AKP said to plan to give economic reins to former Finance Minister Şimşek

Erdoğan is expected to name former Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek as economic czar in the election manifesto, sources told Reuters.

Mehmet Şimşek and Erdoğan are seen shaking hands in this file photo.

Duvar English – Reuters

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to give a top role in running the economy to former Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek, who is highly regarded in international circles, unnamed resources told Reuters.

The draft election manifesto of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) marks a return to more orthodox and free market economic policies, sources said.

"The approach to the economy is very similar to that of the 2002 AKP election manifesto. In other words, the AKP is returning to its origins," one government official said about the draft, adding that work on it had reached the final stage.

He said that its priorities included free market economy rules and practices parallel to those applied in the global economy, with "no sign of any kind of non-market practices."

The AKP declined to comment on the issue. Şimşek was not available for comment.

A senior AKP official said the manifesto made no reference to the new economy model but emphasized principles previously advocated by the AKP, such as fighting inflation, accountability in the public sector and transparency in tenders.

He said Erdoğan's final approval of the manifesto would be required and so far he had not conveyed any dissenting opinion.

"If he does accept, it will eventually bring radical changes in both the cabinet and the management of the economy," he said.

Among Erdoğan's goals was the appointment of Şimşek.

"All Turkey knows Şimsek's approach and success. If he takes office, a radical change is inevitable in economic policies, the bureaucracy and cabinet members to work in harmony with him," the AKP official said.

Another source with knowledge of the issue said that as well as the AKP, three parties from the main opposition alliance wanted to work with Şimşek.

In 2012, when Şimşek was actively involved in running the economy, the foreign share of the lira-denominated bond market peaked around 25%. It stood at 0.8% at end-January, Treasury data shows. Şimşek was deputy prime minister until 2018.

Four senior sources in the opposition alliance told Reuters previously that the alliance planned to make former deputy prime minister Ali Babacan a vice president responsible for the economy if it wins the presidential election.

Babacan, like Şimşek, is well regarded by foreign investors.

Devastating earthquakes that killed more than 48,000 people in Turkey have further added to the fiscal challenge faced by the government in winning over voters in the May elections.

Following the quakes, the budget deficit surged to 171 billion lira ($9 billion) in February while the trade deficit jumped nearly 53$ to $12.2 billion in the same month.