Turkey struggles with inflation caused by Erdogan's mismanaged economy

AP/Houston Chronicle:
In a middle class Istanbul neighborhood shoppers form a long line to an immense tent carrying a sign that reads "Total combat against inflation."

The weapons in that battle: spinach, tomatoes and peppers that the Turkish government is selling in a makeshift stall at almost half the price of the regular markets.

"People who live on minimum wage can't go to the neighborhood bazaar," says Reyhan Kelleci, a 38-year-old homemaker waiting in line who is, like many Turks, struggling with a jump in the cost of food and consumer goods. "These regulated tents have been very good for us... What should we do? Should we sit at home and wait for our death?"

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has set up dozens of these temporary stalls in at least six cities to help families. The cost of goods like food has jumped by about a third after turmoil in financial markets last year over Erdogan's policies caused the national currency to slump.

Erdogan faces local elections on March 31, when runaway prices and an economic downturn could cost his ruling party key municipal seats — and his traditional low-income voter base is the most affected by the price increases.

In campaign speeches, Erdogan has portrayed the economic downturn as a foreign plot against the country and has vowed to fight food price hikes in the same way that the country has fought terror groups.

"We have taught, are teaching and will continue to teach a lesson to those who have terrorized through food," Erdogan has said, while promising to increase the numbers of government-run discount markets.

While the government blames traders and outsiders, the rise in prices is largely due to the rapid depreciation of the Turkish lira last summer. In August, the lira lost as much as 33 percent of its value against the dollar over a diplomatic spat with the United States. Inflation hovered around 20 percent in January, with food and non-alcoholic beverage prices up 31 percent on the year — a 15-year high. By contrast, inflation for such goods in the United States and Europe has been around 2 percent or less.

The currency drop makes imported foods more expensive. But even the foods grown in Turkey are becoming pricier, as the seeds, fertilizers and pesticides used in agriculture are largely imported.

Selva Demiralp, professor of economics at Istanbul's Koc University, says the situation is worsened by factors like weather conditions, including floods in southern Turkey, and will be a concern for Erdogan.

"Economic factors have a big impact on the election performance of a government and the high inflation and the resulting deterioration in income distribution is not going to help out the government," she said.
The best way to deal with this crisis is for voters to reject the Islamist despot Erdogan.  He is a phony NATO ally who has worked with ISIS when they were committing genocide.  He would rather fight a war against the Kurds than ISIS and even now looks to take advantage of any US withdrawal from Syria.  The tents are a desperate political ploy by an inept leader.


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