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Turkey, still recovering from pandemic lockdowns, is shocked by soaring electricity bills.

todayFebruary 23, 2022 2

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ISTANBUL — Turkey’s economy was already in recession before the pandemic hit, and because it relies heavily on tourism and the hospitality industry, the months of lockdown have badly hurt many businesses and robbed many residents of income. Now the country is grappling with runaway inflation.

The Turkish lira has sunk to record lows. Food and fuel prices have already more than doubled. Now it is electricity.

It began with a few outraged customers posting photographs of their electricity bills to social media, showing how charges had almost doubled at the end of January. But such complaints have quickly snowballed into a full-blown political crisis for the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

When Mr. Erdogan raised the minimum wage last month to help low-income workers, his government warned that there would be an increase in the utilities charges it sets. But few expected such a shock.

Restaurants and cafes trying to recover after two years of losses from the pandemic were reeling this month after electricity and gas bills doubled.

“During the pandemic, we were closed for 19 months,” said Ilker Tiniz, 37, who runs a family-owned restaurant in the southern city of Adana. “We did delivery. My credit cards exploded, and we were taken to the debt enforcement office.”

In January, his rent rose to 15,000 lira (about $1,150 at the time). Then the electricity bill came in even higher at 17,000 lira. Mr. Tiniz went on Twitter to voice his alarm in among the first of what has grown into a storm of complaints from citizens.

Despite the difficulties during the pandemic, there had always been hope that things would get better, Mr. Tiniz said in an interview at his restaurant, but the galloping inflation was shaking everything in the whole food chain, from the farmers to market traders to the customers in his restaurant.

“I wrote that tweet so that the government hears my voice,” he said.

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