Three months after Turkey’s president Erdogan fired his statistics chief as inflation hit a mere 36%, now that inflation has almost doubled since then, the latest official in charge of compiling Turkish inflation statistics has decided to do the smart thing and step down on his own, becoming the latest prominent departure at an institution that’s facing harsh criticism over the reliability of its economic data.
On Friday, the Turkish Statistical Institute said Cem Bas resigned as head of the department of price statistics for “health reasons.” Furkan Metin, who previously oversaw the digital transformation and projects department at the agency known as TurkStat, has replaced Bas, who’ll remain on staff in a lower-profile role.
The personnel change, first reported by Bloomberg, adds to a period of ongoing turmoil at TurkStat, whose president was replaced in January less than a year after his appointment.
Turkish inflation data has been in the spotlight at a time when consumer prices are exploding at the fastest pace since the turn of the century, a key concern for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government just over a year before elections.
Furthermore, according to Bloomberg, concerns have swirled among researchers over what they call a divergence between the agency’s price statistics and the surge in the cost of living felt by wage earners. While TurkStat reported an annual inflation of 70% in April, ENAGroup, an independent group of scholars who’ve put together an alternative consumer price index, put the figure at as high as 157%.
While both numbers are ridiculous, what is even more ridiculous is that until recently the central bank was cutting rates to avoid angering the president whose “Erdoganomics” theory of upside down economics recommends cutting rates when inflation rises, effectively setting the country on a path to suicide, something the Turkish lira has clearly grasped, as it has resumed plunging after cratering in 2021 and only a massive intervention by the central bank preventing an all-out economic collapse.
The government is meanwhile seeking to pass legislation that would bar independent researchers from publishing their own data without seeking approval from TurkStat and potentially face a jail term if they violate the law. That should answer any questions whether the government or the shadow stat inflation data is the correct one.