Turkey enters a tough new period
The coming period ahead will be particularly tough for Turkey for two main reasons: the surge in the spread of the coronavirus (amid concerns of an impending second wave in the autumn) and the continued deterioration of the economy.
Like many other countries, Turkey, had to ease its COVID-19 restrictions and lift lockdowns starting in June to activate the economy, mainly through external and domestic tourism.
On June 1, the number of new cases dropped from an average of 4,000 in April to just 827 – an important decrease that fostered hopes that the daily figure would fall to around 200 by July and August. Unfortunately, the loosening of restrictions and people’s fatigue over the many months of lockdown resulted in a gradual increase in new cases; by Aug. 6, the number of new cases was 1,153.
Plus, there are concerns that this figure will increase even further in the coming days due to the complete negligence of people who flocked to beaches and resorts in their droves without obeying basic social distancing principles.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca frequently urges people to remain vigilant in the fight against the spread of the virus, while Education Minister Ziya Selçuk is become more and more concerned about whether schools will actually be able to reopen on Aug. 31.
The return of some 18 million primary, secondary and high-school students to schools will surely have an impact on the spread of the virus, sparking fears of the resurrection of the COVID-19 as was observed at its peak in March and April.
The government is pressing people to fully comply with the measures, while the Interior Ministry conducted a large-scale, nationwide inspection to this end. Although Minister Süleyman Soylu has ruled out the reimposition of curfews, public health experts and some members of the Science Board warn that the reintroduction of strict restrictions will be inevitable if the figures don’t decrease.
Turkey’s other main challenge is the economy. Last week’s devaluation of the Turkish Lira has made the national currency 22 percent less valuable against the U.S. dollar and other prominent currencies.
In addition to the already well-known weaknesses of the Turkish economy, the impacts of the measures concerning the coronavirus have dealt it an additional burden and made life much more difficult, especially for people on low incomes.
Some economists suggest that the government’s “unorthodox” ways of tackling the economy have failed to produce resilience and, even worse, have left it vulnerable to any sort of global turbulence.
Another element that could further complicate these tribulations is a development in foreign and security policies. The tension in the Eastern Mediterranean will likely flare up in the coming weeks in the wake of Greece’s maritime demarcation agreement with Egypt and the restart of Turkey’s seismic explorations in the area.
Plus, Libya and Syria are potential theaters where military confrontation could pit Turkey against a bunch of countries. The results of the presidential elections in the United States will also be a very important factor in shaping Ankara’s policies in all these aforementioned regions. A potential defeat for the incumbent, Donald Trump, would surely mean a new episode in bilateral Turkey-U.S. ties, with many expecting it to be a bitter one.
A very difficult period awaits Turkey, but the real concern is whether the government is fully ready to handle the impending challenges in all these fields.