(Washington, D.C.) — On Thursday, the lira dipped to an all time low, while President Recep Erdogan continues to frame his gross mismanagement as an “economic war of independence”. Far from achieving any manner of national sovereignty, the Turkish President’s relentless pursuit of low-interest rates has seen the lira devalued by more than 50% in one year. His actions have inflicted soaring cost of living expenses on the Turkish population.
President Erdogan believes that by driving down the lira his policies will boost Turkey’s export market. In order to achieve this end, Erdogan has continuously interfered in the operations of the Turkish Central Bank. Two governors – Semih Tumen and Ugur Namik Kucuk – have been dismissed by the President for refusing to enact further interest rate cuts.
While a booming export market (as yet unrealized) might bring some benefits to the business moguls who comprise Erdogan’s inner circle, the average Turkish citizen is suffering greatly as a consequence of the President’s policies.
Turkish citizens now face staggering food prices as inflation has risen to a rate of 27%. Last month, bakeries closed for ten days, ceasing production amid skyrocketing costs of wheat. The Istanbul bread company People’s Bread (IHE) has increased the price of packaged loaves by 47% according to BBC Turkish. In the middle of a pandemic, healthcare workers have gone on strike to protest low wages which are worsened by the currency’s devaluation.
Young people say that they cannot see a future for themselves in the country as Turkey is faced with the world’s fourth highest rate of youth unemployment, without equitable access to education or job training. Erdogan has announced that in the new year, the minimum wage will be increased by 50% – a move which could catalyze a further inflationary spiral. The economic conditions bear down upon every citizen, placing them in an increasingly dire position.
Turkish Democracy Project Executive Director Madeleine Joelson said:
“In his bid to drive down the lira in favor of cheap exports, President Erdogan has prioritized the commercial margins of his ruling elite ahead of the needs of ordinary people. While the Turkish President’s inner circle is scarcely impacted by soaring food prices and depressed real wages, average citizens are paying a steep price.
“As the state of the economy worsens, Erdogan will increasingly play the nationalist card, hoping to distract his base from the desolation he has caused. In this way, economic chaos will lead to increased xenophobia and persecution of minorities – already a staple of life under Erdogan.
“The international community must urgently make a stand and pressure Turkey’s President to divert course and prevent further economic pain being inflicted on the Turkish people.”