Mehmet Şimşek (born 1 January 1967) is a Turkish politician and economist of Kurdish origin who currently serves as a Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey since 24 November 2015. He previously served as the Minister of Finance from 2009 to 2015, serving in the cabinets of Prime Ministers of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Ahmet Davutoğlu. As a member of the Justice and Development Party, he was elected as a Member of Parliament for Gaziantep in the 2007 general election and for Batman in the 2011 general election.
In Prime Minister Erdoğan's second cabinet, Şimşek became a Minister of State responsible for the economy upon his election as an MP. In 2009, he became the Minister of Finance. He retained his position in Erdoğan's third cabinet and the first cabinet of Ahmet Davutoğlu, who took over as Prime Minister in 2014.
As Finance Minister, Şimşek has formulated fiscal policy which has helped Turkey recover strongly from the global financial crisis of 2008. He has also undertaken far reaching reforms founding the Tax Audit Board, simplifying tax regulations, enhancing taxpayers’ rights, and reducing the shadow economy.
Şimşek was born an ethnic Kurd in 1967, in a small village in Batman, a province in Southeastern Turkey. Minister Şimşek is married and has twin girls. He speaks Kurdish and English fluently and has both British and Turkish citizenships. Şimşek earned his B.Sc. in Economics from Ankara University in 1988. After working as research assistant in the chair of international economics and economic development, he was awarded a state scholarship to the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, where he earned his M.Phil. in Finance and Investments in 1993.
Şimşek previously worked as the chief economist and strategist for the emerging Europe, Middle East and Africa region at Merrill Lynch in London for 7 years. At this time he had a number of contacts with the Turkish authorities and the Central Bank and had worked with the AKP government on economic policy. He also served as senior economist and bank analyst for Deutsche-Bender Securities from 1998 to 2000. Şimşek spent about a year in New York City where he worked for UBS Securities in 1997. Prior to that, he was a senior economist at the US Embassy in Ankara for almost four years.
Elected as an AKP Member of Parliament for Gaziantep in the 2007 general election, Şimşek began his ministerial career as a Minister of State and was promoted to the post of Finance Minister in 2009.
He was nominated as one of the 500 most powerful people on the planet by Foreign Policy in 2013 and also awarded the title of "Finance Minister of the Year for Emerging Europe 2013" by Emerging Markets magazine.
Turkey experienced a reduction in economic growth in 2014, blamed by the government mainly on the problems in the Eurozone, with much of it allegedly due to political uncertainty in the country. By March 2015, the Turkish Lira began losing heavy value towards the US Dollar, trading at ₺2.68 to US$1. The sudden decline caused the Central Bank of Turkey to make a written intervention, with the opposition criticising President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for intervening in economic affairs despite his neutral and ceremonial role. The economy was seen as so fragile due to the political uncertainty that a single speech by Erdoğan caused the Lira to rapidly lose its value against the Dollar soon after. Investors were also concerned about the future of Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, who holds responsibility for the Economy.
Despite the economic slowdown, Şimşek claimed that there would be a high chance that the Lira would regain its value and that inflation would fall at a fast rate in 2016. With key Islamists in government, such as Numan Kurtulmuş, openly critical about the independence of the Central Bank, Şimşek claimed that the uncertainty caused by the potential of politicising the Central Bank meant that Turkey was unlikely to return to strong economic growth in the near future.
Şimşek has since defended his record as Finance Minister, stating that his government was being unfairly targeted despite managing to keep its budget commitments under heavy economic pressures.
In May 2015, Şimşek was ridiculed for tweeting that his government had reduced poverty, as well as including a statistic that showed that the percentage of the population living below $1 a day fell from 0.2% to 0% between 2002 and 2013. The tweet generated huge controversy, with replies asking whether his Twitter account had been hacked.
In the run-up to the June 2015 general election, Şimşek stated that populism by opposition parties would be the most significant threat to Turkey's economy, stating that the Republican People's Party's policy of increasing the minimum wage to ₺1,500 would be devastating to workers, alleging that the extra cost of hiring workers would lead to unemployment. Commenting on other policies in the Republican People's Party (CHP) manifesto, Şimşek claimed that if the party could name a source for all their spending plans, he would vote for them. The CHP subsequently gave the numerous government corruption scandals, the lavish spending on a new Presidential Palace and government waste as their funding.
In the run up to the election, Şimşek ordered the release of ₺1.325 billion of allowances to farmers and manufacturers.