Kurdish Rojava between Northern Syria and the Anatolian territory – but currently the Kurds fight together with the Syrians in Idlib. Finally, for the future Turkey, it should buy oil and natural gas in roubles and renminbi from China and Russia, with “branded” investment to enter the Central Asian and Far East markets.

A clear link between economic reconstruction and strategic repositioning, a new vision of the Atlantic Pact to the East, which would find itself bare vis-à-vis the Persian Gulf and deprived of areas enabling it to control the Russian Federation to the South.

A fundamental defeat of NATO, faced with the increase of US duties for Turkish goods. Pure madness.

Currently, however, Erdogan has also other certainties. He knows that we need to rely ever less on the Sunni Arab world (even if Vision 2023 seems to be almost similar to the one – bearing almost the same name – drafted by the Saudi Prince, Mohammad bin Salman), considering that Saudi Arabia has other things to think about and is already welcome in the world of high public debt held by foreign investors.

Erdogan is still convinced that Russia remains an unreliable and – in any case, considering the size of its economy – unable to support Turkey, which is floundering in a crisis. He is also convinced that China has other strategic priorities in the Mediterranean and that Africa, where Erdogan invested significantly, is still a tiny market.

There would also be the EU 18th-century-style minuet, but we do not see a way out between a declaration of intent and the other.

Hence is this game worth the risk of President Trump’s increase in duties?

Let us analyse the situation. Pending the Turkish lira crisis, President Trump stated that the US import duties on the Turkish steel would increase by 50% and those on aluminium by 20%.

There is also the usual issue of Gülen in the tension between the USA and Turkey, as well as the new tension regarding the detention in Ankara of a North American Protestant pastor, Andrew Branson, accused by the Turkish Police and intelligence services of espionage in favour of the Kurds.

Considering the US intelligence services’ long tradition of use of their religious sects, this charge may be plausible.

Besides President Trump’s unpredictable tariff geoeconomics, there is also the FED’s action.

Since the 2008 Lehman crisis, the Federal Reserve has been buying and stabilizing with derivatives the sovereign and major banks’ bonds and securities issued or deposited in a phase on the verge of bankruptcy.

In 2017, however, the FED decided to “normalize” the budgets, thus leaving to the markets the already acquired securities of sovereign or non-sovereign entities, still in danger but stabilized and hence having a higher price. It sells them at a low price, but it earns more.

The FED’s portfolio of such bonds and securities is supposed to decrease by 315 billion US dollars in 2018 and by additional 437 billion US dollars in 2019.

A mass of paper that will revive short-term investment and markets’ “hit-and-run” transactions and operations.

Hence there are obvious effects prolonging the general crisis and the high absorption of capital by entities such as FED – capital that could instead be used for the economic recovery of the current peripheral areas of the world market.

What about the effects on the euro? There will be many effects, considering the presence of European economies in Turkey.

Hence a strong and stable pressure of the dollar on the euro cannot be ruled out, which will have geopolitical effects that are easy to predict.

The time needed to recover from the Turkish crisis will be measured as against the time needed for the Turkish domestic savings to recover and on the basis of the possible shift of the Turkish debt between the US currency and the currency of the EU, which is only partially a payer of last resort.

When Turkey has more money, there will be another inflationary squeeze caused by the leaders’ often inevitable political choices. And the carousel will start again.

A ride that is structurally ready, especially for the EU Southern economies.

Germany’s position on the Turkish crisis, which is fully strategic and obsessed with the migration issue, makes us lean towards this equation.

Germany will help Turkey, but with a view to opposing the USA (which will soon attack the German trade surplus with the “markets”) and, in any case, by severely restricting the Turkish exporting area, which shall anyway adapt to the German “value chains”.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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How to build your entrepreneurial mindset today

MD Staff

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An entrepreneurial mindset is a way of life. Even if you aren’t starting your own business, an entrepreneurial mindset teaches you that no problem is insurmountable: you can overcome challenges through perseverance and resilience.

Here are five things you can remember to build an entrepreneurial mindset today. If you’re aged between 18-30, why not start by applying to be a Young Champion of the Earth in 2019? Stay tuned—the competition is opening soon!

Transform problems into opportunities

There are so many clues in everyday life. Is there anything that you experience daily that frustrates you? Perhaps it is the prominence of unsustainable materials in your local shop and restaurants, such as plastic straws or unnecessary food packaging? Often, alternatives to problems do exist, but no one has thought of connecting them in specific circumstances. A good example is supplying restaurants and bars with paper straws. Entrepreneurial mindsets apply a lens which identifies problems not as negative issues but as opportunities to be solved, towards creating value in our economy.

Dare to dream and believe in yourself

If you can dream it and believe it, you are halfway there. How big you can dream is a component of your potential for success. Everyone has ideas—but daring to dream big, and then believing in yourself to apply an entrepreneurial mindset and bring them to reality, takes effort. This year, why not push yourself to think creatively? You could come up with a problem once a week, and each week, come up with one matching solution, for example. The key is to think outside the box, to think of a problem as a potential solution.

Know yourself and discover what you are passionate about

Solving problems, especially those associated with the environment, can be daunting. You will constantly be faced with challenges in your journey to change the world. Some environmental challenges feel so large—like those brought about by climate change. But helping to break down large issues into smaller ones which everyone can take steps to solve, is part of the entrepreneurial journey. Remember that you are capable. Find problems that you are passionate about solving and connect with others passionate about solving them too. This will help you through the tough times to stay motivated.

Go for it and don’t take no for an answer

We all have the foundations of an entrepreneurial mindset. We can all identify problems and think up ideas about how to solve them. Being an entrepreneur pushes you to go out there and take actions to achieve them. Often, this process forces you to think through a specific problem in more detail. It helps you to truly understand pathways towards a solution which others might not have thought about. An idea does not have application in the real world if it is not hammered out in real situations. Part of being an entrepreneur requires following this process, identifying real experiences which can be made better or more efficient, and talking with other people who experience similar challenges to find solutions. Using the resources you have at your disposal will force you to be creative. Keep improving your solution. As you go on, you will eventually gain traction and interest. From there, the possibilities are endless.

Learn, embrace uncertainty and accept failure

Eric Ries from the lean startup says that entrepreneurship is “management under conditions of extreme uncertainty”. Forging your own path to solve a problem that no one has solved before is scary—things change constantly. There will be many obstacles and there will be failure. But an entrepreneurial mindset teaches you that failures are opportunities to learn in disguise. An entrepreneurial mindset embraces uncertainty and learning, to leverage the opportunities that emerge from the space between them.

UN Environment

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Iran’s oil market facing the new sanctions era: What to expect

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After an expected hiatus in Iran’s oil exports to some of the country’s main customers following the reimposition of the US sanctions, once again the country’s old buyers are coming back to take advantage of the 180-day window which has been presented by the waivers granted in November.

Although it took some of these buyers more than a month to make necessary arrangements or to contemplate on the matter, it seems that finally the convenience of buying oil from Iran has outweighed the skepticism overshadowing Iranian oil industry.

With the customers coming back everything was seemed to be, once again, in favor of Iran’s oil industry, however the US government’s disappointing comments last weekend could change all the equations for Iran’s oil market in the months to come.

“The United States is not looking to grant more waivers for Iranian oil imports after the reimposition of US sanctions.” Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, told an industry conference in the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi.

Considering this new stand, the immediate question which comes to mind is what would become Iran’s oil market after the 180-day period is over? To answer this question two main aspects should be taken into account, one is the consideration of Iran’s ability to bypass the sanctions and the second is the possibility of Iranian oil customers being pushed away in the wake of difficulties resulted from the sanctions.

Iran’s capabilities

Even though at first the markets were almost certain about the severe impact of Trump’s plans on Iranian oil industry, but the surprising decision on granting eight countries waivers to continue buying Iranian oil significantly mitigated the harsh outlook.

Now, nearly three months after the reimpostion of the US sanctions on Iran, the market has witnessed that the Iranian oil exports are not plunged as much as expected.

Although due to the confidentiality of Iran’s crude oil sales data, especially in the sanctions era, there is not an exact report for the level of the country’s oil exports in recent months, however based on the estimations presented by institutes which track Iranian oil vessels, the country’s oil exports stood at near 1.1 to 1.3 million barrels per day in November and December.

Furthermore, considering the exempted countries which are going to resume their oil purchasers from January, and the new approaches which Iran is taking to sell its oil like offering oil at energy exchanges or finding new customers, the country can definitely maintain an even higher level of exports in the months to come.

According to a FGE report, Iran will ship 1.08 million barrels per day in January and exports 1.115 million barrels per day in February.

We should not also forget Iran’s experience in bypassing sanctions to sale its oil. As I mentioned before, Iran has acquired certain ways to bypass sanctions and sell its oil even during the sanctions.

Iranian oil buyers

Nearly two months after the US granted eight countries waivers to continue purchasing oil from Iran, recently some of the Asian buyers have signaled willingness for resuming oil imports from the country.

China, India and South Korea have placed orders for loadings in January or February and Japanese refineries have also expressed hope to resume shipping in Iranian oil as from late January provided that some final clearance and paperwork were made.

As reported by S&P Global, the presidents of Japan’s JXTG Holdings and Cosmo Oil stated that they aim to load Iranian barrels at the end of January upon making some final clearances.

“Cosmo Oil aims to load around 1.8 million barrels of Iranian crude at the end of this month” the report read.

Last week, head of South Korea’s SK Innovation, which owns South Korea’s biggest oil refiner SK Energy also told Reuters that South Korean oil buyers are expected to restart Iranian oil imports in late January or early February.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs has also stated recently that the Asian country will continue importing Iranian oil. According to data provided by FACTS Global Energy Group (FGE), four Indian refineries namely, Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum, HMEL and HPCL have placed orders for 321,000 barrels of Iranian oil in February.

Regarding Greece, Italy, and Taiwan which were exempted from the US sanctions, no news has been officially out since November.

Even though Europe opposed Trump’s actions, and have reassured Iran’s government that they want the nuclear deal to continue, refiners in the green continent have had little choice but to comply with sanctions. The US can cut off access to their financial system for any company judged to be doing business with Iran.

The customer preferences

With all that said, there are still other considerations which should be taken into account to have a rather clear view of what to expect for the future of Iranian oil.

The fact that it took near two months for some of the Asian buyers of Iranian oil to make necessary arrangements to come back to Iran’s market, is an indication of the hardships that the customers of Iranian oil will be facing in trade with Iran.

The heavy bureaucratic process which the exempted countries have to go through in order to buy Iranian oil, could push some of the more cautious customers like Japan and even South Korea away from Iran.

Most Asian customers of Iranian oil are very sensitive and conservative in their relations with the United States, and this is likely to be a barrier in the way of their energy relations with Iran.

Japan is a clear example of this situation; despite being granted sanction waiver the Japanese refineries have conditioned the resumption of their purchases upon “making some final clearances”.

Regarding Iranian oil buyers’ future decisions, yet another fact that should be taken into account is the reality that with Saudi Arabia, Russia and US producing almost at their peak, and with prices hovering near $60 there is currently a lot of cheap oil in the market.

In such a market, it is natural that some of the Iranian oil customers prefer to purchase their oil from other oil suppliers instead of exposing themselves to the consequences of breaching the US sanctions.

So in the end, it all comes to the incentives which Iranian government is willing to provide to make its oil attractive enough to worth the risk.

It seems that the country has taken some steps in this regard, since earlier this month, the Iranian Deputy Oil Minister for International Affairs and Trading Amir-Hossein Zamaninia said despite the US. sanctions more oil buyers have approached the country for negotiations.

“Despite US pressures on Iranian oil market, the number of potential buyers of Iranian oil has significantly increased due to a competitive market, greed and pursuit of more profit.” Zamaninia said.

Mentioning “pursuit of more profit” indicates that Iran is probably going to provide its customers with remarkable discounts or provide them with long-term payment plans which considering the current situation in the market seems to be the best decision at the moment.

First published in our partner MNA

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Iran: Currency reconversion not a turning point in economic reformation

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One of Iran’s main economic policies, under the framework of the sixth five-year development plan, is modification of banking system and reformation of monetary policies, moving forward toward which the Rouhani administration put forward the plan to shift the national currency from Rial to Toman earlier in December 2016 by eliminating specific number of zeroes.

However, the administration decided to postpone implementation of currency reconversion policy in 2016 due to some reasons including the expressed concerns about the time unfitting economic conditions which would ignite inflation and economic instability.

The policy basically seeks to facilitate monetary transactions among the Iranians and match the currency being transcribed in official documents and banking bills (rial) with the one utilized in real daily lives of Iranians (toman). Rial has practically been replaced by Toman in daily transactions as the result of the cumulative inflation over the recent years.

On Saturday, the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) submitted the bill on lopping off four zeroes of the national currency to the cabinet, the act which drew public attention to the issue again, forming a chorus of criticism and speculations.

Through its proposed bill, the CBI seems primarily able to re-empower the depreciated national currency, tangibly decrease the ever-increasing liquidity volume, and make a nominal reduction in prices of goods and services in the country.

The most remarkable achievements of implementing the bill, however, would be a psychological one among the society.  Shifting from rial, the free market exchange rate of which is presently about 110,000 against the U.S. dollar, by cutting four zeroes to toman may cover the psychological aspects of the inflationary impacts of rial devaluation, which has unprecedentedly increased prices in Iran. It is said to be able to recover national currency’s value against U.S. dollar to some extent and cool down the inflated prices, as well.

Omitting zeroes from the national currency would surely facilitate calculations and money transfers in daily transactions and would seemingly retaliate for the sharp recent rial devaluation but it should not be expected to improve Iranians purchasing power at all.

It would not have any specific impact on economic indices, inflation, investments, job creation or demand and supply, either.

As a matter of fact, economic stability and single-digit inflation rate are the most significant prerequisites of implementing currency reconversion while Iran is experiencing none of the named factors.

Currency reconversion per se would have an inflationary effect. To curb its inflationary impact, it must be done simultaneous with taking contractionary measures and modifications in monetary policies.

In addition, printing new banknotes and injecting them to the market would impose an amount of costs on the shoulder of the central bank.

Addressing the issue in an interview with the Tehran Times, the Iranian economist and President of Iran World Trade Center Mohammad Reza Sabzalipour said that “the government aims to hit several targets with one shot.”

“It seeks to control money and liquidity volume in the society i.e. cutting four zeroes would change the present 17 quadrillion rials (about $404 billion) of liquidity down to 1.7 trillion rials (about $40.4 million) overnight,” he explained, “but the zeroes will incrementally come back and liquidity will be increased over time, in case CBI continues printing fiat money.”

“The act would appease the public opinion just for a short time when they see the price numbers of the goods and services are decreased but after a while when their income also comes with lower zeroes, they will find out that what has happened has not improved their commonwealth,” he added.

“There is no reason for us to consider a national currency with less zeroes a more valuable one,” Sabzalipour said, “having a strong economy is not necessary related to having a national currency with low number of zeroes but to positive trade balance and high quality of the nation’s livelihood.”

“The decided monetary reconversion is mere a political and a psychological move,” he underscored.

What the government is getting prepared to do should not be expected as a revolutionary step in Iran’s economic and banking reformations, that would bring the nation a better livelihood and a more prosperous economy.

It is a postponed measure that has not been implemented in previous years due to lack of proper economic conditions and it is being done under the circumstances that the country is experiencing the toughest economic conditions in its history thanks to the U.S.-led draconian sanctions and when a rampant inflation rate is expected for the upcoming Iranian year.

The costly currency reconversion would, for sure, facilitate money transfer and calculations in daily transactions and also reduce the volume of exchanged paper money and etc., but its effect would be neutralized and the omitted zeroes would snap back one after the other in the long-run, in case of monetary mismanagement or any other unpredicted international, political or economic event which would threaten the economy.

First published in our partner Tehran Times

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