October 11, 2018 / 7:55 AM / 2 months ago

Turkey says to introduce tighter controls, fines for steep price hikes

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey ordered governors across the country to impose tighter controls and fines on those carrying out steep price hikes due to economic developments, the interior ministry said on Thursday.

Turkey's economy has in recent weeks been battered by a currency crisis that saw the lira TRYTOM=D3 plunge more than 40 percent this year and inflation surge to nearly 25 percent, a 15-year high.

As prices rose across the board, President Tayyip Erdogan called on Turks to report stores and “opportunists” that were excessively hiking prices, and vowed to raid their stores if necessary.

Finance Minister Berat Albayrak on Tuesday also announced a plan to cut prices by 10 percent in an attempt to combat rising consumer prices.

On Thursday, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu sent a notice to governors in all 81 provinces asking for measures to be taken against those “taking advantage” of volatile exchange rates to hike prices, the ministry said in statement.

“It was determined that some storekeepers, firms and companies have in recent days imposed steep price hikes to products and services provided for the citizens’ needs; that some products have been kept in stocks to cause a hike in prices,” the ministry said.

“This has caused a situation that threatens the prosperity and well-being of citizens,” it said, adding that those not complying with the new measures would be subject to fines.

The government has also previously made it illegal for companies to arbitrarily impose price increases if they were not impacted by a rise in input costs or the exchange rate.

The meltdown in the lira was prompted by a bitter row with the United States and concerns about Erdogan’s influence over monetary policy, but the government has cast it as the result of an “economic war” against Turkey.

Already strained ties with Washington neared a breaking point over the trial of U.S. evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey on terrorism charges, which he denies.

Despite pressures from the U.S. administration, Erdogan has said he was not in a position to interfere with judicial matters and has called on everyone to respect the court’s rulings.

The next session in Bruson’s trial will be held on Friday.

Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by David Dolan

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