Sunday, May 22

Turkey. Dissatisfied with economic results, Erdogan dismisses his chief statistician

In Turkey, the head of the National Statistics Office, Sait Erdal Dincer, has come under fire after releasing data in early January that put the annual inflation rate at 36.1%, its highest level in 19 years.

“I have a responsibility vis-à-vis 84 million people”, had argued Sait Erdal Dincer, explaining to the economic daily Dunya that it was simply impossible to publish inflation figures different from those noted by its services.

“I am now at the head of this service, tomorrow it could be someone else,” he said in this interview published in January, as if he knew he could be quickly dismissed.

The opposition, however, said the official figure was underestimated, saying the actual increase in the cost of living was at least twice as high.

Turkish currency plummeted

President Erdogan, who has sacked three central bank governors since 2019, did not explain his decision to appoint Erhan Cetinkaya, a former vice president of Turkey’s banking regulator, as head of state statistics. place of Mr. Dincer.

“This decision will only increase the lack of confidence in official data in a context where economic policy is already a source of concern,” said analyst Timothy Ash of Blue Bay Asset.

Inflation soared to more than 36% over one year in December in Turkey, a record since September 2002, due to the fall of the Turkish lira.

But President Erdogan, in an uncomfortable position eighteen months before the presidential election, continues to defend his choices.

Attacks on the media

In this pre-election context, he also attacked the media. “It has become necessary to take measures to protect (families, children and young people) against harmful media content,” he said in a decree published on Saturday, a gesture immediately interpreted as a new attempt to silence the critics.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan calls on the authorities to take “legal action” to combat “the destructive effects” of certain content in the media, without giving further details.

Broken promise

The rise in consumer prices, more than seven times greater than the government’s initial target, at 13.58% in December alone, is explained by the fall of nearly 45% in the Turkish lira against the dollar in one year, despite the emergency measures announced by the Head of State in mid-December.

Aware of the damage caused not only to the economy but also to his confidence rating, Recep Tayyip Erdogan had promised at the beginning of January to “reduce inflation to 1 digit as soon as possible”.

Because these data are the subject of a bitter political battle: the opposition and part of the population accuse the National Statistics Office (Tüik) of knowingly underestimating the rise in prices, fueled by the economic policy of the president which has prompted the Turkish central bank to systematically lower interest rates in recent months.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also appointed former Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag as the new justice minister to replace veteran ruling party member Abdulhamit Gul.

“The Minister of Justice is replaced, the president of the Tüik (National Statistics Office) is sacked before the new inflation figures are published: we do not know why,” the former deputy prime minister wrote on Twitter. Ali Babacan, who left Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) to found the Democracy and Progress Party (Deva).

Inflation data for January is due out on Thursday.

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