Erdogan’s boycott call against France more grandstanding than economic threat(Al Monitor, October 29, 2020)
Amid a simmering row with his French counterpart, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged the nation to boycott French goods, but few are likely to heed his appeal as economic turmoil is Turks’ real preoccupation and many owe their jobs to joint ventures with the French.
To many Turks, Erdogan’s bashing of French President Emmanuel Macron resonates as an attempt to distract the public from the country’s economic woes, which have snowballed since 2018, when Erdogan assumed sweeping powers as an executive president.
The COVID-19 pandemic has badly compounded Turkey’s economic turmoil, fueled by the dramatic slump of the lira since mid-2018, with Ankara struggling to come up with solutions. Central Bank reserves have fallen to unprecedented lows amid a flight of foreign investors — a sign of their waning confidence in the Turkish economy. The price of the dollar shot up to more than 8.3 liras in the last week of October, surging about 46% over a year. The chief impact of the currency tumult has been to fan consumer inflation, which is around 12% at present. The unemployment rate has reached 30%, according to alternative calculation methods deemed more realistic than the official ones, which have shown decreases in joblessness numbers despite the pandemic. Popular grievances are growing louder, echoing even at Erdogan’s own rallies. Earlier this month, the president memorably advised, “The duty of the faithful in times of privation is to be patient.”