Turkey's Grand Bazaar faces financial bottleneck - media

Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, a labyrinth of shops selling jewellery, carpets, spices and traditional Turkish foods, has been facing a risk of losing some of its shops due to the economic crisis in the country, Turkish newspaper Sözcü said on Sunday. 

Hasan Fırat, the head of the craftsman's association of Grand Bazaar, said that the number of the bankrupt has been increased while some of the tradesmen handed over their workplaces as well as their income were decreased dramatically.

Turks have over the last half decade counted the rapid depreciation of the Turkish lira after it lost 40 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar due to a diplomatic standoff between Ankara and Washington since the beginning of January 2018 over the detention of American citizens in Turkey. 

After the currency crisis, the tradesmen had difficulties to pay their rents in dollar over the landlords' demand. However, the situation had changed after Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan repealed the rent payments in other currencies which brought a relatively relief to Grand Bazaar merchants, Sözcü wrote. 

In 2016, when the dollar began to rise, the Grand Bazaar said it had decided to accept rent in lira to support the Turkish economy. But the shop owners say that change never came and that they still pay their rent in dollars.

Forty-one of the nearly 600 jewellery stores in the Grand Bazaar have been closed since then, often replaced by stores selling Turkish delight instead of gold.

Hasan Fırat is not optimistic about the Grand Bazaar's future.

"We used to sell dollars to the Central Bank, now we can not find dollar for ourselves," said Fırat, adding the jewellery shops of Grand Bazaar were turned to spice stores which is indicating the financial bottleneck. 

Relief for the economy is something that cannot come fast enough for the jewellers and goldsmiths who trade in the tourist areas of Istanbul. Wander through the Grand Bazaar, one of the world's oldest covered markets, and the talk is of how traders have been badly affected, not least by a rise in the price of gold.