To disguise fever flares, it may be tempting to break the thermometer. After the release of annual inflation figures, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sacked the head of the national statistics agency, according to a decree issued on Saturday.
The head of the National Statistics Office, Sait Erdal Dincer, has come under fire after releasing data in early January which put the annual inflation rate at 36.1%, its highest level in nineteen years.
President Erdogan did not explain his decision to appoint Erhan Cetinkaya, former vice-president of the Turkish banking regulator, as the new head of state statistics in his place.
Inflation soared to more than 36% over one year in December in Turkey, a record since September 2002, due to the fall of the Turkish lira. The opposition also believes that this figure is underestimated. According to her, the real increase in the cost of living is at least twice as high. She accuses the president of having contributed to the surge in prices by forcing the Turkish central bank to systematically lower its interest rates in recent months.
The Turkish lira in freefall
But President Erdogan, in an uncomfortable position eighteen months before the presidential election, continues to defend his choices.
The increase in consumer prices, more than seven times greater than the government’s initial target, at 13.58% in December alone, is explained by the drop of nearly 45% in the Turkish lira against the dollar in one year, despite the emergency measures announced by the Head of State in mid-December.
Aware of the damage caused not only to the economy but also to his confidence rating, Mr. Erdogan had promised in early January to “bring inflation back to single digits as soon as possible”.