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Economy

Turkey's Finance Minister resigning in second surprise after lira skid

Central bank chief was removed by Erdogan on Saturday

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine look on after Turkish Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak cast his ballot at a polling station in Istanbul, Turkey, June 23, 2019.   © Reuters

ANKARA (Reuters) -- Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said on Sunday he was resigning for health reasons, in an Instagram statement confirmed by an official, marking a second weekend surprise after the central bank chief was ousted on Saturday.

The statement came after a 30% plunge in the lira currency's value this year to record lows as the economy faces a sharp contraction during the coronavirus pandemic. In the early hours of Saturday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan - who is Albayrak's father-in-law - replaced the central bank governor.

"I have decided that I cannot continue as a minister, which I have been carrying out for nearly five years, due to health problems," the statement said. Albayrak became finance minister two years ago after serving as energy minister.

Two sources at the presidency could neither confirm nor deny the statement when reached by Reuters, but a Finance Ministry official confirmed its authenticity.

The lira - the worst performer in emerging markets this year - firmed 1.5% to 8.415 against the U.S. dollar at 1814 GMT.

Albayrak, 42, was appointed energy minister in 2015 and shifted to finance after Erdogan was re-elected with sweeping new executive powers in 2018.

During his tenure at finance, Turkey's economy has been hit by two bad slumps, double-digit inflation and high unemployment. The lira has shed more than half of its value since the beginning of 2018.

Erdogan would need to approve the resignation, which surprised analysts and lawmakers.

Deputy Transport Minister Omer Fatih Sayan said on Twitter he hoped Albayrak's resignation would be rejected, adding "our country, our people and our community need you".

Mehmet Mus, the deputy parliamentary group chairman for the ruling AK Party, said Albayrak had taken important steps to strengthen the economy and that he hoped Erdogan would not accept the resignation.

"We personally witnessed his diligent work. If our president sees fit, I hope he continues at his post," Mus said on Twitter. 

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