‘Dodgy data’ used by Erdogan to cover up true state of economy will be probed says Kilicdaroglu

‘Dodgy data’ used by Erdogan to cover up true state of economy will be probed says Kilicdaroglu
Given concerns over the veracity of TUIK's official Turkish inflation data, many media outlets also make reference to alternative price growth readings from Istanbul inflation research group ENAG. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelIiNews May 9, 2023

Turkey’s official economic data is untrustworthy and is used by the administration of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to cover up the true state of the economy and the country’s finances, according to Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who this coming weekend on May 14 will challenge the strongman for the presidency in the Turkish elections.

Kilicdaroglu outlined the accusation in an interview with Bloomberg in which he also called for an investigation into Turkey’s stock exchange, which he said had been turned “into a robbery tool.”

This publication several years ago lost faith in Turkey’s inflation data as presented by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TUIK, or TurkStat), with the numbers neither corresponding to the reality experienced by households nor compiled with standard methodology. Surveys have shown that most Turks suspect that the data is inaccurate and nowadays many media outlets look out not just for the official inflation announcement, but also for the bulletin from ENAG, an Istanbul-based inflation research group run by economists, which each month gives its own assessment of the realities of rampant price growth in Turkey. Also clearly suspect in bne IntelliNews’ assessment is Turkey’s GDP data. As far back as September 2017, Germany’s Commerzbank, in a report entitled “Turkey – Are you kidding me?”, ignited a quarrel by claiming that Turkey’s official growth figures were “more than questionable”.

In October 2020, a former head of TUIK turned opposition politician, Birol Aydemi, told Bloomberg that Turkish economic data were “detached from reality” with statistics officials picked for their loyalty to the Erdogan administration rather than merit.

In his interview, Kilicdaroglu, who is the joint presidential election candidate of the six-party Nation Alliance and has been endorsed by the pro-Kurdish minority Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said that if elected, his government would set up a team to ascertain the economic damage undermining Turkey and understand what’s really happening in the economy. As things stood, Kilicdaroglu added, his team even lacked visibility on the central bank and state lenders.

“The numbers in Turkey are not transparent, they are not accurate,” he was quoted as saying. “We do not have enough information on our obligations, commitments, or income and expenditure.”

Kilicdaroglu’s remarks came amid reports that investors’ expectations of him achieving a first-round victory over Erdogan have risen, with the sentiment boosting stocks of Turkish banks and holding companies.

TUIK told Bloomberg in a statement: “TurkStat produces and publishes data that conforms to international standards and is in line with the principles of reliability, consistency, impartiality, statistical discretion, topicality, transparency, science and comparison.”

With Turkish stocks sinking deeper into a bear market, Kilicdaroglu was also cited as saying that his government would make a priority of probing Borsa Istanbul.

“I know how small savers are robbed, vacuumed, shaken up,” he said. “That’s why we will launch the first investigation there.”

At rallies, Kilicdaroglu has declared that he would sell the president’s private jets and use the money for the benefit of the public, while last year he pledged to turn Erdogan’s luxury, 1,000-room presidential complex into a “museum of squandering”.