Monday, March 4, 2024
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High energy prices send Europe’s businesses, homes reeling

ISTANBUL (AP) – Mehmet Bogday said his jaw dropped when he saw his electricity bill – it was higher than the rent he pays for his Istanbul restaurant selling traditional Turkish wraps, and more than double what he paid a month ago.

“This is unsustainable,” said Bogday, who owns the Asmali Mescit Durumcusu restaurant. “If it continues this way, we will have to lay off staff. If it continues this way, we won’t be able to make this work. We’ll either downsize, or close and go sit at home.”

Spiking energy prices are raising utility bills from Poland to the United Kingdom, leaving people struggling to make ends meet and small businesses uncertain about much longer they can stay afloat. In response, governments across Europe are rushing to pass aid to ease the hit as energy prices drive a record rise in inflation.

Nowhere is that squeeze felt more acutely than in Turkey, where inflation has soared to nearly 50 per cent and exorbitant electricity bills are stirring protests and fears about how small businesses, like Bogday’s restaurant, can survive.

Protests over electricity price hikes broke out across Turkey this week, including some where police fired tear gas to disperse crowds. People are posting their electricity bills on social media to show how costs are untenable. Shopkeepers are displaying notices decrying high bills on shop windows, while others have gathered outside electric companies and set their bills on fire.

Like the rest of Europe, electricity generation in Turkey requires energy sources that have surged in price, including natural gas, whose supply is low. A huge drop in the value of Turkey’s currency is driving the price spike in imported gas.

People burn their electricity bills during a protest in Ankara, Turkey. PHOTO: AP