Turkey’s Erdoğan foot-dragging on lockdown due to lack of funds – VoA

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s insistence on keeping factories and businesses open during the coronavirus pandemic is raising eyebrows among critics who say the move may show that the state’s funds have dried up, U.S.-government funded news outlet Voice of America said.

Erdoğan has resisted demands by the opposition to introduce a nationwide shutdown, saying the wheels of Turkey’s economy need to continue turning. The government has only imposed a partial curfew for citizens over the age of 65 and under 20.

Turkey, already grappling with a sharp economic slowdown prior to the pandemic, has seen the lira fall to its lowest level since August 2018, when it suffered a currency shock that triggered a brief recession.

The opposition mayor of Istanbul insists that a strict curfew is necessary for Istanbul, Turkey’s most populous city of 16 million people, which is home to the majority of the country’s COVID-19 cases.

But the cost of shutting down Turkey's largest city might be a price too high to pay for the government, Atilla Yeşilada of Global Source Partners told VoA.

"Tax revenues are not coming in anymore, and you are shutting down industries with potentially 4 and 5 million workers," Yeşilada said. "Even if the law doesn't dictate it, ethics, as well as good governance, will dictate that you pay some kind of compensation to these people so they don't starve or protest on the streets and the budget equation becomes unmanageable." 

A national public appeal for donations to help support those worst affected by the pandemic launched by Erdoğan last week also points to the shortage in state funding, VoA said.

Erdoğan kicked off the campaign by donating seven months of his presidential salary and urging businesspeople and philanthropists to follow his lead. 

Those forced to go to work every day in the country’s largest cities, too, think the country’s economy has forced the government to keep businesses open.

"I think our government also got caught in a financially difficult situation. That's why I think they will be prolonging the postponing of the shutdown as much as they can, to win time," an Istanbul shopkeeper told VoA.