Turkey budget deficit widens to record as spending surges on COVID-19

Turkey posted a record budget deficit in March as the government sought to combat the impact of the COVID-19 virus by increasing spending.

The deficit grew to 43.7 billion liras ($6.4 billion) last month from 24.5 billion liras in the same month of 2019, the Treasury and Finance Ministry said on its website on Wednesday. Spending, excluding interest payments on debt, surged by 18 percent.

The deficit for March was equal to more than one-third of the total deficit for 2019 of 123.7 billion liras.

Turkey is seeking to stimulate the economy to help cushion the spread of the coronavirus. Steps include delays to company tax and social security payments, financial help for the newly unemployed and debt restructuring.

Budget revenue slumped by an annual 13 percent as many companies temporarily ceased or cut back operations and consumers observed a partial lockdown. The figure was far greater in real terms when including annual consumer price inflation of 11.9 percent. Tax income slid 10 percent.