Turkish leader names new statistics chief as inflation rises

Jan 29, 2022, 2:52 AM | Updated: Jan 30, 2022, 2:19 am

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s president has fired the head of the Turkish Statistical Institute, which is responsible for posting official inflation statistics, among other data, at a time when prices have skyrocketed in Turkey.

Tukish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision was announced Saturday on the Official Gazette. He replaced Sait Erdal Dincer less than a year after his appointment with Erhan Cetinkaya, who served as vice president of Turkey’s banking regulation agency. No reason was given for the move.

Turkey has experienced economic turmoil with an unstable national currency, triggered by massive interest rate cuts. Erdogan stands strongly against high interest rates, claiming they cause inflation, a stance that contradicts established economic theory. Since September, the Central Bank has cut rates by 500 basis points to 14%, but stopped its cuts in January.

Turkey relies heavily on imports for its energy needs and consumer goods. Inflation on consumer prices for December was officially announced at 36.08%, up from 21.31% in November.

But opposition parties have questioned the Turkish Statistical Institute’s independence and its data is being challenged. Independent experts at Inflation Research Group, or ENAG, say Turkey’s actual annual inflation for December was 82.81%.

On Saturday, Erdogan acknowledged the effects of high inflation, blaming it on “artificial fluctuations” of the Turkish lira in December. He said Turkey had taken precautions and stabilized the currency.

“You know our fight against interest rates. We will lower interest rates and we have done so,” he told supporters in northern Giresun province. “Know that inflation will also drop, it will decrease more.”

Turkey’s Central Bank revised its inflation predictions this week to 23.2% by the end of 2022 and down to 5% by the end of 2024. The statistics agency will announce the next round of inflation data on Feb. 3.

Erdogan also announced that former Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag would return to his post, replacing Abdulhamit Gul, who had served as minister since 2017 but resigned without saying why.

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Turkish leader names new statistics chief as inflation rises