BY ALAATTIN AKTAS
Our readers know this, but let’s emphasize it again: At daily DUNYA, we have a rigid principle. We play the game, we don’t play for one man. The man here is the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) management, which can change. Our concern is to encourage the institute to release the most accurate results on behalf of the public.
Daily DUNYA Ankara Representative Maruf Buzcugil and I met with TurkStat Chairman Sait Erdal Dincer in recent days. I participated in the interview online. We asked a range of questions and, Chairman Dincer and his team answered.
Today, I would like to convey to you the viewpoint of TurkStat Chairman Dincer regarding the institution, per my observations.
There is a belief commonly held about TurkStat that is not easy to change, and perhaps will never change:
“They’re going to make inflation look low again, they always do that. The politician gives orders, and they execute them!”
This is neither a new judgement judgment nor will it change any time soon. Everyone has their own perception of inflation, and therefore, everyone sneers at the rate announced by TurkStat unless it coincides with their own idea of what inflation is.
I asked TurkStat Chairman Sait Erdal Dincer about this:
“If the inflation rate was calculated and came to you and you found the rate high, would you instruct people to, ‘Fix it up a bit’?”
He was just about to answer when I continued my question:
“Or, the rate is reasonable for you, but the authorities expect a lower rate. In that case, would you say to your employees, ‘Friends, we need to lower this rate a little bit?”
He smiled and said, “Listen Alaattin Bey, let’s say I’m in business and have done wrong by someone in a trade. After a while, that person is going to treat me the same way. This time I will be the one who is wronged. After all of this, we can come together, shake hands and write off each other’s debts.”
“However, with inflation, I am responsible for 84 million people. If I make a mistake, I will be unfair to 84 million Turkish people. You know, millions of employees get pay raises according to the inflation we announce. Now, it’s almost like playing with the income of those people, which is unfair. Is it possible for me to do this, to take on such a responsibility?” he asked.
He also pointed to the number of people working in TurkStat who would be able to cry foul. “I am sitting on this chair now, but someone else will be sitting here in the near future. No matter who the President is, do you think that the hundreds of people working in the department of inflation calculation at TurkStat would tolerate a very different statement from the rate they put forward, and would not speak up about this?”
President Dincer asks for trust in TurkStat. That is, of course, his god-given right.
However, there has been distrust for years. The institution has been so corrupted that people think that inflation is calculated by products that are irrelevant to daily life, such as chains, wedges, and ping pong balls. Even though TurkStat explains which goods and services it uses to calculate, what their weight is in the index, and what prices and exchange rates they use each month, it is not possible to destroy this urban myth. These are statistics after all, not a state secret!
This is what has been argued over the years, with a few answers:
“TurkStat actually calculates inflation high, but the low rate is announced due to pressure.”
Well, is it ever considered how it is that the correct number never leaks from the institution?
TurkStat will declare inflation lower than calculated for years, but no one working there will tell this to their spouse, friend, or a member of the press.
We are talking about statistical data; not an institution where state secrets are kept!
Asserting that a calculation has been made incorrectly is one thing, saying that the calculation was done correctly but the official rate falsified is another.
We can certainly claim the former and find evidence to back this up. But the second is a bold claim. We can say this, too, but let’s ask ourself one question: “What kind of an institution is TurkStat that it has managed to hide the correct rates for years without leaking them?”