By Marc Jones
LONDON (Reuters) – Turkey learnt the fewest lessons from the Lehman crisis while Russia has done the most to protect itself from global turbulence, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s chief economist said on Thursday.
The development bank works in 36 countries across three continents and saw its markets hit hard by shockwaves from the global financial crisis seen a decade ago.
Most are lower-income economies and are now facing strains again as the first real sustained rise in global interest rates since the crash takes hold. It also is proving a timely opportunity to take stock of what has changed.
“For the emerging markets, the main lesson is that you need to build deep and meaningful financial markets in your own country,” the EBRD’s chief economist Sergei Guriev told Reuters.
“Otherwise, because of problems in some other country you may have an external financing shock and you will have a crisis.” (Graphics on ‘Ten Years On – Financial Crisis’ – https://tmsnrt.rs/2MqL36w)
It echoes warnings from the likes of the Bank for International Settlements and IMF about countries stacking up too much dollar-denominated debt when the global rush to slash interest rates made it look ultra-cheap.
Now, however, the dollar is rising and countries are having to use more of their reserves to pay the money back. One such country is Turkey, which has seen its currency slump. It is also now the EBRD’s biggest lending market.
“(Turkey has) a high level of dollar debt, a lack of independent decision making by the central bank, a lack of inflation targeting which results in wiping out euro denominated financial markets, shorting the duration of lira financial instruments and reinforcing this burden of indebtedness,” Guriev said.
“This is very unfortunate, because it could have been avoided.”
There was relief on Thursday as Turkey’s central bank defied fresh opposition from the country’s president, Tayyip Erdogan, to raise its benchmark rate by a hefty 625 basis points. It was the biggest such increase in Erdogan’s 15-year rule.
Guriev added, though, that he and his colleagues expected to cut Turkey’s growth forecasts at their next review in November. He wouldn’t speculate by how much though he did say that it was likely to be one of the only countries to be downgraded.
At the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of learning the lessons of the Lehman crisis, is Russia. It too has seen its currency hit hard this year and its central bank also faces a tough decision when it meets on Friday.
Moscow’s decisions since Lehman to float its currency, bring in tougher banking rules and build a bigger rouble-denominated bond market are all textbook examples to follow Guriev said.
“When Russia understood how painful global crises are, these (types of moves) were accelerated,” he said, underlining how well the measures have served the country since.
“There was an 8 pct recession in 2009 and a 3 percent recession in 2015, so it is a very different reaction to a major oil shock,” he said.
(Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by Toby Chopra)