Amid signals of a looming economic crisis, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday described Turks who convert their foreign currencies into Turkish lira as “patriots,” saying Turkey will trade with Russia, China and Iran in their own currencies and in lira.
Describing the depreciation of the Turkish lira against the US dollar as an international operation targeting Turkey in the aftermath of a July 15 coup attempt, Erdoğan said: “I am appealing to the owners of shopping malls. If we are patriots, then we have to convert foreign currencies into lira.”
He was speaking during an awards ceremony at the Kayseri Industrialists Chamber in Kayseri.
“You are aware of the game they have been playing since the July 15 coup attempt. They are now trying to finish the coup that failed on July 15 by means of interest rates and foreign currency,” said Erdoğan, accusing the Gülen movement of being part of the new attempt as well.
Reiterating his call for lowering interest rates in Turkey, Erdoğan said; “Whatever the cost, we have to reduce interest rates. Interest rates must be lowered to pave the way for investment. When we lowered the interest rates to 4.6 percent, they created the Gezi Park protests as a response.”
“We currently give credit to investors at interest rates of 14, 15, 16 or 17 percent. Can this country develop? No. You destroy it, you finish it. If the unemployment rate reaches 11.7 to 11.8 percent, what is the reason? Investment stops. We have to revive it… If they [investors] can get cheaper credit, they will be able to invest. There is no water in the pump. We have to fill it up,” said Erdoğan.
“When we see people responding to our call to convert foreign currencies into Turkish lira, our belief in the nation increases even further. As long as this tie between the state and the nation exists, no operation can bring this country to its knees,” added Erdoğan.
“Those who keep dollars or euros under their pillows should turn them into lira or gold,” Erdoğan said in an earlier speech in Kayseri on Sunday.
Erdoğan made similar a call to people on Friday in Ankara: “Come, bring the savings under your pillow and invest it in Turkish lira. Let’s stabilize the market with this money.”
Reacting to Erdoğan’s call, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on Saturday asked Erdoğan whether he sold off his own dollars after the president called on the nation to sell off foreign exchange to help stem the depreciation of the Turkish lira.
In remarks in Adana, Kılıçdaroğlu made reference to shoeboxes, which became the symbol of a corruption investigation in December 2013 that implicated several ministers in then-Prime Minister Erdoğan’s government.
In response to Erdoğan’s call, Recep Yeter, a journalist for the pro-Erdoğan Yeni Şafak daily, posted a Twitter message on Sunday, calling for the seizure of the money of people who buy large amounts of dollars. “If driving a tank over nation is the same as driving a dollar over the nation, then you can seize the money of people who are carrying out an operation against the nation by buying large amounts of dollars,” he wrote.
Turkey’s main stock exchange, Borsa İstanbul, converted all its cash assets into lira a few hours after Erdoğan’s call.
The Turkish lira fell to a record low of 3.60 against the dollar on Friday despite Erdoğan’s remarks. The Turkish government held an emergency economic coordination board meeting later the same day.