The World Today for December 08, 2021
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King of the Sinking Mountain
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s nearly 20 years’ long quest to dominate Turkish politics – first controlling the all-important city of Istanbul, then governing as prime minister and, lastly, altering the country’s constitution so he could wield the expanded powers of an imperial presidency – appears to have led to an economic disaster.
Erdogan has insisted on low-interest rates and high government spending in order to spark the Turkish economy amid the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic. The result has been a collapse in the country’s currency, the lira. Inflation was 20 percent in October. The lira has lost almost half its value this year.
“Insane where the lira is, but it’s a reflection of the insane monetary policy settings Turkey is currently operating under,” financial analyst Tim Ash wrote in a note quoted in the Washington Post.
Claiming that Allah will guide the country through the crisis – Erdogan has always sought to increase the role of Islam in his technically secular nation – the president has argued that rising exchange rates shouldn’t affect “investment, production, or employment” but rather boost the competitiveness of the country’s goods abroad, reported the Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency.
He has a point. As Al Jazeera explained, Turkey’s economy expanded by more than seven percent in the third quarter of the year compared to the same period in 2020. Exports accounted for much of the rise.
But ordinary Turks aren’t necessarily seeing the benefits of that economic growth. Turkey is reliant on imported energy that grows more expensive on international markets as the lira’s value falls, the Wall Street Journal wrote. Protests have erupted as food and gas prices have soared amid shortages of vital goods, including medicine, the New York Times added. Forecasters now predict an economic contraction in the fourth quarter of the year due to inflation.
Erdogan, meanwhile, is continuing his heavy-handed policies against those who might challenge him.
Turkish authorities, for example, recently detained Metin Gurcan, a well-known defense analyst who is also the leader of a new opposition party, Democracy and Progress, on espionage charges, according to Rudaw, a Kurdish English-language news outlet. Gurcan denied the charges. His supporters expressed dismay over the arrest. Gurcan didn’t work for the government, had no access to classified materials and never hid his paid consulting work in the capital of Ankara.
Gurcan and his allies had been feeling increasingly confident about beating Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party, the Financial Times noted. This crisis might make the opposition’s job easier.
That’s the problem with dominating one’s national politics. When things go wrong, there is no one left to blame but oneself.
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