Cashing In Grandma’s Gold Coins, a Turkish Family Struggles to Get By – The New York Times

December 21, 2021 by No Comments

ISTANBUL — The list of things that Bilal, a Turkish factory worker, and his family have had to give up is growing longer by the day. They stopped buying meat a year ago and recently had to cut back on using their gas heater and cooking oil, and on snacks for the children.

He and his wife are already heavily in debt and with inflation spiraling higher over the past two months, they cannot make ends meet even after those sacrifices. So Bilal had to turn to his mother for financial help this month, cashing in two gold coins she had set aside for her grandchildren.

“Family is very important,” he said. “In our family, we do not consider it a loan.”

The Turkish economy has been in trouble for several years now, but in the last three months, its currency has lost nearly half its value against the dollar. Turks have been shaken by almost daily price increases in staples from flour and cooking oil to necessities such as electricity and gas. They are finding that their salaries and pensions can no longer pay for even the basics.

Bilal, 33, said he and his wife, Sevinc, 35, who have three children, wanted to explain how hard life has become for an ordinary working family in Turkey. But they did not want to use their full names for fear of repercussions in a country where criticizing the government can land a person in jail.

The latest downturn in Turkey’s economy followed an announcement last month by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of a new economic plan, promising to turn around the decline. But instead, that announcement, including a promise to lower interest rates despite high inflation, set off the country’s worst currency crisis in two decades.

In a speech on Sunday, Mr. Erdogan lashed out at business leaders who had warned that his policies would destabilize and impoverish the country, and he vowed again to lower interest rates.

“Don’t seek different ways to attack the government,” he told them. “You cannot win a fight against us.”

But on Monday, Mr. Erdogan appeared to offer concessions, promising to compensate citizens who kept their savings in Turkish lira and give them an incentive to cash in their gold — which he claimed is worth hundred of billions of dollars — for lira.

Many Turks like Bilal’s mother, who have experience dealing with economic difficulties, still store gold away at home to tide them through hard times.

Following Mr. Erdogan’s speech, the lira made a dramatic recovery from a sharp fall on Monday.

Bilal said life in Turkey, until recently, had been good for him in many ways. He left high school without graduating, but has been employed most of his married life, and has a mortgage on a three-room apartment and a car loan.

“Up until 2020, I can say life was beautiful,” he said. “Yes, I had debts, but I could pay them.” Lately, the economic upheaval began to take a toll on his life.

“Especially in the last seven to eight months, I really feel the economy is wearing …….



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