Over one-third of Turkey’s population is in debt

According to Treasury and Finance Minister Lütfi Elvan, nearly 35 million Turkish citizens hold personal loan debt, totaling nearly 875 billion Turkish Liras.

Serkan Alan / DUVAR

The Turkish Credit Registration Bureau and the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency have released data on personal debt, showing that as of June 2021, over 34 million Turkish citizens hold personal loan debt, totaling nearly 875 billion liras.

When asked in parliament about this figure by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu, Treasury and Finance Minister Lütfi Elvan confirmed its validity. With skyrocketing inflation and plummeting individual GDP, this is yet another indicator of Turkey’s dire economic straits.

The data cited by Minister Elvan indicates that over one-third of Turkey’s population of over 85 million is in debt. This ratio is far higher in Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul: 13 million of the city’s population hold some form of personal loan debt, totaling over 252 billion Turkish Lira. In other words, over 85% of Istanbul’s population is in debt. In Ankara, Turkey’s capital, over 3 million people hold over 87 billion lira in debt.

Turkey’s economy has been in free-fall since 2013. According to World Bank data, individual GDP has fallen from a high of $12,614 in 2012 to $8,538 in 2020. Inflation rates have also been in double-digits since 2016. Food prices were up over 17% year-over-year as of June, and housing and rental prices have soared. This data on personal debt only further confirms that many Turkish citizens are no longer able to afford life in Turkey’s largest cities.

The cities with the lowest numbers of debt, cited by Minister Elvan, were far smaller municipalities in Turkey’s rural Anatolian regions. In Bayburt, in Central Anatolia, 36,595 people held over 413 million lira in debt, the lowest of any municipality in Turkey. In Tunceli, also in Central Anatolia, just over fifty thousand people held over 910 million lira in personal debt.

While the number of people in debt is lower in these cities, the ratio of indebted people to the population is high: in Tunceli, just under 60% of the total population is in debt, while in Bayburt that number is 44.5%.