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Turkey’s Erdogan Fires Statistics Chief After Record Inflation


ISTANBUL—Turkish President

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

replaced the head of the state statistics agency weeks after it reported record inflation, which added to anger in the country over its economic woes, and appointed another member of the ruling party as justice minister.

The presidential orders, published early Saturday, come as Mr. Erdogan narrows the circle of advisers around him during an economic crisis in which Turkey’s currency lost some 40% of its value last year. The Turkish president has fired a series of senior officials who opposed his unorthodox approach in which he has insisted on cutting interest rates to spur economic growth despite rampant inflation.

The president of the Turkish statistical institute,

Sait Dincer,

was removed from office and replaced by

Erhan Cetinkaya,

who had been deputy president of Turkey’s Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency.

The decision comes after the institute reported that inflation had surged to 36.08% last month, Turkey’s highest rate since 2002 and currently one of the highest in the world.

The official inflation report confirmed the fears of economists that a series of interest-rate cuts demanded by Mr. Erdogan would further raise the prices of basic goods including food, medicine and fuel in a crisis that has heaped economic pressure on middle- and working-class Turks.

“I am responsible for 84 million people while calculating inflation. If I sign under any wrongdoing I would be cheating 84 million people of their rights,” Mr. Dincer said in an interview published in Turkish newspaper Dunya on Jan. 20.

Independent economists have also calculated that Turkey’s true inflation rate could be as high as 82%.

As the Federal Reserve and other central banks around the world deal with rising inflation amid the economic recovery from the pandemic, Turkey — where the rate is currently over 20% — offers a warning. Soaring inflation has led to economic turmoil after years of broad growth. Photo: Sedat Suna/Shutterstock

Meanwhile, Justice Minister

Abdulhamit Gul

resigned and was replaced with former Justice Minister

Bekir Bozdag,

a longtime member of Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party who currently heads Parliament’s Constitutional Commission.

Mr. Gul, who had been justice minister since 2017, tweeted that he was grateful to Mr. Erdogan but didn’t say why he resigned.

The replacement of Messrs. Gul and Dincer is the latest shake-up within the Turkish government as Mr. Erdogan has moved to install loyalists in key positions while weakening institutions that previously had a degree of independence from the presidency.

Mr. Erdogan fired the governor of the central bank last year after he refused to comply with his demands for interest-rate cuts. He also replaced a finance minister who officials said was one of the last proponents of mainstream economic policies within the government.

The collapse of the Turkish lira last year sparked a series of protests and a drop in Mr. Erdogan’s polling numbers as ordinary Turks spoke out against their declining purchasing power and vanishing savings.

Corrections & Amplifications
The president of the Turkish statistical institute, Sait Dincer, was removed from office. An earlier version of this article misspelled his name as Suat Dincer. (Corrected on Dec. 29)

Write to Jared Malsin at jared.malsin@wsj.com

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