Jun 18 2019

Reluctant currency trader ordered to attack Turkey in promo video

A currency trader answers a phone call from an unidentified business boss. The order – attack Turkey’s economy because it is becoming too powerful.

The trader, overseeing a team of bankers at an undisclosed location abroad, protests, saying the operation would be illegal. Financial markets are closed, he says.

“We don’t ask your opinion. You have to do that now!” is the response from the shadowy figure, who has his back to the camera, at a window.

The Turkish lira plummets. 

The movie-like scene in English, complete with subtitles in Turkish, forms the intro to a new five-minute promotional video by the Turkish Exporters’ Assembly (TIM), the country’s leading representatives of Turkey’s exporting companies.

To some, the video – which at one point features President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s voice merged into the Islamic call to prayer – is proof of the politicisation of Turkey’s once-independent economic institutions and their adherence to Erdoğan’s conspiratorial views on the economy and international affairs.

To others, it is based on truth and depicts an actual moment last August when a premeditated attack by foreign bankers on Turkey’s economy took place, leading to a currency crisis.

On Aug. 13, the lira slumped to a record low of 7.23 per dollar, raising the spectre of a full-blown financial crisis. Economists say the meltdown was sparked by concern about Turkey’s overheating economy – bloated by government stimulus – and a political spat with the United States, which had provoked economic sanctions.

Since that day in August however, Erdoğan, his ministers and advisers have maintained that the lira sell-off and a consequent economic recession is the work of foreign speculators.

Last week, a Turkish prosecutor sought jail terms for two Bloomberg reporters and 36 other people including journalists and economists for seeking to cause chaos in financial markets last summer. The charges are based on a news article published by Bloomberg in August that depicted banks running short of foreign currency as locals rushed to withdraw dollars and euros.

The lira lost 28 percent of its value last year and has dropped an additional 10 percent since Dec. 31. The decline comes as Turks increase the amount of foreign currency they hold in bank accounts to levels unseen in more than a decade. The lira has also lost value because of ongoing tensions with the United States over Erdoğan’s purchase of Russian missiles and general weakness in emerging markets.