Statistics, against Erdogan

There are half-truths, lies and statistics. The latter are also flammable materials in Turkey, where everyone has their opinion on the recent dismissal of the head of the Statistical Office. For some, less from lack of rigor than from excess of zeal.

The fact is that shortly after certifying that the country was suffering the worst price hike in two decades, Sait Erdal Dinçer was removed from office by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He appointed Erhan Çetinkaya, former vice-president of the banking regulator, in his place.

Inflation hovers around 50%

Turks want to believe that the stabilization of the lira will lead to the stabilization of prices

Although the reason for the dismissal has not been clarified, the January inflation announcement has already been made by the new chief. This equates to 48.7% per year, according to the latest published data. A figure that justifies – or cancels, depending on the point of view – the 50% increase in the minimum wage by 2022, decreed by Erdogan in December. The state covers part of the increase, which puts the salary received by some six million Turks – including in industry – at 4,250 liras. In exchange, 275 euros.

For Turks, who for months have had an anxious breakfast with their currency depreciating and prices rising, it was small consolation that official figures backed up their pocket perception. Although some analysts believe that actual inflation could be almost double the official one.

Two young Turkish women are looking for cheap clothes in a store

Moe Zoyari/Bloomberg

A month ago, Dinçer declared that it was due “to 84 million Turks” in the face of pressure from some and accusations from others. Opposition leader Kemal Kiliçdaroglu said the Statistics Office, which he had unsuccessfully tried to access, had become “an annex to the palace”.

Dinçer’s replacement, after a year, joins the three governors of the Central Bank who have succeeded each other in less than thirty months. For Erdogan’s critics, he is tripping up anyone who opposes his heterodox economic policies, even with religiously tinged arguments against “usury”.

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The president cultivates SMEs, and the attacks of the bosses of big business reinforce him

The bosses of big business, Tüsiad, condemned their successive cuts in interest rates – now at 14% – below inflation. The increase in the money supply helped to sink the lira. However, small Anatolian entrepreneurs are gritting their teeth and continuing to align themselves with the Justice and Development Party (AKP), whose goal of becoming an exporting power is aided by the devaluation.

The lira depreciated by 45% against the dollar last year. Contrary to forecasts, her accelerated sinking came to a sudden halt at the end of December. Officially, due to the television appearance of Erdogan, announcing a mechanism that guarantees that deposits in lira will be revalued to the same extent as those collected in foreign currencies.

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Unofficially, several experts claim that, simultaneously, the central bank and the public banks have used more than seven billion dollars of their reserves to buy liras and reverse their decline. In any case, since then it has stabilized a little above 15 units per euro, having touched 20. In order not to lose faith, advertisements are published in which, after praising the Turkish workers, they are asked to show patriotism by saving liras.

To explain Turkey’s composure, it should be added that in the 1990s, average annual inflation was 80%. This year, the Minister of Finance, Nureddin Nebati, hopes “that it will not exceed 50%”. Nebati added that last year the economy “grew between 10% and 11%” – after also growing in 2020 – although this year it expects to grow by only half. He also predicted that inflation would peak in April and fall below 10% from June.

“The authoritarian alliance continues to harm my country”, condemned the former liberal Minister of Economy with the AKP Ali Babacan, today with his own party.

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