March 11 (UPI) -- Turkey has moved into a recession for the first time in nearly a decade after sluggish economic growth at the end of 2018.
Economists said the Turkish economy slid by 2.4 percent for the final three months of last year. That followed a 1.4 percent slump in the third quarter, new figures showed Monday.
Several other indicators like the construction sector and consumer expenditures also fell.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed the economic downturn on foreign intervention and has threatened to jail dissidents if they protest. The United States imposed sanctions on Turkey last year but they were lifted after U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson was released from a Turkish prison. Ankara had been holding him on accusations he was involved in an attempted military coup in 2016.
Turkey's lira currency lost 30 percent of its value in 2018 and inflation rose 20 percent. The fourth-quarter slide was the worst in nine years. The Turkish economy grew by 7 percent in 2017.
The downturn in Turkey's economy comes as the country prepares for elections March 31.
"The question or risk factor is the government's response," analyst Tim Ash said. "Any unorthodox response at this stage will make things much worse."
For years, Erdogan pressured the central bank to keep interest rates low, but that ended when the lira crashed and the United States imposed sanctions.