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Erdoğan, TurkStat under fire after release of data on record level of inflation

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Turkey’s opposition party leaders have expressed outrage over the record level of inflation, which soared to 78.6 percent in June, according to official data, while voicing disbelief about the accuracy of the official figures released by Turkey’s statistics agency.

The inflation rate reported by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) on Monday was the highest since January 1998, but unofficial estimates published by the Inflation Research Group (ENAG), an independent group of academics and economists, showed prices rising at more than double that figure, standing at 175.5 percent in June.

Leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, referring to the huge discrepancy between the figures released by TurkStat and ENAG, said prices in the supermarkets show which of the figures is accurate and reflect the truth.

Kılıçdaroğlu tweeted “this lie” by TurkStat about the rate of inflation is depriving public servants and pensioners of the necessary increases in their salaries and monthly pensions because the rate of inflation is taken into consideration when adjusting them.

TurkStat has been receiving growing criticism from opposition parties and government skeptics for not releasing accurate figures for important statistics such as inflation and unemployment, instead, presenting statistics that fail to reflect the market realities. The institute is accused of manipulating the numbers in order to mask the scale of the country’s economic deterioration.

Ali Babacan, leader of the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), a former deputy prime minister and economy minister from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), also voiced disbelief about the inflation rate released by TurkStat.

“We go shopping at supermarkets and bazaars. And we can see the real rate of inflation, which has reached almost 200 percent,” he tweeted.

Since April 2019 the head of TurkStat has been replaced four times by Erdoğan, leading to claims that Erdoğan was not pleased with the TurkStat figures when they were higher than his expectations.

Leader of the İYİ (Good) Party Meral Akşener directed criticism at President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for his financial policies, which she said are responsible for the record level of inflation. She said the inflation forecast for the year 2022 was 9.8 percent and that it’s now 78.6 percent, even according to official figures. Akşener said the figures show the failure of Erdoğan and his government to foresee the economic downturn.

A controversial policy pursued by Erdoğan to keep interest rates low, claiming they are the “mother and father of all evil,” is cited as one of the main reasons behind the skyrocketing inflation in the country. Central banks normally raise rates to tame inflation.

Erdoğan has claimed his unorthodox thinking on monetary policy is part of a “war of economic independence” which aims to move Turkey away from relying on foreign capital inflows.

The cost of living crisis could put pressure on his government’s hopes for victory ahead of a general election expected in 2023.

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