Inflation in Turkey: “I will have to bury myself alive”

IstanbulIt’s dinner time and the Ebro, which will feed four mouths, has just cooked the typical red lentil soup and some spaghetti. As today is a special day, it will accompany the meal with a chicken thigh. The minimum wage for this girl and her husband does not come close to educating three teenage daughters: they earn about $ 480 a month at home. But the big problem today is no longer the meager wage, which in exchange for the dollar has fallen sharply, but disproportionate inflation that is drowning millions of families. And dinner time becomes, for more and more Turks, an odyssey: “I open the closet and do what I find there. If I have beans, beans. That I have lentils? So lentils. Whatever there is, ”he explains. But there is always a lack of meat, which with inflation in the last year has reached prohibitive prices. “Before, girls ate meat twice a week, now we almost never buy it.” His case is that of many, who have been faced with an unprecedented situation with economic policies that, far from improving the situation, bury it even more.

In any area of ​​the country the situation is similar to the previous one. In the town of Çorlu, a hundred kilometers from Istanbul, a dozen ex-workers at a paper mill stand guard in front of the company that fired them. According to them, high inflation worsened some already low wages and they decided to unionize, but when they saw this, the company fired them: Turkey has never embraced trade unionism. “My purchasing power went down a lot and I couldn’t survive. So we decided to unionize to fight for better conditions. The company told me many times, “If you join, we’ll kick you out.” Still, I did. I was fired on December 25 and since then we have been fighting, ”said Mehmet, one of the fired workers.

If his situation was already precarious while working, now it is even more so. He survives on bank loans and a little help from the union, but he has no state subsidy and his spirits are starting to decline: “When the loans expire, I will have to bury myself alive,” he explains. But he also has children and must continue. “If I used to buy two things, now I buy one. We have stopped buying anything that is not extremely necessary. For example, now I only buy a dress for my daughter instead of two, or now that it’s hot the children are wearing winter clothes, we can’t buy summer clothes, ”she says.

Real inflation

Both the Mehmet and the Ebro are victims of a plummeting economy. In one year the lira has continued to crash and has lost 43% of its value. But in the meantime, the Turkish president lowers interest rates whenever he has the opportunity, inflation continues its lethal course and Erdogan continues to reaffirm what economists call economic suicide: the Turkish leader reiterates that lowering interest rates interest will stop inflation. And here it is, the annual -official- inflation in May was 73.5%. But no one believes it: to say the real figure in today’s Turkey is to enter swampy terrain. “Today I am the one sitting here, but tomorrow it will be another,” the president of the Turkish Statistics Institute (TUIK), which carries inflation calculations, told a local media in January. Days later he was fired for giving what he believed were the actual figures. He was dismissed by the president himself.

And the reality is this: going shopping means spending twice as much as the previous year, and supermarket workers – lately – are tips for changing price tags. The same goes for housing: in the face of rising prices, living in Istanbul is unbearable for many. Those who sign new leases are already starting from an exorbitant price. As for those who have to apply annual inflation, the Turkish government has already banned apartment owners from inflating the price by more than 25%. But the new rent is usually inflated by between 50% and 70%. No one believes the government figures, so an independent group of economists has already organized to publicize the actual figure. Veysel Ulusoy, director of the Inflation Research Group in Turkey (ENAG), says annual inflation in Turkey in May was 160%. Can they say it without angering the country’s leader? “I’m already being investigated,” says the economist.


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