Turkey denies claims it toyed with lira-dollar rate to inflate GDP

Turkey’s statistics office denied claims published on social media that it manipulated data for economic output by using a more preferential exchange rate for the lira against the dollar.

The allegations are baseless, the Turkish Statistical Institute said on its website on Tuesday.

The Ankara-based authority said the lira-dollar rate it used for calculating 2018 gross domestic product in figures published this week differed from the central bank rate by 0.1 lira per dollar. The so-called discrepancy was due to the use of an import-weighted currency calculation, a method which has remained constant, in assessing the country’s GDP, it said.

Turkey’s economy has contracted for two straight quarters, meaning the country has now entered a technical recession, according to data published by the Turkish Statistical Institute on Monday. The downturn, plus a drop in the lira against the dollar, meant that Turkey’s GDP last year fell to $784 billion from $851 billion in 2017, according to the institute’s data.

Economist Mustafa Sönmez was among those who highlighted the discrepancy between the two lira-dollar rates in social media posts on Tuesday, suggesting it made dollar GDP calculations look questionable.

Suspicion that the statistics office might be under political pressure was raised in October when Enver Taştı, a senior bureaucrat in charge of collating inflation figures, was ousted on the day that data showed consumer price inflation jumping to 24.5 percent from 17.9 percent. Yinal Yağan, Taştı’s replacement, had previously worked closely with Turkish Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law.