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Turkish Lira's Abrupt Fall Hits Turkmen Labor Migrants

Istanbul workers hold up U.S. dollars outside of a currency exchange office. For Turkmen labor migrants, the dollar is the only major currency possible to transfer to Turkmenistan from abroad. (file photo)

The sharp weakening of Turkey's national currency, the lira, is hitting Turkmen labor migrants whose families back home depend on remittances.

The lira has lost more than 40 percent against the dollar since May as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pushes a low interest rate policy despite rampant inflation. The central bank has slashed its policy rate by 400 basis points since September despite annual inflation around 20 percent.

The lira was down again on November 30, trading at around 13 to the U.S. dollar. That compares to May when it was at around 8.6 to the U.S. currency.

Several families in Turkmenistan told RFE/RL that their relatives working in Turkey are unable to send money to them because of the lira's drop in value.

Part of the problem, they say, is that food and everyday necessities in Turkey have risen in price, leaving the labor migrants with no extra money to send home. Another issue is the rising cost of exchanging lira for dollars, the only major currency that is possible to transfer to Turkmenistan from abroad.

A mother of two in the southeastern region of Mary told an RFE/RL correspondent on condition of anonymity that her husband says he isn't able to earn enough in Turkey to support himself let alone send money back.

Turkey has long been the main destination for Turkmen labor migrants to earn money as their own country, one of the most secretive and closed in the world, endures dramatic economic hardships. Several other Central Asian nations are facing a similar situation with regard to falling remittances, a key factor in their economies.

According to the latest figures published by Turkey's Migration Service, Turkmen citizens rank second after Iraqis in terms of the number of foreign nationals granted residence permits in Turkey in 2021. It is estimated that in 2021 alone, almost 118,000 Turkmen nationals have received residence permits in Turkey.

In July, sources close to the Turkmen government told RFE/RL that some 2.8 million people currently reside in the country, while officially the tightly controlled former Soviet republic’s population is more than 6 million.