In Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, Demand for Gold and Dollars Soars | Kanebridge News
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In Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, Demand for Gold and Dollars Soars

Turks are pouring money into foreign currency, jewellery and other assets as the lira weakens

By JARED MALSIN
Mon, Aug 7, 2023 8:37amGrey Clock 3 min

ISTANBUL—Deep in the stone warren of Istanbul’s 560-year-old Grand Bazaar, a cluster of traders selling gold and dollars pace the alleyway, murmuring into phones and smoking. The tension rises as demand grows. A shout comes from the crowd: “I’ve got it ready!”

Turks are pouring money into foreign currency, gold, cryptocurrency, jewellery and other assets that they see as a safer bet than the Turkish lira, which has lost more than 80% of its value in the past five years.

“There’s an atmosphere of panic,” said Mustafa Demiray, 39, a currency trader standing on the edge of the crowd and clutching two phones. “People think the price [for dollars] will go up, so there’s a higher demand right now.”

The collapse of the lira is the result of an era of economic mismanagement by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, economists say. The Turkish leader in recent years has pressured the central bank into cutting interest rates despite the country’s high rate of inflation—the opposite of what central banks would usually do.

Erdogan has attempted to adjust course since winning a close election in May in which his opponents attacked him over Turks’ purchasing power, with many people cutting back on meat, fish and even vegetables.

The country’s newly appointed central-bank governor, Hafize Gaye Erkan, and Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek have raised interest rates, but too slowly to get inflation under control, analysts say.

The Turkish lira continued to slide after the central bank’s July meeting, in which officials decided to raise interest rates by a mere 2.5 percentage points, a move that slowed the pace of the rate increases and put the lira under further pressure. The decision disappointed some economists and investors who hoped Simsek and Erkan would be more aggressive about tackling inflation.

Erkan on July 27 raised the bank’s year-end inflation forecast to 58% from 22.3%, while predicting that price increases would slow next year. Analysts said the upward revision was an acknowledgment that the bank’s current stance was unlikely to tame inflation, which is running at 38%.

Erkan said the bank would lift rates further, and would adopt a holistic approach to tackling inflation, including using other policy instruments such as quantitative tightening.

Investors and analysts are concerned that Erkan and Simsek don’t have a genuine mandate from Erdogan to do what is needed to stabilize the Turkish economy. Erkan pushed back on those questions on July 27.

“The central bank of the Republic of Turkey is an independent institution,” she said. “We will continue the increases in interest rates alongside the quantitative tightening alongside the selective credit tightening because that’s what the current situation demands.”

Turkey’s economic turmoil has put pressure on the traders at the Bazaar, who have played a central role in the economy since the vast covered marketplace was built during the days of the Ottoman Empire, more than five centuries ago. The small and midsize shops in the Bazaar are part of a sprawling global network of businesses and banks dealing in gold and currency.

Mehmet Akif Turker, a 44-year-old gold trader, sat in his office at the Bazaar on a recent morning, his phone and two slabs of gold on the desk in front of him. The high demand for gold should be good for his business, he explained, but the turmoil in the Turkish economy isn’t.

Turks and other traders must contend with a complex web of rules imposed by the government in recent years to scare up foreign currency and keep the country from tipping into insolvency. Those include a rule that forces businesses like Turker’s to convert 40% of their foreign-currency earnings into lira, traders say.

“In general, in our line of work, crisis makes money,” Turker said. “But when the dollar fluctuates so much and the market is so unstable, it can bring us profit or it can bring us losses. We are exhausted.”

Despite the government’s efforts to bring gold and other assets out from “under the mattresses” of the country’s citizens and into the financial system, Turks continue to pour money into precious metals, traders say. Industry groups estimate that between $200 billion and $300 billion worth of gold is in Turkish citizens’ private possession.

“We are a country that loves gold as a financial instrument,” said Ercan Doner, 39, who owns a shop selling gold coins and jewellery. “In order to stop their money from melting away in case of inflation, people are trying to make use of their gold investments by continuously buying and selling.”

Volatility in the economy isn’t the only driver of gold sales, vendors say. The pandemic also increased business, said Metin Kocatepe, 54, a salesman from another jewellery shop.

“After corona, people’s mentality changed. They’re more relaxed in their shopping. They say ‘maybe tomorrow I’m gonna die, I’ll buy something nice.’”



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AACCI’s Strategic Vision for Enhancing Australia-Arab Trade Relations

The Australian Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) is fostering robust trade relations between Australia and Arab countries.

Mon, May 20, 2024 5 min

In an era where global trade and international relationships are more crucial than ever, the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) serves as a bridge, for cooperation and growth between Australia and the Arab nations. Led by its Chairman, Mr. Mohamed Hage, the AACCI has taken on projects aimed at strengthening relationships and fostering development across borders.

This exclusive interview explores the initiatives implemented by the AACCI to expand its presence and influence in the region including the significant establishment of a new operational hub in Dubai. We also delve into how the Chamber embraces education through training and research, its participation in major international exhibitions, and its active support for both large corporations and small businesses.

Looking towards tomorrow, Mr. Mohamed shares his vision for broadening AACCI’s reach emphasizing the importance of the on-ground operations and cultural understanding in building business connections.

-Could you elaborate on the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry, including its objectives and main areas of focus?

The Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) plays a fundamental role, in promoting business partnerships and trade between Australia and the 22 Arab countries. As a member of the Union of Arab Chambers affiliated with the Arab League, AACCI focuses on strengthening trade and investment ties, across these countries.

To nurture these connections effectively AACCI has outlined four objectives: facilitating trade and investment activities, certifying documents, educating stakeholders, and offering marketing assistance.

Our initiatives are designed not only to empower trade and investment endeavors but to also ensure engagement with specific sectors that drive these activities. With an understanding of the characteristics, strengths and preferences of each country, AACCI prides itself on its specialized knowledge customized to suit the distinct business environments of these nations.

– As the AACCI approaches its 50th anniversary, what have been some of the key milestones and achievements?

I believe one of AACCI’s accomplishments is the opportunities it has opened up for numerous Australian companies to access markets, in the region. Moreover, the strong bilateral trade relationship that has developed between Australia and the 22 Arab nations over the five decades has led to trade transactions amounting to billions of dollars.

This extensive trade covers industries such as food and beverages, luxury hotels and many more services. Each successive generation, within AACCI has built upon the foundation laid by its predecessors enriching their knowledge base and expanding their range of services.

– How does the AACCI leverage its diverse leadership team to enhance trade and investment opportunities between Australia and the Arab region?

Since taking on the role of chairman, my main focus has been on expanding our presence in the region. This led to the idea of opening an office in Dubai, which symbolizes our dedication to deepening our engagement in that area. We have successfully secured the license to open our first office in Dubai after 50 years, which will serve as a gateway to the GCC and North Africa.

I strongly believe that building two-way trade and investment ties requires more than a degree of business connectivity; it demands having local representatives present in each region. With trends emphasizing strategies the value of face-to-face engagements cannot be overstated.

Setting up offices in the region is essential for the Chamber to truly serve as a link and support system for business activities. Ultimately this expansion will bring benefits to our members and partners by providing them with access, to dynamic markets and diverse prospects.

– Can you discuss the significance of AACCI’s role in cultural and business exchanges between the two regions?

The importance of understanding cultures in our operations cannot be overstated. To address this, we have included a training platform within the Chamber to strengthen our cultural awareness initiatives. This new program offers our members access to modules on our website focusing on global business practices.

Furthermore, we have set up a Center of Excellence specifically dedicated to researching areas like food security and cultural awareness. These research endeavors are essential for promoting knowledge between the two regions.

By combining the resources of the Center of Excellence, our training resources, and the forthcoming local office in Dubai, we’re providing cultural awareness not only in the region but also in Australia. This approach ensures that our members are well equipped and knowledgeable boosting their effectiveness and involvement, in markets.

– What is the objective of your on-ground presence at conferences and events?

Participating in conferences and on ground events is very important for increasing awareness in industries like construction where knowledge of opportunities in the Arab world may not be widespread. When we see projects such as NEOM or notice the construction boom happening in the region it becomes important for organizations like the Chamber of Commerce to highlight these prospects. By taking part in large scale expos such as the Sydney Build Expo we position ourselves at the forefront of these advancements.

Our presence at these events enables interaction giving entrepreneurs a chance to visit our booth engage in discussions and learn more about the region in an approachable and personalized manner. This plays a role in simplifying the process and making opportunities concrete.

– With such a diverse membership base, how does AACCI tailor its services to meet the needs of both large corporations and small startups?

When it comes to discussing business it’s important to grasp how influence and vision come into play. Businesses looking to expand are often motivated by a desire to achieve something whether they are big companies or small enterprises. Small businesses typically aim to raise their brands profile while larger corporations seek recognition and market dominance.

Standing out in this area can be tough mainly because the key driving force is the passion to showcase the brand and products on a platform. This determination serves as a motivator for entrepreneurs.

At the Chamber we make a point of recognizing the needs of both big and small players by understanding each members individual situation. We ensure that every member is well informed about the opportunities and risks that come with expanding. For small businesses, this means being aware of the financial demands, while large businesses are advised on the necessity of both financial and emotional resilience.

– How does AACCI plan to expand or evolve its services in the coming years to further support its members?

The importance of having resources on the ground cannot be emphasized enough. Having local staff is key to establishing connections with the communities we serve. Without a presence in the area staying updated on events and activities becomes quite challenging.

This is why, as I’ve mentioned before, we have established an office in Dubai, staffed with personnel dedicated to supporting our members. This local office will help us effectively bridge the gap between Australia and the Arab world. And our members will benefit from insights and assistance from someone who truly knows the landscape.

In Australia we have equipped offices throughout the country staffed by individuals who play a significant role in our operations. This strong domestic network complements our efforts ensuring that we provide support to our members both locally and globally. This strategic approach is crucial, for nurturing business relationships and fostering continental understanding.

 

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