Independent group will continue to announce inflation rates despite possible sanctions

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The Inflation Research Group (ENAG) has pledged to continue publishing alternative inflation rates despite proposed legislation by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that punishes economics researchers for released unofficial data on indicators without first seeking approval from the country’s statistics agency, local media reported on Friday.

According to the draft law, Turkish economic researchers face up to three years in prison if they publish unofficial data on indicators without first seeking approval from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat).

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling AKP had planned to submit the bill to parliament this week but waited for officials to continue their work, two party officials told Bloomberg on Thursday on condition of anonymity.

Following the announcement of the bill, the Istanbul-based ENAG, established by a group of academics in 2020, announced on social media that it would continue to publish inflation data.

“ENAGroup will always share the [alternate] inflation rate with our people on this page,” the independent group said in a tweet on Thursday.

Led by economics professor Veysel Ulusoy, ENAG has been calculating the inflation rate in Turkey since September 2020 and sharing its figures, which are higher than the inflation rates reported by TurkStat, with the public.

The ENAG model can calculate inflation as frequently as hourly, which means it can fill in the gaps for researchers and investors, according to Professor Ulusoy. It weights the items in the same way as TurkStat, but excludes data on the prices of expenditure on health, education and alcoholic beverages.

ENAGroup reported an annual inflation rate of 142.63% in March, more than double the official figure of 61.14% for the same month.

TurkStat previously filed a criminal complaint against the group, accusing it of “deliberate defamation” of the institution and “misleading public opinion”.

Turkey’s economy is being tested by an earlier collapse in the value of the lira which triggered a surge in inflation. The rapid rise in prices worries the Erdoğan administration just over a year before the elections.

TurkStat has been increasingly criticized by opposition parties and government skeptics for failing to release accurate figures for important statistics such as inflation and unemployment, instead presenting statistics that do not reflect realities. of the market. The institute is accused of manipulating the figures in order to hide the extent of the country’s economic deterioration.

In 2019, opposition parties submitted parliamentary questions to then-Finance Minister Berat Albayrak over allegations that TurkStat altered inflation data for political reasons, allegations dismissed as groundless by the head of the institute.

Since April 2019, the head of TurkStat has been replaced four times by Erdoğan, leading to claims that Erdoğan was unhappy with TurkStat’s figures despite them being above his expectations.

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