Turkish president sacks statistics chief as inflation tension escalates
Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sacked the head of the national statistical institute after reports of tension between them over the country’s inflation data.
A decree published in the country’s official gazette early on Saturday morning announced the removal of Sait Erdal Dincer, after the official rate of inflation reached a 19-year high of 36 per cent in December. He had served just 10 months in the role.
He was replaced by Erhan Cetinkaya, who was previously a vice-chair of the country’s banking regulator.
Erdogan, a life-long opponent of high interest rates, rejects the economic orthodoxy that raising interest rates helps to curb inflation, arguing that low rates will usher in price stability.
He ordered the central bank to cut interest rates four times in the final months of last year and the Turkish lira plummeted in value.
The removal of Dincer comes after weeks of speculation in the Turkish media about friction between him and Erdogan over the rising official inflation rate.
At the same time, TurkStat has come under heavy pressure from opposition parties, who have accused it of manipulating the data to show inflation at an artificially low rate.
Dincer rejected that claim earlier this month. “With the inflation data, I have a responsibility to 84m people,” he told the Turkish business newspaper Dunya. “If I sign off on an error, I will do an injustice to 84m people. As you know, millions of workers get a pay rise on the basis of the inflation that we announce. To tamper with those people’s incomes, to deprive them of their rights . . . I would not do that.”
The agency is due to announce January’s inflation rate on February 3.
Nureddin Nebati, the country’s finance minister, reportedly told a meeting of economists in Istanbul last weekend that he expected inflation to peak at 40 per cent in the months ahead.
Goldman Sachs, the US investment bank, forecasts annual consumer price inflation will have reached 48 per cent in January.
Erdogan also accepted the resignation of his justice minister, Abdulhamit Gul, according to the official gazette. He replaced him with Bekir Bozdag, who has served two previous stints in the role.