Thousands of construction sites are idle in Turkey.

The reason for the interruption of work is not because of the construction workers on strike because of better pay, but because of the protests of the building contractors.

They want to vent their anger about high cement prices for two weeks.

Within a year, that tripled to 450 lira (45 euros) per ton.

"Our members have operated almost 100,000 construction sites, the work has been suspended on around 60,000 of them," says Tahir Tellioglu from the Association of Building Companies.

Andreas Mihm

Business correspondent for Austria, East-Central and Southeastern Europe and Turkey based in Vienna.

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In view of the building boom visible everywhere in road and house construction, not least on the concrete skeletons of half-finished mosques, this is a blow that even government-related newspapers such as Hürriyet cannot avoid reporting. The government should lower cement prices, demand the building contractors. After all, the flourishing cement export had already been subject to approval after the construction costs in July were 45 percent above the previous year's figure.

The construction industry highlights the country's economy.

You can feel the crisis everywhere, people are talking about the officially 12 percent unemployment rate, ranting about high prices.

"We have a very serious economic crisis in Turkey," says Ali Kiliç.

He is mayor of the Istanbul district of Maltepe, belongs to the opposition social democratic CHP and lived in Munich for a long time.

But the issues are rarely reported in the government-affiliated TV stations and newspapers, which make up the bulk of the Turkish media, says Kiliç.

"Everything is twice as expensive"

They tend to write about the surprisingly high economic growth of 21 percent in the first half of the year, even for professional observers, or new agreements with South Korea, China or Qatar that allow imports to be paid in lira without Turkey having to resort to dollars and euros. On Monday, the central bank reported a current account deficit of $ 683 million in July, from $ 1.2 billion in June. Income from tourism helped narrow the gap. But with 4.63 million guests, their number was one million below the already weak previous year. Corona continues to tear large holes.

There are few travelers in Istanbul, a tourist hotspot in summer. The big bazaar belongs to the locals, in the popular Galata district tables remain unoccupied in the evening, hotels advertise with competitive prices. At the ferry terminal, the water bottle seller asks the visitor: “Hello, Russia, Ukraine?” Guests from Germany or Great Britain are spending this summer vacation elsewhere.

Far away from the hustle and bustle on the Black Sea coast and in the Anatolian hinterland, foreign tourists are rare even in normal times.

This is where the declining purchasing power of the local public is reflected.

Conversations with locals, from Sinop to Trabzon and Rize to Kars, do not give a representative, but a coherent picture: Everywhere there are complaints about the economic situation.

This can be dangerous for President Erdogan, who owes his rise to the unrestricted ruling president above all to the economic boom in Turkey.

Inflation is an important issue for everyone, even if it is not 300 percent there as in the cement industry.

The shoemaker moves into the village

Officially, annual inflation is 19.3 percent, and that for food 29 percent. But the greengrocer cannot confirm that. After a brief reflection, he says: “Everything is twice as expensive as last year.” Today he costs 15 lira for three large peaches, last summer it was 7.50 (75 euro cents). The rent has also doubled, to 5500 lira (550 euros) a month. He has to pass this on to his customers.

The shoemaker, who last year earned 50 lira from selling a pair of black men's shoes for 200 lira, complains while playing on his cell phone that only 10 lira remained. He's going to retire soon. But the minimum pension of 2000 lira (200 euros) a month is not enough for city life. That's why he moves to his village, where he can grow vegetables and fruits. When asked who was responsible, he waves it aside, ends the conversation by saying that the Internet is the death of small shops.

That only applies to a limited extent. In a grocery store in Kars on the border with Armenia, two young men sell cheese from a high-altitude alpine farm, which is valued throughout the country. Online orders kept them afloat, they say radiantly. The operator of a clothing store does not radiate. He can only keep the shop because the house belongs to the family. He doesn't like the president well. “Erdogan has turned the country into a parking lot for refugees.” Turkey is home to more than four million Syrians, Afghans and other nationalities. As far as economic policy is concerned, one only has to look at the rate of the lira.

It has devalued a lot. Five years ago the dollar cost 3 lira, today it is more than 8, and the euro has appreciated even more. Last week the lira had gone downhill again. The central bank chief Şahap Kavcioglu surprised the markets. No longer the inflation rate of 19.3 percent, but the core inflation rate of 17 percent adjusted for energy and food should be the measure of monetary policy in the future. Shortly before, he had assured that there would be no negative real interest rates in Turkey. After inflation is above the key rate of 19 percent, the central bank should raise rates this month. But with the swing to the core inflation rate, there would now be scope for the interest rate cut demanded by Erdogan.

District Mayor Kiliç from Istanbul is not surprised by such a thing. He doesn't trust the official statistics anyway. "They can change the numbers with very simple methods."

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