World News

Factbox: Turkey's new central bank chief Agbal has track record, but tests await

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey’s new central bank chief, Naci Agbal, is a close ally of President Tayyip Erdogan and served as his finance minister.

FILE PHOTO: Turkey's Finance Minister Naci Agbal is pictured during an interview with Reuters in Istanbul, Turkey, December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

He takes over with the lira hitting all-time lows amid concerns about political influence over monetary policy and inflation stuck in double digits.

Here is some background on Agbal:

- Agbal, 52, is seen as a capable technocrat and takes an orthodox approach to economic policy, analysts say.

- He is the bank’s fourth governor in five years and replaces Murat Uysal who hiked the key interest rate to 10.25% in September.

- Though never in the central bank, Agbal has held several positions in Erdogan’s governments. He worked closely with Ali Babacan and Mehmet Simsek, former officials seen as market-friendly after orchestrating years of solid economic growth.

- Officials say Agbal’s closeness with Erdogan will be an advantage in tackling issues, as he will have the opportunity to contact the president directly on key matters. His knowledge of markets will help navigate the economy out of its current slump, they added.

“Agbal has very solid ties in both the political and economic bureaucracy, as well as respectability. His experience and work ethic are known by everyone. The speed at which he can reach Erdogan is critical in this period. He will convince politicians on certain issues,” a senior Turkish official said.

“He is a person who can understand what both the markets and politicians want, and is close enough to get in direct contact with the president to raise any issue. Even though many people know him as a politician, he is someone whose technical knowledge is also very high. In that sense, we will see a very strong central bank governor,” a Turkish economy official said.

- Agbal graduated from Istanbul University in 1989 with a degree in public administration. He became an auditor in 1993, before completing his MBA at the University of Exeter in 1998.

- After working in the public sector, Agbal was appointed as undersecretary at the Finance Ministry in 2009. He was elected as a lawmaker for the AK Party in June 2015.

- In September 2015, he was appointed as AKP deputy chairman in charge of the economy, before becoming the finance minister later that year.

- Following a 2017 referendum that granted Erdogan sweeping executive powers, Agbal became chairman of the Presidential Directorate of Strategy and Budget in 2018, a post he held until his appointment as central bank governor.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Mark Heinrich