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Aruba, December 9, 2016 – From offers of free doner kebabs to more morbid ones such as free tombstones, some Turkish businesses are keen to encourage customers to heed the president’s advice and shift their savings from US dollars to the weakening lira.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been making non-stop calls since November for people to ditch the dollar in favour of the national currency, with his latest plea coming on 2 December. The lira has been setting record lows on a daily basis for weeks and is currently trading at around 3.50 to the dollar.
One instance of a merchant offering his services for free to “patriots” is Mustafa Ortac, a barber in Istanbul.
“Anyone who brings me a receipt showing that they have changed 200 dollars or Euros gets a free shave and haircut,” said Ortac. “We have to be patriotic and listen to our president’s call.”
The Turkish Central Bank on Tuesday backed Erdogan’s call on people to convert their deposits from foreign currencies to the lira. On the same day, the price for a litre of petrol at the pump passed five lira for the first time in two-and-a-half years.
Why the lira is faltering
It's all a long way from the heady days of 2008, when the lira traded at around 1.15 to the dollar and Turkey’s economy was punching above its weight.
Observers say a combination of international factors - such as the US election and potential policy decisions that president-elect Donald Trump might make - and domestic factors such as the Turkish government’s post-coup clampdown and moves to introduce an executive presidency system of governance are behind the lira’s travails.