Inflation soars in Turkey - Butter and baby food in short supply

Turkey turkish shop inflation

Most Turks are having a hard time, as seen in supermarkets, which have now installed anti-theft systems in products such as butter, toothpaste, olive oil and baby food.

A few months ago, graphic designer Mahir Akkoyun designed a sticker to protest the price spike. Next to a photo of the Turkish president, he wrote: "Is the product too expensive? Thank Erdoğan."

A few days later, the sticker's creator was arrested and charged. But later, he was acquitted in court.

The inflation rate in Turkey recently reached 65% compared to the previous year and is considered very likely to continue its upward trend in the coming period. The reason for the spike in inflation is the economic policy adopted for years by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who wanted low interest rates at all costs.

Thus, inflation broke the 85% barrier in October 2021. After the elections in May 2023 and the changes in the leadership of the Ministry of Economy and the Central Bank, the base interest rate increased significantly and is currently at 42.40%.

"I'm hungry, my children are hungry, and I'm in debt"

Housing has become unattainable for many Turks. In November 2023, prices across the country averaged 86.5% above those of the previous year.

According to the international organisation's statistics, rents rose in Turkey in the last quarter of 2023 more than in any other OECD country. And with rent increases capped by law at 25%, many landlords are scrambling to get rid of their tenants as quickly as possible. Courts are said to have been inundated with eviction lawsuits lately.

Erol Gunes, a seller at street markets six days a week, said "We belong to the lowest class in Turkey. We are struggling, and the rich are having a good time."

"But no one dares to say so. Anyone who dares will find himself in prison shortly after," added the 50-year-old Kurd, father of two.

Trying to make ends meet with ten credit cards, his debts reach 200,000 Turkish liras, about 6,000 euros.

"Everyone does the same," he says.

In late December, debts prompted a 42-year-old father of four to jump from the third floor of an Istanbul mall. Hanging from the parapet, he shouted: "I'm hungry, my children are hungry, I'm in debt."

The man survived with serious injuries.

A long-term economic policy is needed

"The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer," says economist Şeref Oğuz.

In surveys, respondents say they go to bed hungry and that many 70-year-olds are forced to work because their pension is not enough to survive. The Turkish economist does not believe the government's forecast that inflation will fall to 34% by the end of 2024.

The economist doubts that Ankara will have the stamina to fight inflation in the long term.

"In order for inflation to fall in the long term, a tough economic policy will inevitably have to be implemented. At the same time, the government must abandon populist rhetoric by implementing a strict austerity program by cutting public spending," Oğuz said.

But last year, the Erdoğan government repeatedly distributed billions of gifts to voters before parliamentary and presidential elections. Observers take it for granted that the Turkish president will do the same before the local elections on March 31.

Once again, he will reach deep into the public funds to win back Istanbul, the most populous city in the country.

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