The lira, Turkey’s national currency, has become such a risky store of value that Turks are placing their faith in cryptocurrencies.
Despite a government ban on using crypto as a form of payment, ads touting crypto have been plastered on buses and billboards and popped up in the airport at Istanbul; crypto shops have opened along Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.
Through 2021, the lira’s value has cratered as the country’s central bank has cut interest rates in the face of inflation raging at as much as 40 percent, as we have detailed in “Turkey’s Central Bank Governor Fired After Rate Hike” (23 Mar 2021), “Turkey: Another Day, Another Central Bankster Fired” (1 Jun 2021), and “Turkey’s Economy Continues to Implode” (14 Dec 2021).
In the last three months of 2021, Turks made an average of $1.8 billion crypto trades a day involving lira, according to data service Chainalysis, more in any of the preceding five quarters but far below 2019’s average of $71 billion daily.
Since September, the lira has lost 40 percent of its value against the dollar while Bitcoin gained almost the same amount against the buck. (Bitcoin’s value has since declined slightly.)
Trading in tether, a stablecoin tied to the U.S. dollar, has drawn more lira than either the dollar or euro, according to CryptoCompare, an analytics firm.
Turks are used to protecting their wealth and purchasing power by stashing them in dollars, euros, or gold; but the lure of crypto has overpowered traditional investment vehicles, despite the digital currencies’ notorious volatility.
Seeing the crypto ban ignored, the government has said it will propose a new crypto law to parliament but has released no details of the measure.
Cryptocurrencies have become especially popular in countries with weak, failing, or volatile currencies. In June, El Salvador became the first nation to recognize Bitcoin as legal tender (“El Salvador Recognizes Bitcoin as Cash,” 15 Jun 2021).
TREND FORECAST: Turkey’s president Recep Erdogan has tied his sinking credibility to the notion that low interest rates lower inflation. The fact that the population is grabbing cryptocurrencies despite a government ban is a sign that Turks have given up on their own currency and feel free to ignore their government’s economic dictates.
As we pointed out in “Turkey’s Markets Crash, Currency Crisis” (21 Dec 2021), it is not surprising that Erdogan frames his failed policies in warlike terms. As Gerald Celente notes, “when all else fails, they take you to war”—in this case, casting himself as a warrior against high interest rates and shadowy forces that threaten Turkey’s economy in hopes of unifying the nation behind him.
It’s not working: Erdogan’s popularity keeps sliding along with stock values and the lira.
Erdogan will not acknowledge the abysmal failure of his policies. He also is unlikely to surrender power, whatever the result of the next election, which is slated to occur no later than June 2023: his 2018 re-election was marked by widespread claims by opponents and independent observers of ballot-stuffing and other forms of corruption.