It was Feb. 14, just days after two devastating earthquakes had shattered Turkey, and Finance Minister Nureddin Nebati was in a meeting to finalize his decision to keep the Istanbul stock exchange closed. Then his phone rang: The boss had other plans. Nebati and Turkey’s financial regulators spent the next 24 hours making sure the market reopened—and that when it did, Turkish stocks didn’t crash.
The call was from Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s micromanager-in-chief. From the cost of credit to the way produce is sold, the president and his inner circle control almost every aspect of the $900 billion economy. When Erdogan said in November that he wanted to see interest rates fall into the single digits, the central bank obliged—not least, perhaps, because he’d fired three governors in three years. Once, in 2017, he demanded that cucumbers be packaged in plastic to cut down on waste and reduce prices.