Nearly two hundred large fires have occurred in the forests of Turkey, and the country is burning in flames. But many opposition media and critics of the government believe that forest fires are neither strange nor new. According to them, there is a significant and real fire in the citizen’ tables, which cannot provide their necessities, and no matter how hard they work, they still cannot afford it.
These days, the worry of rising prices, unemployment, and rising inflation concerns millions of Turkish households whose incomes and expenses do not go together. One of them is the continuous increase in food prices, which is an essential part of the concerns of the middle and poor classes of Turkey.
In the last few years, the Turkish economy has taken a path in which there has always been a kind of growth and positive results in exports and government revenues, but at the same time, millions of Turkish households are getting poorer. Due to the constant changes in commodity prices and inflation that do not stop, incomes related to the two essential concepts of the poverty line and hunger line are constantly changing. The Turkish Confederation of Employees’ Unions “Member-Sen,” which publishes an economic report every month, limits the hunger line for a family of four in Turkey to 2,851 lire and the poverty line to 8,136 lire. On the other hand, millions of Turkish citizens live on a monthly salary known as “asgari ücret”, which barely reaches 3,000 lire. From this meager income, the average monthly cost of electricity and gas is at least 400 lira. A small house in a lower part of the city rents at least 500 lire, the cost of transportation (even subway and bus) is surprisingly high.
The relativity of the dollar and the lira
In recent days, the dollar in Turkey has fallen slightly. Currently, the experts believe that the dollar will gradually move away from the rate of 8 lire and 58 Kourosh and will reach 9 lire this year. Experts believe that the foreign exchange market is sensitive to what the Turkish president has to say and that the dollar usually rises when he talks about the economy. Erdogan’s remarks have always affected markets, and with the dollar falling slightly, it goes up again because the Justice and Development Party has designed its financial strategy not to manage the country’s economy and solve economic problems, but on its party’s victory.
The contradiction between the rich government and the developing nation
One of the critical issues that we have seen many times in the Turkish media in recent months is that the headline Turkey’s history export record was broken and it has been repeated many times, but the truth is that Turkey has large export markets and exports increase year by year. But why is poverty in Turkey growing more and more despite these huge export revenues? Are Turkish officials lying? No. Statistics show that the export of goods from Turkey to world markets has not stopped but has grown even during the Coronavirus era. This issue can be analyzed as follows:
- Just as a wealthy father is not necessarily a generous and devoted father in the home and family environment, he may not provide much for his dependents; even if he earns more, governments can do the same. For example, a government could devote high percentages of its revenues to providing cheap services and subsidized goods, or it could donate its revenues to friendly countries or buy new weapons based on a political and defense priority. Therefore, the high income of the government is not necessarily going to affect the welfare and livelihood of the citizens immediately. To put it bluntly, many critics of Erdogan’s government believe that during the widespread outbreak of the Coronavirus, the government provided little cash or non-cash support to middle-class and low-income families, and the government acted as a miser.
- In the Turkish economy, a large part of export revenues comes from the private sector. No matter how high the government’s shares are, the amount of government wealth is still not comparable to the significant gains of the private sector. The private sector is a group of large companies and commercial and manufacturing groups that have become richer and richer, but at the same time, they do not offer new privileges to their employees, workers, and forces.
- Although Turkish exports have increased, import costs have gone much higher with the devaluation of the Turkish lira and difficulties in securing foreign exchanges. This not only melts away part of the export sector’s revenues, but also directly affects the cost of goods, and the middle and lower-middle-class are facing increasing prices.
- The level of justice and the human and national responsibility of governments in distributing facilities and revenues is an essential parameter. Critics of Erdogan’s government believe that the AKP’s government, which came out of its original aspirations and beliefs, firmly believes in fighting poverty and corruption. But now, it is standing far from the basics and does not pay much attention to supporting the poor and fighting rent-seeking and corruption. In the economic sphere, it always considers party interests as an essential criterion.
In conclusion, just as in 2002, efforts to fight poverty, establish justice and pay special attention to civil engineering and economic development strengthened Erdogan’s party. As of 2021, the Turkish financial picture indicates that the current government’s disregard for the same concepts is gradually paving the way for the opposition parties, with the promise of these difficult economic conditions to prevail in 2023.
Disclaimer. The views and opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of MEPEI. Any content provided by our authors is of their opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.
About the author:
Amin BAGHERI is an Iranian research fellow at the International Studies Association in Tehran, Iran. His primary research interest lies in international relations, political science, and conflicts in the Middle East. You can see more of his work on Twitter @bghr_amin.