Turkey’s current account deficit narrowed nearly 60% to $14.88 billion (TL 200.78 billion) last year, less than expected, the central bank said Friday.
Reining in the deficit is a big priority in Ankara’s new economic program that stresses exports and a competitive exchange rate while maintaining a low interest rate policy.
Turkey’s import-reliant economy, worth $717 billion in 2020, has been prone to big trade deficits and a boom-bust growth cycle that was exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
In a Reuters poll, the full-year deficit was forecast to be $15 billion, below a government estimate of $21 billion. The $35.54 billion deficit in 2020 was driven by a rising trade deficit and plunging tourism revenues amid the COVID-19 fallout.
After three months of surplus, a deficit reemerged in the last two months of the year due to rising imports of energy and intermediary goods. The December deficit of $3.84 billion was less than a poll forecast of $4 billion.
The foreign trade deficit, a major component of the current account, widened 49.3% year-over-year in December to $6.79 billion, official data showed.
Turkey’s tourism income doubled to almost $25 billion last year, reflecting a recovery from the initial wave of COVID-19 pandemic measures in 2020. The revenues are forecast to recover to $34.5 billion this year.
Shoring up the current account deficit has been Ankara’s main priority under its new economic model, which officials say will be achieved through raising exports with a competitive exchange rate.
The government has been endorsing a model based on lower borrowing costs, which it says will boost production, employment and exports, and also eventually help Turkey to solve the chronic current account deficit problem and contribute to stabilizing the Turkish lira.
To support the drive, Turkey’s central bank has slashed its interest rates by 500 basis points since September to 14%, before pausing the easing cycle last month.
The lira weakened 44% last year and hit a record low of 18.4 against the United States dollar in late December but rebounded after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s announcement of a scheme to boost lira deposits by protecting them against depreciation.
The initiative had helped the lira rally sharply to just over 10 and then settle at current levels just under 14 to the dollar.
The lira, which has traded steadily so far this year, was flat at 13.54 against the dollar on Friday.