A fuel crisis made worse by the Iranian revolution has led to the Turkish government almost doubling the price of petrol and diesel fuel on Friday (16 March).
A fuel crisis made worse by the Iranian revolution has led to the Turkish government almost doubling the price of petrol and diesel fuel on Friday (16 March). The price rise followed an announcement earlier in the day banning the sale of oil and petrol to prevent hoarding, and is the first step in an austerity programme vital to prop up Turkey's ailing economy. The rest of the programme is expected to be announced in the next few days. Turkey was hoping for help from Western nations in the shape of a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit will not agree to the terms that the IMF wants to impose. Many basic commodities and foodstuffs are now scarce, and before Friday's ban queues of cars at petrol stations were a familiar sight as motorists hoped to beat price rises and fuel shortages.
SYNOPSIS: This Istanbul street may still look busy, but traffic flow has dropped considerably in recent weeks. Rumours that the price of fuel was certain to rise sent motorists rushing to the pumps, and queues up to three kilometres (two miles long were reported in major Turkish cities. A price rise on the imported fuel is just one of the oil conservation moves to be used by the government to save foreign currency.
With so many cars of the road, many people walk to work. For those who live a little further out of town, there are the Dolus-shared taxis with regular routes. But with so many people using them these too produce queues of long-faced commuters. Shortages are not confined to imported goods. Although Turkey is one of the world's largest tobacco-growers, there are long queues for the cigarettes, and traditional Turkish coffee has disappeared from the shops. People are even queuing to pay their taxes. In Turkey everyone is feeling the squeeze.
Despite extra service there are also queues for the city buses. Prime Minister Ecevit inherited acute problems when he came to office at the beginning of 1978, but has not yet solved the worst economic crisis in Turkey's history. Inflation stands at 70 percent, a fifth of the country's workforce is unemployed, and industry is working at half capacity. Mr. Ecevit concedes that such problems provide fertile ground for terrorism, and most of the major cities are still under the martial law imposed in December. As Prime Minister Ecevit finalises the rest of his austerity package, the violence and shortages add up to a difficult time for democracy in Turkey.