Istanbul struggles as inflation and cost of living skyrocket

Business has been sluggish for Ismail Hakki, who owns a once-thriving clothing shop in Istanbul’s old Tahtakale neighborhood.


“Business declined to only a fraction of what it used to be,” Hakki said as he navigated through the rows of discounted garments in his empty shop.

“Tourists are the only ones browsing, and even then, it’s just window shopping,” the shop owner complained.

Hakki’s woes mirror the broader struggle gripping Istanbul, Türkiye’s economic hub, where inflation has outpaced the already-crippling national rate of 69.8 percent in April, according to the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce.

“Many people are struggling to make ends meet,” Hakki said. “In marketplaces, I witness more and more individuals buying just one or two potatoes or a small quantity of fruit and vegetables.”

Ferruh Buyukoglu, the owner of a nearby stationery store known for low prices, also suffered bleak sales amid the high inflation.

“Prices across the board have doubled … A basic school supplies kit for a first-grader now costs 1,000 Turkish liras (31 U.S. dollars), compared to 500 liras last year. How can parents afford this?” he lamented.

The Istanbul Planning Agency said in its latest report that the monthly cost of living for a family of four in Istanbul, including rent, has skyrocketed by 81 percent year-on-year, reaching a staggering 55,321 liras. Meat prices have seen the most dramatic rise of 114 percent compared to last year, followed by a 107 percent increase in chicken prices.

To rein in the soaring inflation, the Ministry of Trade has intensified inspections nationwide, cracking down on unjustified price hikes and hoarding. This year alone, the ministry issued fines totaling 1.9 million dollars against businesses engaging in such practices.

On Monday, Treasury and Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek unveiled a series of saving measures in the public sector to support the government’s disinflation target and contribute to easing the burden of living costs.

“Bringing inflation down to single digits is imperative for prosperity and sustainable growth,” Simsek stated, adding that “price stability is a top priority in achieving this goal.”