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Greeks Rush to Turkey for Shopping, Property as Lira Collapses

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Shoppers from Greece and Bulgaria do their Christmas grocery shopping at a supermarket in the city of Edirne. Credit: Twitter/Nurullah YILDIZ

Greeks and Bulgarians are rushing to the border city of Edirne (Andrianoupolis) in Turkey to shop — and even buy property — as the nation’s currency, the lira, is collapsing, Turkish daily Hurriyet reports.

The lira dropped as much as 2.6 percent to 16.8436 per dollar in early Asian trading on Monday, heading for a fifth straight day of declines. The currency, which has tumbled 48 percent over the past three months, reached a record low of 17.1452 on Friday.

Photographs uploaded on social media show stark images juxtaposed against each other as Greek and Bulgarian citizens buying things in bulk in Edirne while Turks are being forced to stand in long lines just to buy bread in Istanbul and other Turkish cities.

Scores of Istanbulites have turned to the city’s subsidized bread program, “Istanbul Halk Ekmek” (which translates to “Public Bread”), in order to save money as the Turkish lira rapidly loses value.

Greeks explore Turkey’s real estate market

The Turkish lira lost nearly half its value against the United States dollar in 2021. Turkey’s inflation rate also climbed by 21.3 percent, although many commentators believe that even that figure is conservative and that the inflation rate may actually be much higher.

Hurriyet reports that Bulgarians and Greeks are exploring opportunities in Edirne’s real estate market as the depreciation of the Turkish lira makes home prices relatively cheaper for them to buy.

“Greeks citizens of Turkish descent are purchasing a lot of properties here. Let’s say, we used to sell them two or three homes a year in the past, now they are buying 10 houses,” said Serhat Çeker, the head of the Edirne Real Estate Consultants’ Association.

“Those from Greece see this as an investment opportunity. They are buying five or six one-bedroom apartments and are leasing them out,” he added, speaking to Hurriyet.

Erhan Koç, a real estate consultant, expects home sales to Bulgarians and Greeks to continue to rise.

“The Bulgarian currency the Lev has gained value against the Turkish lira — there are many Bulgarians in the market looking for homes to buy,” he told Hurriyet.

Koç also noted that more than half of the summer homes in Saros Bay have already been rented by Greek and Bulgarian citizens.

Erdogan says Islam demands lower rates

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to continue interest-rate cuts that have made the lira the world’s worst-performing currency, referring to Islamic proscriptions on usury as a basis for his new policy push.

“What is it? We are lowering interest rates. Don’t expect anything else from me,” Erdogan said Sunday in televised comments from Istanbul. “As a Muslim, I’ll continue to do what is required by nas,” Erdogan said, using an Arabic word used in Turkish to refer to Islamic teachings.

“Of course, we know the impact of price increases on people’s daily lives. We are of course aware of the instability caused by the lira’s fluctuations and its impact on prices,” Erdogan said. “But we will put up resistance against these. I announce from here: there is no backing down.”

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