Economic crisis in Turkey: people can hardly survive

The AKP/MHP regime is plunging Turkey into an ever deeper economic crisis. People are getting angrier and recognize the regime as responsible for hunger and crisis.

The population in Turkey is getting angrier and angrier because of the economic policy of the AKP/MHP regime. The soon-to-be-daily price increases are hitting people hard. The price increases particularly affect basic foodstuffs from bread and milk to butter and sugar, but also natural gas and electricity. While the worsening economic crisis and the rapid devaluation of the lira are reducing people's purchasing power, the population is struggling to survive. With protests under the slogan "We can't make ends meet," even children began to debate the economic situation. We spoke to people in Istanbul about the economic situation in the country.

Butter price almost tripled

Asked about the economic situation, kebab seller Celal Suguti says: "There is a difference as deep as a chasm between the past and the situation today. There is already an economic crisis anyway. We can't pay the rent, we can't pay for our purchases. Butter used to cost 35 liras, now it's 95 liras. Just look at the butter prices, nothing more. That's enough to get an idea of the situation."

Suguti continues, "If this wasn't a family business, we would have closed down long ago. The government is 100 percent responsible for the state the country has been brought to." Asked about a solution, Suguti replies, "The solution lies in elections. You have to change power once in five years. That's what happens when the same government rules for 19 years. Do you think the central bank is full or empty right now? I think it's empty."

"Every day we change the price tags"

Small grocery stores are also suffering badly from the price increases. Yusuf, who has been running a store for two years, is desperate: "There is a constant increase. We can't buy goods at the price we are selling at the moment. Every day, many products experience an increase of ten to fifteen percent. And not only that, quantities are going down, just as prices are going up. Hardly anyone can afford butter or pasta anymore. It's precisely these basic staples that are becoming more and more expensive."

Supermarket chains squeeze out small traders

Necmettin runs a traditional store for cleaning and care products. He thinks the "big guys" have swallowed the "small guys”. The supermarket chains, in particular, are giving the smaller trades a hard time and changing the retail landscape in their favor. "The clientele is dazzled with campaigns, while soap and shampoo are much cheaper to get in our stores. Yet our stores are shunned," he complains. As soon as Ramadan is over, Necmettin will close his store willy-nilly. "Most small business owners feel the same way," he adds.

"Our work ends up in the garbage"

One carpenter, who won't give his name, notes, "What can I say? We're looking forward to getting the purchase prices back in. We build a table, but we don't even get paid for our labor. Our hard work ends up in the garbage."

Pepper twelve liras, zucchini ten

Despite the great anger, many people are afraid to speak. They know that any criticism of the regime carries the risk of being prosecuted under terrorist paragraphs. Questions are therefore limited to prices. Caner has been working in the market since he was a child, pointing to his wares and saying, "Look at the prices. Peppers cost ten, hot peppers even twelve, and zucchini is also available for ten liras. It has been getting more expensive all the time for a year. I have never seen such a price increase. The purchasing power has dropped significantly."

"We can't pay our rent"

Fatmagül is doing her shopping when she interjects into the conversation. "Ask us customers instead of the merchants. For a purchase that used to cost 50 lira, we now pay 250 lira." She opens her purse, showing a few coins. Then she points to two small shopping bags. Fifty lira doesn't buy much more now, she says. She can no longer afford her rent.

As soon as Fatmagül leaves, Caner, the merchant, adds: "People don't have any money. We have never seen such prices. When customers come to the market, they experience shock at first when they see the prices." Another buyer wants to know why I'm there. "You ask these things, we talk, you write. But are prices dropping? No! Then what's the point of it all?"

At another stand, Adem Gümüşten complains about the emptiness at the market. He says things have already been bad all year, but last month it was very bad. "If this continues, we will leave soon. We won't be able to do this work anymore. Far and wide, all you see here are empty stalls. Without customers, no sales. People's purchasing power has collapsed anyway. Customers who come here to shop can spend a maximum of fifty lira. It's enough for a pack of eggs and two kilos of tomatoes. Then the money is gone."

"We are hardly getting full"

Cengiz Uluışık is a greengrocer. His prognosis is also gloomy: "We are finished, it's over. Rents are at 2,800 liras. How can we survive like this? We can't anymore. We're barely getting enough to eat. There is no work, the market is empty, what are we going to do? Look, people are negotiating for every cent. The government is responsible for this."

I notice a young woman selling second-hand clothes. "Two pieces for five liras," but she can't get rid of the clothes. She started her job this year and pays rent for the stall. Her income is no longer enough to support her children. The apartment rent alone gobbles up 1,500 liras. "I can barely make ends meet, bills are hardly affordable. This month, the gas bill was 500 liras. If I could earn 10 liras now, I would be content with that. That's how far things have come by now."

"Some people just want to die"

The saleswoman continues, "Even our booth rent costs 200 liras, can that be true? Even for the stand I will have to go into debt, but there is no other way out. She once left her home in Muş to get rid of her financial worries. In Istanbul, she says, the situation is even more hopeless. "We are in a difficult situation. Some people want to die, they don't want to live anymore. My wallet is empty, I can't go to the supermarket and buy groceries, I can't even buy my children a cake. Food or clothing are luxury goods that we just can't afford anymore." Pointing to her goods on sale, she says, "These pieces are second hand, sometimes I put some aside for my kids. There's no new stuff in there. I wear second hand myself, and so does my husband. What should we do? If there was another way, we would do it. We want them to help us. In particular, women are burdened. Let them see it."

"Not even money for tea anymore"

A tea vendor angrily notes, "People don't even have the money to afford a glass of tea anymore. You have to be blind not to see this crisis. I don't want to talk. If I talk, we'll get to another point. Don't make me talk."

“The government will leave if we don't give it votes”

At a booth, a man says, "The homeland belongs to all of us, but the anger is not directed at the country, it is directed at the government. People don't blame anyone just like that. Today, the minimum wage is 2,600 liras, but what the rich man wants happens. Erdoğan gets 100,000 lira salary. He doesn't deserve it, we give it to him. The government will leave if we don't give it votes. The increases in price have finished us off. I bought these goods for one lira a piece, now it's ten. So both my capital and my profit have been used up."

"No justice"

In the evening, the price tags are exchanged and the products are cheaper as the goods begin to spoil. But even potatoes, the staple food of the poor, still cost five liras. Although the markets should be full in the evening, they remain empty at this time as well. A young woman says, "I'm in high school and I'm on vacation. I should really be at home resting. But I sell things here so that I can buy something for myself. I don't get any support, from anyone. I get clothes online and try to sell them. That works a little bit. From that I can pay for my books and my expenses, otherwise there's nothing left. I can barely make ends meet."

As the market ends, people gather to pick up the rotten and discarded vegetables.


The article by Gülcan Dereli originally appeared in Yeni Özgür Politika