Turkey: The Lira Gets a New Symbol (Conspiracy Theory Included)

Turkey: The Lira Gets a New Symbol (Conspiracy Theory Included)

Rather than as an investment opportunity, Turkey’s currency used to best known for the number of zeros that could be found on lira bills, with the most common denomination note being 1,000,000. Even today, some seven years after the government introduced a “new” lira that did away with all the zeroes, it’s not hard to find Turkish shopkeepers who occasionally still give prices in the millions.

Today’s lira is a different beast. Turkey, having tamed the hyperinflation that created all those zeros in the first place, now has one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and a currency that has earned some respect and, as of today, a new symbol to help it distinguish itself globally. From areport in Today’s Zaman:

The Central Bank of Turkey unveiled a currency sign for Turkish lira, reflecting the government’s ambitions to further strengthen the lira as a global currency and to boost the country’s standing as a major international actor.

The symbol is a double-crossed “L,” shaped like an anchor. The anchor shape hopes to convey that the currency is a “safe harbor” while the upward facing lines represent its rising prestige, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said at a ceremony at the Central Bank unveiling the symbol.

“The Turkish lira has a symbol now, just like the US dollar, the euro and the yen,” Erdoğan said, noting that the introduction of a symbol for the lira is not just a technical operation. “It signifies a renewed value and prestige for our national currency, the reawakening of a nation and its re-emergence as a global actor,” he said at the ceremony.

Still, this being Turkey, even something as simple as introducing a new currency symbol was not without some controversy. Although the government claimed the new symbol was chosen through a contest that drew some 8,000 entries, the opposition Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP) said it smells a conspiracy. Reports the Wall Street Journal:

The main opposition Republican People’s Party said the icon had been made in the initials of the prime minister, raising questions over the bank’s independence from government.

“The final point of the Central Bank’s independence has been to make Tayyip Erdogan’s initials the symbol of our currency,” said the party’s economics and fiscal policy deputy chairman, Faik Oztrak, in a statement.

Speculation over the bank’s independence has risen since April, when Erdem Basci, a childhood friend of Turkish economic czar and Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, was named bank governor.

Despite the new symbol and Turkey’s newfound economic success, the lira’s troubles may stillnot be completely over. The currency lost some 18 percent of its value against the dollar last year, the largest drop of any currency, although it has managed to rebound some this year. Either way, what’s for sure is that the days of visitors becoming instant millionaires upon converting their dollars or euros into liras when they arrived in Turkey are over.  (eurasianet.org)

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