Erdoğan angered at inflation data; statistics chief could depart - report

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has become angered at the national statistics institute (TÜİK) after it reported inflation data for December, possibly endangering the job of its chief, the Diken news website reported citing a source from the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP).

There has been an artificial increase in inflation in Turkey “resulting from attacks” and the institute did not emphasise this enough when reporting the data, the source said, according to Diken. Erdoğan has been forced to correct this mistake in his statements, he said.

When asked whether the institute’s president Sait Erdal Dinçer may be forced to resign, the source said:

"If these errors are corrected when the next data is announced, why resign? While every data in the economy tends to improve, inflation will also slow. I believe we will see this when the institute shares this data. However, persisting in the mistake will amplify the reaction of our president.”

Turkish inflation surged to 36.1 percent in December, TÜİK reported earlier this month. That was the highest level since 2002. Prices are increasing sharply in Turkey after the lira slumped in value against foreign currencies in the final three months of last year.

The source was responding to speculation in the Turkish media that the head of a high-profile institution in Turkey had handed in his resignation, Diken said.

“A very, very important resignation took place in the past few days,” Fatih Altaylı, a columnist for the Haberturk news website, said on Tuesday. The institution in question has been criticised from time to time, and the “processing” of the resignation will depend on whether its performance this month is “appreciated”, Altaylı said.

Erdoğan has sacked and replaced dozens of senior members of TÜİK since he acquired vast new presidential powers at elections in 2018. The dismissals have raised concern among economists about the accuracy of economic data.

Columnist Murat Yetkin said on Wednesday that Dinçer and central bank governor Şahap Kavcıoğlu were the first names that came to mind when he read the comments by Altaylı. “As you know, these resignations are first denied, and then you see that with a midnight decree, the "dismissal from office" is accepted by Erdoğan,” he said.

When asked whether Kavcıoğlu might be the person to resign, the AKP source said “Why would he be."

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