LETTER FROM ISTANBUL
The Turkish lira is volatile, food prices are skyrocketing, and many Turks are forced to form long lines to buy subsidized bread in most of the country’s major cities. Their purchasing power is melting a little more each day under the effect of the fanciful monetary policy led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Convinced that lower rates are the best medicine to fight inflation, he relies on a cheaper currency to promote growth and stimulate exports.
Bucking the global trend, when most central banks raise money rates to curb inflation, the Central Bank of Turkey cut its policy rate four times in four months, under pressure from Mr. Erdogan. As a result, the Turkish lira has lost more than 45% of its value against the dollar this year, pushing up the prices of imported products (energy, raw materials, fertilizers, chemicals, drugs, electronic components) essential to Turkish companies. , farmers and households.
The latter are the big losers of the « New economic model » imposed by the president. Unlike entrepreneurs, who saw their exports reach a record level in November – an increase of 33.4% compared to 2020 – the Turks are accumulating disappointments. Their savings are evaporating, their purchasing power is dwindling, while the cost of basic products continues to climb.
The most modest households, which until now formed the basis of the Islamo-conservative electorate, are no longer able to boil the pot. In Istanbul, queues for bread can be seen both in the historic Fatih peninsula and in the outskirts of the megalopolis of 16 million inhabitants.
A “bread for the people” that is half the price
“Bread has become the staple of my diet, I can’t buy anything else. Meat and vegetables are out of reach ”, whispers a young student, hooded over her head, who refuses to say her name as she queues in the Sisli district, on the European side of Istanbul. She comes every day to the municipal kiosk to buy the « Bread of the people », sold twice cheaper than in bakeries.
Managed by the municipality of Istanbul, in the hands of the Kemalist opposition since 2019, 393 kiosks scattered throughout the city offer, for 1.25 Turkish lira (about 7 euro cents), this short bread of 250 grams, against 2.50 pounds for a loaf of often less weight from the baker. Marketed since the end of the 1970s, “people’s bread” has never been in greater demand.
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