Despite the conflict in the Ukraine, for people in Turkey and many around the world, 2022 will most certainly be remembered as the year of inflation. Prices have increased by about 9% in both the United States and the European Union after decades of inflation below 5%, with supply shocks to the energy and food industries accounting for the majority of the increase (not to mention quantitative easing).
However, 9% is still not as awful as the inflation wrecking havoc on the Turkish economy, which has enjoyed years of 2% inflation or below. Year-over-year inflation in Turkey is now officially estimated to be at 80%, but unofficial data suggests real inflation may have reached 140% as early as April.
Such staggering numbers have had a significant negative impact on Turkish citizens, but many have discovered a rather creative way to mitigate the effects of inflation: cryptocurrencies. Although Turkey has a reputation for being an authoritarian state, despite having one of the highest percentages of cryptocurrency ownership globally, the country shows that bitcoin is used for more than simply high-risk speculation.
August saw an increase in the official consumer price index for Turkey of 80.2% over the previous month, which was already very high. This marks both the highest rate ever observed during President Recep Tayyip Erdoan’s almost 20-year leadership and the first time official inflation has exceeded 80% since 1998.
In Turkey, where Erdoan refused to raise interest rates to a level that may potentially restrain price increases, lax monetary policy is usually held responsible for the country’s out-of-control inflation. Despite this, the government predicts that inflation will start to decline by the year’s end.
The nation’s finance minister, Nureddin Nebati, predicted on Twitter that inflation would slow down much further in the coming months. “We shall expel high inflation from these countries, and it will never come back.”
Whatever the future holds, regular Turks are now feeling the effects of inflation, which has been happening for a while. Its data on cryptocurrency ownership makes this clear; according to Statista’s figures, 20% of the population owned or had held cryptocurrencies in 2019, and that number increased to 25% in 2021.
Data on worldwide cryptocurrency ownership is fascinating since it shows that countries with similar stresses to Turkey typically have the largest levels of such ownership. To put it another way, individuals turn to bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a way to preserve (or grow) whatever meager wealth they already have as a result of inflation.
As a result, Turkey boasts one of the most active cryptocurrency markets globally, despite recent attempts by the government to limit it in various ways (so far unsuccessfully).
In December 2021, data from Chainalysis and Kaiko showed that the country’s borders were clocking in at almost one million cryptocurrency transactions per day. This may have been one of the clearest indications of how busy the Turkish crypto industry is.
What Comes Next for Turkey and Cryptocurrency
People on the ground corroborate that they bought bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in response to the problems facing the Turkish currency.
According to Izzet Emre Ari, a twenty-something computer engineer who talked to Reuters in 2021, “If my savings are in lira, they are losing value.”
Turkish cryptocurrency trading has gained so much traction that some local commentators have spoken of a “cryptolization” process as the local population switches to cryptocurrencies as a way of asset preservation.
According to Turan Sert, an adviser to the Paribu exchange in Turkey, who talked to Al Jazeera in January, “in the past it was dollarization, meaning in order to prevent swings in their currency individuals held their assets in dollars.” The most current fad is now referred to as cryptolization.
Even more recently, industry insiders in Turkey claim that the bear market of 2022 hasn’t significantly diminished Turkish enthusiasm for cryptocurrencies. This is due to the Turkish lira falling even more sharply than Bitcoin, which has declined by 71% since hitting an all-time high of USD 69,000 in November.
Because we want to protect our money from rising inflation and high interest rates, there is a huge demand for and trading volume in Turkey’s cryptocurrency market. According to author and consultant Vedat Guven, who was recently interviewed by German state-run news outlet DW, there are 5.5–6 million Turks who have cryptocurrency accounts, and if you include family members, 10–12 million individuals are interested in this.
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