Turkey announced a new symbol for its struggling lira last week, to predictably mixed reviews.
The country's opposition claimed that the new currency symbol looks too much like the initials of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Others criticized the symbol because it looks very similar to the symbol of Armenian Dram.
The new lira symbol has even reportedly caused some confusion among Bulgarian and Greek tourists visiting Turkey's northwestern province Edirne because it looks slightly similar to the euro symbol. Hence, local merchants in the Edirne bazaar have stopped using the symbol in stores.
"We really liked the new symbol for the lira and wrote it on our price tags immediately," says Yasem Erem, a local fisherman. However, he stopped using the symbol as many tourists confused the symbol with the euro sign, reports Hurriyet Daily News.
Turkey's central bank held a contest to decide on the new lira symbol. Around 8,000 contestants took part in the competition and participant Tulay Lale's design was selected as the winner of the contest. Lale's design is a double-crossed "L," shaped like an anchor. According to Central Bank Governor Erdem Basci , the anchor represented a "safe harbour" while the upward facing lines represent its rising prestige.
The symbol was originally supposed to be released on February 22, but a press conference scheduled to make the announcement was canceled only few hours before for unknown reasons. Erdogan later personally revealed the new lira symbol on March 1.
"It was a great shortcoming that our currency did not have a symbol. However, considering the past, when the lira was among the world's least valuable currencies, perhaps not having a symbol may not be considered as a bad thing," said an anonymous Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy told daily Today's Zaman.
The lira has been struggling with rising inflation for the past months. The currency was ranked as the world's least valuable currency in 1995, 1996, and from 1999 to 2004 by the Guinness Book of Records. In 2005, the currency went through a revaluation. Six zeroes were removed from the lira and a new currency officially labled as the Yeni Turk Lirasi (new Turkish lira) was created.
"We did not pay attention to pessimists and negative comments and completed the process of removing six zeros with almost no problem. Our people and institutions quickly adapted to the new lira," Erdogan told reporters when revealing the symbol.
In 2009 the word Yeni, or "new," was removed from the currency's name and the it was called was again called, simply, the lira. Since then it has been performing slightly better. However, in 2011, the lira continued to decline steadily. It rose at the beginning of 2012, but concerns over the currency's stability remains.