Türkiye'nin en iyi köşe yazarları en güzel köşe yazıları ile Hürriyet'te! Usta yazarlar ve gündemi değerlendiren köşe yazılarını takip edin.

All is well, send the doc away

A couple of weeks ago, I had discussed whether there was any basis for the green shoots a la turca scenario, i.e. whether the economy was on the way to recovery. At the time, the answer was a resounding no.

Last week’s March Industrial Production release, despite the 20.9 percent yearly contraction, was interpreted by analysts and media alike as positive, with the lower-than-expected figure showing that the pace of the contraction was slowing down.

However, a closer look proves otherwise: Once you adjust for the number of working days and cyclicality, the monthly contraction in March turns out to be no less than the previous month. If anything, these latest figures have all but ascertained a double-digit slowdown in the first quarter.

But these statistics are lagging behind more than a month. Therefore, I will be looking for hints of recovery in today’s April Capacity Utilization outturn. An across-the-board improvement there would confirm signals from the real sector confidence indices that inventories are finally being run down, a necessary condition for recovery.

Even without clear signs from producers, there are other reasons to be marginally optimistic. Consumer credit seems to be thawing, albeit at a very slow pace. Yet it is way too early to make too much out of this, as it could also be a last-ditch attempt by cash-strained consumers. It is, after all, all quiet on the commercial credit front, although the latest Bank Loans Tendency Survey points to easing conditions from the supply side. The much-awaited credit guarantee fund could lead to more slack there.

Markets have been providing ample ground for optimism as well. The lira has held reasonably well, and demand at last week’s Treasury auctions was significantly more than expectations on the back of a record-low inflation print and favorable global sentiment.

Bond markets are supposed to intimidate, as Clinton adviser James Carville famously noted once. Obviously, he has not been to Turkey: With the banks literally banking on rate cuts and another 0.50 percent cut on the Central Bank’s menu for Thursday, bonds just wet appetites here.

Moreover, the slowdown has tamed the country’s chronic current account deficit, as we will ascertain again with the release of the March turnout this afternoon. Therefore, if the external gap is shrinking, thanks to the recession, and the Treasury can borrow easily and at low cost, compliments of the Central Bank, who needs the IMF? This reasoning has started to surface here and there, and, in my opinion, is even more dangerous than trying to pretend that the Fund is around the corner.

In addition to the fact that this strategy has the rather unpleasant side effect of crowding out private lending and delaying the recovery in credit markets, public finances are deteriorating rapidly and the fiscal gap will need to be plugged with IMF money to the Treasury at some point. Furthermore, the coherence of an IMF program is essential for debt sustainability, one of the pillars of economic stability in the early AKP years.

If the government is dodging the Fund because it plans for more fiscal stimulus, it should know that with the high debt rollover and a weak primary balance, it is mixing a poisonous cocktail. In a similar fashion, the Fund’s structural measures that the government is Ğ supposedly - vehemently opposed to ensure that it will not try to renege on its promises at the next general elections.

Odysseus tied himself to his ship’s mast to resist the lure of the sirens. I have known for some time that the government was not as wise. But I am surprised to see that the crew and the passengers are handing a knife to their captain- so that he can free himself and head for the cliffs.

Emre Deliveli is a freelance consultant. His daily Economics blog is at http://emredeliveli.blogspot.com/.
X