Does Turkey have an external debt problem?

Published 14.06.2016 23:24
Updated 15.06.2016 22:10

If we are to liken the 2008 crisis to an iceberg, the afloat part of this iceberg is the external debt of developed countries. The external public debt of Eurozone countries and the U.S. has exceeded 100 percent in proportion to Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, the public debt stock fell to normal levels in developing countries including Turkey in this period.

Despite this, some circles are striving to initiate a disinformation campaign about Turkey through the external debt of the private sector. Above all, let us note that most of Turkey's private sector's external debt is secured and long term and that $100 billion of its total external debt stock is the short-term external debt, most of which belongs to the institutional and foreign firms in Turkey. Turkey has already passed many stress tests on this subject.

As is known, the caution of "Be careful! Your external debt is increasing," is a preachment of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). After countries are preached to like this, they launch belt-tightening programs, switch to tight monetary policies, hike interest rates and are forced to find external sources. By doing so, the financial oligarchy makes its sources even more valuable; widens the gap between itself and those who strive to keep up with it and transfers income to itself. Furthermore, by using such false statements, it cracks down on governments that do not suit its book and tries to overthrow them.

Here is an oft-told IMF prescription: Short-term external debts are compared with foreign exchange reserves and it is regarded as a sign of bankruptcy if there is something negative. The truth of the matter is that the short-term external debt stock is a balance of current, non-contingent liabilities that requires the payments of the capital and/or interest to be made within one year following a certain settlement date in an economy where residents are indebted to foreign residents.

There are two important words - economy and resident - in this definition. The central bank defines the word "economy" as a geographical region administrated by a government and the word "resident" as a natural or legal person who continuously and regularly resides in that geographical region for more than one year and carries out economic activities there. If you pay attention, I am talking about pure economy and not mentioning anything about politics. However, if the definition of resident included national elements, I would be talking about politics as well. Based on this definition, the private sector, which holds nearly 85 percent of the short-term external debt, includes so many global companies. This debt includes commitments on goods and services that these global companies use in their corporate offices in a year, as well as pre-financing and prepayments that Turkish exporters receive.

This external debt also includes the foreign currency accounts and lira accounts of foreigners in Turkish banks. On the other hand, there is an issue of the central bank's debts - which are not essentially debts. Generally, foreign exchange accounts with a credit letter of Turkish citizens residing abroad are seen here. Also, short-term loans, received by correspondant banks working abroad, which is called correspondant bank deficit, are here.

Some proportion these debts to the Central Bank's reserves and make their reasoning accordingly. These are things of the 19th century. Today, the central banks' accumulation of reserves is not a prestige. Either they have surpluses and compulsorily save reserves, or they eye reserves to avoid being unable to provide external debt service and carry out imports. Why should a country, which is full of foreign exchanges and attracts investments, eye the central bank's reserves?

Let us reiterate that Turkey's three basic economic units of public, households and private companies, foreign exchange-denominated debts are not open positions. On the contrary, households have foreign exchange surpluses. When we look at the foreign exchange accounts of private companies and households, we see not open, but positive positions here in accordance with indebtedness.

Because of all this, the external debt of private companies in Turkey is not a debt that can be expressed as an open position unlike during the 2001 crisis and it will not create a risk. Everyone must have the right information and comment about the Turkish economy accordingly.

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