Leading Turkish economist questions inflation figures

Mafi Eğilmez, a top economist on Turkey, questioned the accuracy of official inflation data, underlining a disparity between increases in consumer and producer prices.

Producer price inflation in Turkey jumped to 31.2 percent in March from 27.1 percent the previous month, the Turkish Statistical Institute said on Monday. Consumer price inflation climbed to 16.2 percent from 15.6 percent, it said.

Eğilmez, who is a former Treasury undersecretary and World Bank official, pointed to a slump in the lira against the dollar and the euro over the past year averaging 32.6 percent, saying much of that increase had been reflected in producer prices. The same cannot be said for consumer price rises, he said on his website on Monday.

Turkish firms would normally be able to absorb any disparity between consumer and producer price inflation for some months before running into severe financial difficulties or filing for bankruptcy, he said. But such financial pressure is not reflected in company balance sheets, raising doubts over the accuracy of headline inflation figures, he said.

Independent calculations published by an institution called ENAGRUP, formed by Turkish academics, tracks monthly consumer price inflation. ENAGRUP started reporting their figures seven months ago, showing that prices climbed by 27.9 percent during the period, Eğilmez said. By that calculation, annual consumer price inflation in Turkey probably exceeds 35 percent, he said.  

Suspicion among the Turkish public about the official data is understandable, he said.