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Coronavirus Pandemic Effects Trigger Fear and Poverty in Turkey

September 11, 2020, 08.04 PM

ISTANBUL, – Fear and poverty are high in Turkey as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hit the country hard on all levels.

Huseyin Goksoy, a tailor, became so stressed about going hungry during the worst of the coronavirus pandemic that he was briefly bedridden with a hernia.

Now, he is increasingly worried about his future as Turkey struggles to curb poverty and he is not alone.

Four million Turks rely on state aid to get by despite the nation’s two-month lockdown ending in June.

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A growing number of informal workers missed out on the majority of the financial support.

Polls and academic research paint a grim picture ahead of the day when President Tayyip Erdogan's government is expected to lift a temporary ban on layoffs, possibly as soon as November.

Goksoy, 48, makes face masks to help cover losses from earlier this year when he could not get a subsidized small-business loan because there was no guarantor in his conservative neighborhood in central Istanbul.

"People don't get dressed up when they don't work, so I only repaired tears and it was 5-10 liras ($1) a day — if that," he said. "I still can't send money to my kids when they want it. If I do a bad job, I'd go hungry."

Data and polls show that fear and disillusionment like this are unprecedented across the labour market.

Those hardest hit are the same Turks who benefited from years of Erdogan's welfare policies that helped to sharply reduce income inequalities.

One study by Turkish economists Ayse Aylin Bayar, Oner Guncavdi and Haluk Levent predicts the number of impoverished Turks could double this year to nearly 20 million and set back by two decades progress in narrowing inequality.

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That would effectively wipe out the successes of Erdogan's Islamist-rooted AK Party (AKP) and could test his staunchest voter base at the next general election set for 2023.

Goksoy — whose shop is near the president's childhood home — said he still supported AKP though he would change his mind if he thought the party was no longer honest.

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