ANKARA, February 22 (Reuters) – Turkey’s finance minister has defended the foreign exchange reserve policy of his predecessor Berat Albayrak, saying transactions that had led to a sharp fall in reserves were a response to the extraordinary demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Albayrak, the son-in-law of President Tayyip Erdogan, abruptly stepped down in November shortly after Erdogan replaced the central bank governor. During his two-year term as finance minister, the lira fell to a record low, while foreign exchange reserves fell.
In a social media campaign accusing Albayrak of economic hardship, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) demanded to know what had happened to the $ 128 billion, which it says was sold from central bank reserves.
“I strongly condemn the unfair and rude rhetoric used by the CHP on foreign exchange reserves against our former Minister of Finance and Finance, Mr Berat Albayrak,” Finance Minister Lutfi Elvan said on Twitter late Sunday.
“It is unacceptable to distort foreign exchange reserve transactions carried out in accordance with the objective of financial stability in the midst of 2020 pandemic conditions in an environment necessitated by extraordinary fluctuations in global markets,” he added.
A lawyer for Albayrak said at the weekend that the CHP’s campaign included “ugly slander and attempt to smear” the former minister, adding that they would file a £ 500,000 ($ 71,000) compensation lawsuit over the campaign.
“Transactions over the central bank’s reserves were carried out in accordance with applicable regulations and in line with the objectives of financial and price stability in a manner appropriate to the balance of payments requirements,” Albayrak’s lawyer said in a statement.
“Since the day he resigned, Mr Berat Albayrak has spent time with his wife and children at home, as in any normal Turkish family.” ($ 1 = 7.0130 lira) (Report by Tuvan Gumrukcu Edited by Daren Butler and Gareth Jones)