09/13/2021, 13.05
TURKEY
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COVID-19 sinks 62,000 businesses in 2021

Opposition lawmaker slams government claims about positive second quarter economic growth (21.7 per cent). For Veli Ağbaba, neither companies nor shopkeepers have benefit from touted growth. About 35 per cent of closures occurred in the summer after restrictions were eased. No-vax protesters take to the streets against restrictions and immunisations.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – The 21.7 per cent economic growth touted by the government does not reflect the real situation of a country in a deep crisis partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this according to Veli Ağbaba, vice chairman of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP).

In the first eight months of 2021, a total of 61,736 businesses have gone bankrupt, a situation that concerns the MP for Malatya given the state of the retail sector and the many shops that have had to close their doors.

The Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), a state agency, recently reported 21.7 per cent growth in the second quarter. But for Ağbaba this figure is baseless because “neither the shopkeepers nor the companies were able to benefit from this growth”.

During this period, almost 62,000 shopkeepers went out of business while at least 48,000 companies and individual businesses went under between January to August 2021.

About 35 per cent of shopkeepers closed between June and August when the “normalisation” process began, with a return to pre-COVID-19 conditions and fewer restrictions.

Forced to take out bank loans for lack of proper compensation, shopkeepers struggled to keep “their heads above water”, as government measures saw them alternatively open and close their stores.

According to the Merchants and Artisans Registry Gazette, cited by the opposition lawmaker, 61,736 businesses closed in the first eight months of the year, 21,731 in July and August alone.

The number of registered shopkeepers and artisans decreased by 28 per cent in a year to 185,126, the Merchants and Artisans Confederation of Turkey (TESK) reported.

According to the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) Trade Registry, 9,105 companies in total were liquidated from January to July 2021, 18,691 companies and individual businesses were closed and 21,240 companies were shut down ex officio.

"So, while Turkey's economy supposedly grew by 21.7 percent, the share of shopkeepers and companies in this growth was bankruptcy,” Ağbaba noted.

Meanwhile, opposition to COVID-19 vaccination has gained steam in Turkey. Last Saturday, some 3,000 people took to the streets in the so-called the Great Awakening rally to protest against vaccination, vaccine passports, masks and social distancing.

Without protective gear, protesters shouted slogans and sang songs in the name of individual rights, targeting Bill Gates, considered by conspiracy theorists and pandemic deniers to be one of the main beneficiaries of the global health emergency.

On 6 September, the government began requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for all users of intercity planes, buses and trains, as well as for those attending large events such as concerts or theatre performances.

Masks and social distancing are mandatory in schools, while unvaccinated school employees must undergo polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing twice a week.

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