Turkish dilemma

Published : 12 Feb 2023 08:54 PM

With recent life-changing revelations that came in the form of two consecutive earthquakes, the current Turkish government is due for some massive dilemma. Its influence in international politics has been hugely impacted. With the dust still settling, analysts are already zoning in on the long-term rippling effect the disaster would bring to its own embroiled economy and politics affiliated with matters beyond its boundaries, especially in the Russia- Ukraine war. 

The strongest quake in nearly a century for the Turkey and Syria region, magnitudes of 7.8 and 7.5 on the Richter scale, came only nine hours apart. The devastating disaster sent shockwaves that affected millions across Turkey and Syria. While a quake is the least of the worries for Syria, which has been ravaged by 12 years of war and terrorism, infrastructure heavily depleted, and under Western sanctions. However, it is an entirely different scenario for Turkey.

Turkey is already on to face a seminal point this year, with its presidential elections approaching on May 14 and its economy plagued by high global energy prices, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the inescapable war in Ukraine. Ankara’s own economic policies have also been fuelling its fuming flesh with suppressed interest rates despite soaring inflation, sending the lira to a record low against the dollar, and accumulating ballooned account deficit. 

The potential accountability calls as to why thousands of buildings were insufficiently designed to withstand such tremors have yet to play a significant role in the current presidential campaign of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Subsequently, Erdogan’s response to the cataclysm will have massive effects on his political career. In turn, it can potentially break the floodgates of Turkey with enormous consequences for Turkey’s population, economy, currency, and democracy. 

Internationally, many analysts agree that Turkey’s future is closely linked to the war in Ukraine, given Erdogan’s role as a mediator between Ukraine and Russia. The former Ottoman state is left as the only main NATO member still standing in the way of Sweden and Finland’s accession to the robust defense alliance. It is also brokering the Black Sea Grain Initiative between Ukraine and Russia to allow vital grain supplies to the rest of the world from Ukraine despite the Russian naval blockade on Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. Nonetheless, Turkey is said to face some temporary relief from Western pressure on its NATO stance in the wake of the earthquakes, according to economists.

In the meantime, Western allies and countries worldwide are sending aid and rescue teams to help with Turkey’s disaster relief efforts. Ankara will need to commence massive public spending to support its needs and rebuild areas affected by the tremors. 

According to business analysts and financial experts worldwide, Turkey has possible financial capabilities to recover the public debt-to-GDP ratio of around 34% but at the cost of a sizeable increase in the public debt ratio.