Although Turkey’s inflation climbed to its highest level since 1998 according to official data, hitting an annual 73.5 percent in May, Finance Minister Nureddin Nebati appears undisturbed by the record level of inflation, claiming it is actually starting to go down.
The Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) released inflation data for May on Friday that showed the month-on-month consumer index rose by 2.98 percent in May. The inflation figure released by TurkStat, however, has been disputed by the Inflation Research Group (ENAG), an independent group of academics and economists working on key data that map economic performance. ENAG said on Friday that the country’s month-on-month consumer prices rose 5.46 percent, while annual inflation jumped to 160.76 percent in May.
“The inflation figures announced today reveal that the rise of inflation has slowed. While the consumer price index rose by 7.25 percent month-on-month in April, it has fallen to 2.98 percent in May, meaning it’s starting to decrease,” said Nebati.
Nebati, who was appointed as minister of treasury and finance by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in December, is notorious for his controversial statements, which disregard the poor performance of Turkey’s economy.
The Turkish currency declined 44 percent last year, mostly after a series of rate cuts, long sought by President Erdoğan, which sparked a currency crisis and sent inflation to a 24-year high.
For example, Nebati drew criticism and ridicule on social media for using Islamic-nationalist rhetoric when talking about annual inflation, which in February reached 54.4 percent, a two-decade high at the time.
“Good things will always come to this country. Don’t worry about it. Don’t feel sad. We all have an ideal. Our flag won’t touch the ground and the adhan [call to prayer] won’t be silenced,” the minister said.
The minister’s remarks on the flag and the call to prayer, which are frequently used by members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in times of crisis, led many to believe that his replacement was imminent.
He was also ridiculed on social media right after his appointment in December for asking a reporter to look into his eyes and tell him what she saw when asked during an interview to provide information on the country’s new economic plan.
“The statistics are so good. Look into my eyes, Ms. Gülçin. What do you see?” the minister said in answer to a question by news anchor Gülçin Üstün Can regarding data on the country’s economy plan, announced back then, during an interview on the state-run TRT Haber.