Recently, a heated debate erupted on social media about Türkiye’s apparently deteriorating economy. German economics publication Handelsblatt alerted its readers on Aug. 3 about the country's rising inflation almost reaching 80%. What the headline discreetly did not mention was that this figure corresponds to annually aggregated data – instead, it unfairly suggests that 80% is the monthly figure! The article then reiterates that compared to the previous month consumer prices rose by 79.6% before a few lines thereafter the authors say consumer prices rose by 2.4 % in July. Confused? Certainly!
A link to a further article at the end of that introduction then tells readers that the Turkish lira is facing a crash that can hardly be stopped.
Adding one plus one together the audience is left with no choice but to expect the economy to completely collapse imminently. The entire layout of the page makes distinguishing between fact and fiction not necessarily easy either – an elderly lady is pictured shopping at a fruit stall in a street market, handing over her money with a by-line stating that groceries are getting ever-more expensive. It is the typical cliche photo – only elderly women go shopping in Türkiye and never at modern shopping centers, they are limited to the streets as if there are only fruit and vegetable stalls in this country and no shops with proper doors and windows. Amazing!
Job done, the usual suspect singled out, a country on the brink of destruction. And rest assured, if you are wondering whether Handelsblatt forgot to say who is to blame for all of this – as under normal circumstances commentaries like the one mentioned here conclude by holding President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan responsible – it did not. It only rephrased it. It argued that the Central Bank of the Republic of Türkiye (CBRT) would not raise interest rates due to "political pressure." Oh dear...
A quick look at the destatis.de portal is enough proof that the rate of inflation in Germany stood at 10.0% during the month of September, having risen from 7.9% in August. If we would base our analysis on September figures, assuming that there is no further increase, we arrive at an annually aggregated rate of a staggering 120%. Unfair and biased commentaries could print headlines along the lines of "German inflation sky high at 120%, economy on brink of collapse."
On the one hand, and luckily from where this contribution is penned in Türkiye, journalists would refrain from coming up with these types of unfounded headers and, if at all, would prominently mention that this is annual expected data, not monthly numbers. On the other hand, however, some colleagues in Germany and a number of further European countries misuse data and suggest to the public that inflation only exists in Türkiye, when it is a typical problem for a country facing many worrying issues anyway. Not that Türkiye-bashers are shy about dreaming up topics and headlines about an array of topics, but opting to go for the current global economic situation and then all but declaring that only Türkiye has to cope with a rise in consumer prices is simply distorting the truth, period.
Disinformation is a dangerous pathway in our profession. Honest research, frank but always fair commentary, and bringing facts to the audience, not fiction, should be the hallmark of good journalism. But if a media outlet’s headquarters or regional office declares an entire nation as being at risk, a sort of risk to the welfare of Europe, even experienced writers and news producers will have little if any verbal leeway to convince their editor’s about the reality on the ground in Türkiye.
Türkiye bashing is nothing new. In the distant past, many considered the fine and proud nation as nothing more than an extension of the West's sphere of influence. Then things changed dramatically and the nation embarked on the path of becoming an independent, highly respected, successful, prosperous state that is open to the world but demands being spoken to at eye level on equal footing with Western nations.
The past two decades symbolize this extremely well. Let us take a quick look at three examples:
First, individual economic and entrepreneurial engagement in society, which had been made very difficult by an omnipresent bureaucracy and a state monopoly in almost all economic endeavors except microbusinesses, became the backbone of an aspiring middle class. As a matter of fact, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) account for the absolute majority of all companies, close to 99%. Innovation is the keyword in this ambitious transformation process, turning from an economy that produces parts to an economy manufacturing top-quality end products. Türkiye is an economic powerhouse.
Second, a nation with such a young population needs an education system that mirrors this fact. Again – and in particular over the past 20 years – Türkiye added world-class educational establishments in all 81 provinces. Obtaining a high-quality education from primary school to the tertiary level is no longer reserved for the self-styled elite and has become accessible to each and all.
Third, a nation that often preferred to look inward instead of across its borders decided to operate according to a 360-degree foreign policy. Türkiye looks north, south, east and west. The country prefers cooperation instead of being lectured by fake "allies." Splendid isolation is no more.
An aspiring young population, yet parents and the elderly are never side-lined as the family institution is non-negotiable; a world-class approach to education at all levels; a strong, solid middle class that forms the backbone of society; a global outlook paired with self-confidence and the clear understanding that the misrepresentation of Türkiye as a schoolboy rather than a full-fledged powerful nation is confined to the footnotes of history. These are just a few examples of the aforementioned reality on the ground.
Are citizens over here happy? You bet! Are some media organs in Europe not so happy? Unfortunately! But perhaps looking down on Türkiye has deeper roots and is not only based on bashing one country in particular. In a post-Brexit, post-pandemic, hopefully soon post-Ukraine-war world, Europe seems lost at best, completely rudderless at worst. The more successful today’s Türkiye gets, the more troubles seem to arise elsewhere, including in Europe.
An aging population; the demise of the family as an institution; the acceptance of alternative lifestyles as the new normal; the competition being lost to Asia and other countries in terms of sourcing goods and products; new actors emerging across the world shifting attention away from North America and Europe; rising populism and the far-right and far-left extreme movements; xenophobia...
Quite a list of urgent issues on anyone’s agenda one feels inclined to say. But reading about how Türkiye is stemming the tide and actually coming out on top is not what worried audiences want for breakfast.
Is inflation in Türkiye said to be rising to an annually aggregated figure of just under 80%? True, temporarily correct. Will it return to much lower figures shortly? That’s the plan. My wish: economics editors from Europe hop on the next plane and speak with the Turkish people to understand why their trust in their democratically elected government and institutions is so high. Here, ill-fated populism is no issue as the elected officeholders are popular!
Türkiye did not invent inflation or the global energy crisis. But over here, people are rolling up their sleeves to overcome the crisis that was most definitely not "made in Türkiye." Dear colleagues in Germany and elsewhere – fair play, please!