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Turkish Crisis, An Unprecedented Test For Erdogan Regime

Turkey is in an economic crisis after last Friday's lira crash.
Turkey is in an economic crisis after last Friday's lira crash.
Christiane Schlötzer


Turkey is a country with extreme social differences. If the inflation rate rises, the lira tumbles and price stickers in supermarkets are rewritten daily, which means those who already have little can afford less and less. The current currency crisis is making the poor even poorer. But it will not spare the rich for long, because many have long been financing their lifestyles or their company on credit, with cheap loans in euros and dollars, which are now becoming prohibitively expensive.

Turkey is also a country with its share of experience when it comes to crises, and solidarity is usually high in times of need. But this crisis will not unite the country, it will divide it even more deeply. After the lira crash last Friday — the biggest fall the currency has had on a single day for 20 years — Turkey is not only in a difficult financial situation. The crisis will become a political test for the new, already highly controversial presidential system that Recep Tayyip Erdogan has tailored for himself.

So far, the only thing that's come to Erdogan's mind as a response has been to appeal to the pride and strength of the Turkish people, and to their God. But this won't work with everybody: "Allah will not pay our debts, nor will knowledge of the Koran help us when the bailiff comes," so goes the sarcastic reaction.

Bad luck for Turkey, it has messed with Donald Trump.

Contradiction and opposition are absent in the new Turkish system, and yet, the emergency already makes the first cracks appear, in the form of a family argument: Erdogan says that the interest rates must be further lowered, something that hardly any expert would recommend in a fight against inflation. On the other hand, the Turkish president's son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, now the country's Finance Minister, emphasizes the independence of the Turkish central bank, which alone decides on the level of interest rates.

Erdogan's great promise was that the Turkish people could live in prosperity as long as they were hard-working and kept him in charge. For a long time, he kept this promise. Incomes kept on rising, as did pensions and the minimum wage. But now, the escalator is no longer leading only upwards. Memories of 2001 come back to mind. That year, Turkey suffered its worst economic crisis since its foundation, with inflation shooting up to almost 70%. We're far from reaching those levels, so far. But the 2001 crisis was not only economic, it also showed the failure of the political system. Indeed, that is what eventually brought Erdogan to power. That's why he won't like recalling that memory.

Bad luck for Turkey, it has messed with Donald Trump, which makes it absolutely impossible to predict how this dramatic situation will play out. Strength, pride and prejudice — these are words that the U.S. President appreciates as much as Erdogan. Mutual mistrust has been weighing on relations between Ankara and Washington for some time, and the Syrian war has made things worse.

So did the failed coup attempt of July 2016. Since then, Erdogan has consistently accused the U.S. of being partly responsible because of their hosting the preacher Fethullah Gülen. That is why Turkey has imprisoned an American pastor, whose release Trump is trying to force by all means. True, the attempted coup was and remains a mysterious and strange event, which makes conspiracy theories flourish. But that doesn't change the fact that we now have two NATO partners who trust each other so much they believe the other capable of any extreme of nastiness. How this will end is anybody's guess.

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Tax Windfalls, Big Tobacco: The Untold Story Of What Really Feeds China's Smoking Habit

No country in the world has as big a cigarette industry as China. This is the story of how a giant state-backed monopoly created the industry, which provides more tax revenue than any other, and ultimately sabotaged the country's anti-smoking efforts in the process.

Chinese man smoking a cigarette with a solemn facial expression

Beijing - A Chinese man smokes a cigarette outside a shopping center

Stephen Shaver / ZUMA
Jude Chan, Jason McLure & Christoph Giesen

Over the past two decades, global tobacco use has declined by 11%. In China, that number is only 1%. China, which accounts for one-fifth of the world's population, consumes nearly half of the world's cigarettes — more than 2.4 trillion a year. That's more than the next 67 countries combined.

Why is China's smoking epidemic so difficult to contain? How does the Chinese tobacco industry function? How do the people who grow tobacco survive under the monopolistic system that permeates the supply chain?

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