Turkey’s energy import bill — standing at $83.5 billion over 12 months in July — is a major factor behind its gaping current account deficit. And with Russia being Turkey’s main energy supplier, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems to have pinned hope on his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to help ease Turkey’s foreign exchange shortfall, wary that the Turkish lira might nosedive anew ahead of elections next year.

Erdogan’s political opponents are suspicious that his government could seal opaque deals with Moscow to secure fresh financial means or defer the bills of energy imports to after the elections, due in June 2023 at the latest.

Turkey’s current account registered a $4 billion deficit in July, bringing the cumulative gap to $36.6 billion in the first seven months of the year, according to central bank data released on Sept. 12. The country’s foreign trade deficit stood at $10.7 billion in July, meaning that tourism revenues and other foreign currency inflows failed to cover the gap, resulting in the $4 billion current account deficit. A foreign trade deficit of $11.2 billion last month portends a similar current account gap in August, which would bring the eight-month cumulative to more than $40 billion. In light of this trend, the government’s year-end forecast of $47.5 billion appears rather optimistic.

Adding further pressure on the battered lira is a $182.5 billion external debt maturing over the next 12 months. The weakening of the lira has been the main inflamer of inflation in Turkey, which topped 80% in August and must be giving Erdogan sleepless nights as the grievances of the electorate grow.

The current account gap stems mainly from Turkey’s growing import bill, which rose 43% to $206 billion in the first seven months from the same period last year. Energy alone accounted for 23% of the imports. With a share of 15.5%, Russia is Turkey’s top trade partner in terms of imports, chief among them energy supplies. Hence, any Russian gesture on Turkey’s energy bill would be important for Ankara as it scrambles to prop up the lira and curb rising foreign currency prices.


Written by Mustafa Sönmez