Turkish cost of living becomes heavy burden

In Türkiye’s capital Ankara, the cost of living has become an increasingly heavy burden.

In August alone, prices surged by a staggering 9 percent, contributing to an annual inflation rate of nearly 60 percent. Although the government urged citizens to remain patient, the call seems hollow to those struggling to make ends meet.

“I find the prices excessively high. Staggering prices are a burden for us compared to our meager pensions,” said Mehmet Nuri Sulat, a 70-year-old retiree who was shopping at Ankara’s historic Ulus Bazaar.

Despite government efforts to alleviate the high cost of living through wage and pension increases, the reality for ordinary people remains challenging.

The Ulus Bazaar, which was established in the early 1920s, still serves as a cheap sale place for low-income citizens in search of bargains on staple food.

“Life has become so costly, and it feels like everything is just too expensive. I’m really worried about my children. Even though we haven’t bought much, we’ve already spent so much money because of inflation,” complained Sakine Yelge, another customer.

“I have two grandchildren, but I can’t afford to buy them anything with my income. It’s truly heart-wrenching,” the 57-year-old said.

For Türkiye, the shadow of double-digit inflation has loomed since the close of 2019, shrouding numerous households.

Annual inflation in Türkiye hit 58.9 percent in August, with consumer prices up by 9.09 percent from the previous month, according to official data released on Aug. 4.

Moreover, food inflation reached an eight-month high of 72.9 percent in August, causing more worries for ordinary people who are already spending a significant proportion of their income on food.

In response to these challenges, Treasury and Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek encouraged citizens to remain patient, emphasizing the time it would take to combat inflation effectively. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan echoed this resolve, pledging to “bring inflation to its knees.”

The Turkish leader called for a stronger battle against rising prices, which would be a “difficult fight that requires patience.”

However, low-income Turks like Sulat are growing weary.

“There is only so much patience we can endure, after a point, you cannot have patience, and we are in an impasse,” the retiree said.

Simsek, appointed with other high-level figures at the helm of the economy management following Erdogan’s re-election in May, overhauled the controversial monetary policy which used to be supported by the president, and replaced it with more conventional measures to wrestle inflation under control.

The central bank aggressively raised interest rates from 8.5 percent to 25 percent during the June-August period. However, despite these efforts, prices continued their ascent, defying public expectations.

Economic troubles are poised to cast a lingering shadow over Turkish consumers, with official forecasts predicting challenges in the coming years.

The government, in its annual Medium-Term Program, lowered growth forecasts and raised expected inflation rates, committing to a tight monetary policy aimed at reducing inflation to single digits.

As Türkiye navigates this uncertain economic terrain, the weight of inflation, the call for relief, and the hope for a brighter future continue to resonate in the streets of Ankara’s Ulus Bazaar.

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