Turkey's statistics chief defends accuracy of inflation data

Turkey’s statistics institute defended the accuracy of its inflation data amid criticism that the figures do not reflect the true pace of price increases in the country.

Sait Erdal Dinçer, appointed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as head of the agency in March, said it was not the institute’s job to measure the cost of living in Turkey, which varied from individual to individual.

“The institution is often unfairly accused,” Dinçer told the Dunya newspaper in an interview published on Tuesday. “Our aim is to serve the country with completely scientific methods, in line with Eurostat standards, and to produce the most accurate and reliable information.”

Turkey’s consumer price inflation rate surged to 36.1 percent last month, the highest level since 2002. Some economists and observers have criticised the institute for underestimating the true level of inflation. Surveys of the general public show that people believe inflation is far higher than official calculations.

Dinçer said agency officials measure inflation by going to the same retail outlets over the space of a year, compiling data from items with the same product description and brands. The institute visits outlets with the highest turnover in each region, he said.

“Prices, which are entered by our surveyors with tablets in neighbourhood markets, cannot be interfered with in any way,” he said.

Doubts about the accuracy of economic data published by the institute have intensified due to a raft of staff changes at the official body, enacted by presidential decree. At the time of his appointment, Dinçer was the fourth head of the institute to be hired in less than three years.

Dinçer said the institute measures 1.1 million data items per day from five chain markets and receives monthly product-based turnover and quantity data via a developing barcode system. The institute does not measure prices on certain days of the month, he said.

The agency hopes to measure 50 percent of product prices via the new barcode system in 2022, he said.  

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