Ex-Amazon economist to head Turkey central bank

Published : 04 Feb 2024 11:44 PM | Updated : 05 Feb 2024 01:06 PM

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday picked a former senior economist at the US online retail giant Amazon as the new head of Turkey's central bank.

Fatih Karahan's appointment follows the resignation of Hafize Gaye Erkan after less than a year in office over a media scandal involving her family.

The reshuffle appears to keep in place Erdogan's newfound commitment to market economics following years of financial turmoil.

Erkan won major plaudits from Western investors for spearheading a rapid series of interest rate hikes that helped stabilise the slumping lira and tame Turkey's dire cost of living crisis.

But the 44-year-old came under withering attack on social media and in some opposition publications for allegedly allowing her father to make unauthorised personnel decisions at the bank.

Erkan reportedly also angered Erdogan by telling one major newspaper that she had to move in with her parents because inflation had made renting unaffordable.

The attacks on Turkey's first woman central bank governor alarmed investors and created uncertainty about Erdogan's long-term commitment to his team.

"A major reputation assassination campaign has recently been organised against me," Erkan said in a social media statement announcing her resignation.

Karahan started his career as an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 2012.

His official biography states that he also lectured at Columbia University and New York University.

He joined Amazon in 2022 and was appointed as Erkan's deputy at the central bank last July.

- 'We will continue' -

Erdogan selected Erkan for one of Turkey's toughest assignments after winning a tough May re-election in which his main opponent focused on Turkey's economic ills.

She joined a team led by Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek and other market-friendly technocrats that Western analysts saw as Turkey's best bet at pulling itself back from the brink of economic doom.

Their reforms have helped Turkey start winning back foreign investments and save the country from a potential banking crisis.

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