As Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc, many countries face both an economic and a health crisis. But for Turkey, the concept of crisis is nothing new: it has long been part of everyday life. The current malaise, which predates the pandemic, has its origins in the attempted coup of 2016 and the government’s authoritarian response: over 300 people were killed and 75,000 arrested, including 2,700 judges. Such coups d’état have punctuated Turkey’s historical narrative in every decade since the 1960s. More recently, there was the currency and debt crisis of 2018, which saw the credit rating agencies downgrade Turkey’s debt to junk status.
Notwithstanding these difficulties, President Erdoğan is still firmly in control. Added to the $120bn in infrastructure spending since 2003, new highways and rail links are planned. Turkey’s $730bn economy, the world’s 20th-largest, even managed to expand slightly last year. But problems persist: inflation at 15% and interest rates recently hiked to 19%, while the Turkish Lira’s precipitous decline against the US dollar has sparked an exodus of foreign capital. In an effort to boost tourism, one of the country’s strongest sectors, Turkey announced that it would be the first country to accept British holidaymakers without Covid checks. Despite Erdoğan’s promises to cut inflation in an attempt to restore confidence, sustained turbulence undermines the country’s economic credibility.