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Turkey in a Week, November 12 2018

The Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) has announced the monthly and annual inflation rate on Monday, November 5. The data shows that the month to month inflation scored a 2,67 per cent high, raising the annual core rate to 24,34 per cent. Overall 25 per cent inflation rate is the highest in the last fifteen years. The delayed effects of the exchange rate surges starting by May of this year that have itself felt gradually through the course of the year finally  hit this high level.

Having been alarmed by the rising trend the government had initiated a program for fighting inflation. In addition the tax cuts had been also extended for six more topics including housing sales, furniture, motor vehicles (most strikingly the VAT on commercial vehicles were lowered from 18 to 1 per cent). The same day the cuts were announced the Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak had said that “the worst is over.” However, exactly the same statement was repeated after the inflation rates were revealed on Monday.

Meanwhile the producer price index has also continued to trend above 45 per cent. That signals forthcoming rise in the core inflation rate and means that it is doubtful to attain Central Banks latest estimate of the year-end rate of 23.5 per cent. Economists argue that even though the target is achieved the delayed effects will be felt in 2019 (see Ayça Onuralmış’s report on halagazeteciyiz.net).

On the other side of the coin, Turkey’s current account showed a surplus in both August and September of this year. The surplus amounting to $1.83 billion has decreased the 12 month rolling deficit to $46 billion as of September. This improvement, however, can be attributed to the recession and the fall in total demand. The new economic program announced in September had estimated the current account deficit to GDP ratio as 4.7 per cent for 2018 and 3.3 per cent for 2019. Some economists argue that contrary to these expectations, the fall in the growth rate, which has been maintained so far by high levels of aggregate demand, may well offset the improvement and even increase this rate in 2019.

On November 9, an explosion caused by a defective ammo blast at a military base in Hakkari claimed seven lives and another 25 soldiers were injured. A major fire on the base could only be controlled after several hours of struggle. The minister of Defense Hulusi Akar said that the explosion was an unfortunate accident and there was no other external cause involved in the incident.

The 80th anniversary of the passing of Republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk on 10th of November, again raised tensions between the opposition and the government. A long lasting and frequently emerging question regarding the governments attitude towards Kemalist foundations of the republic and its legacy, that is seen disrespectful by the opposition had already been on the news for some weeks. There has been a divide in the alliance between the ruling JDP and the NAP regarding the supreme court’s decision for the reinstatement of the “youth’s pledge” and the government’s resistance to abide by the ruling. This week, this time between JDP and the RPP, the tension was marked by an official visit of the head of the Directorate of Religious Affair, Ali Erbaş to a peculiar and controversial public figure (Kadir Mısırlıoğlu, aka Kadir the Fez bearer, for his choice of, least to say, unusual headwear supposedly in defiance of the clothing code of the early republic) known for his attacks and utter disrespectfulness both to the regime’s modernist essence and its founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The directorate has officially announced the visit on its website. RPP spokesperson Faik Öztrak demanded immediate resignation of the head of the Directorate. The vice president of the GP (Good Party), Ümit Özdağ reminded one of Mısırlıoğlu’s previous comments that openly asserts that he would prefer Greek occupation to the modernist Turkish revolution, and demanded an official apology from the head of the directorate.

President Erdoğan had announced that the Turkish government shared the tape recordings as evidence in the Khashoggi murder with Saudi, US, German, French and British governments. However, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drain claimed that the French government had not received any tape recordings and in response to a question argued that President Erdoğan was cooking a political intrigue. Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in response, denied the allegations and condemned French minister’s comments as outrageous.

Throughout the week the Political parties have been busy determining their candidates for the the coming local elections. The headlines included possible candidates for especially Ankara and İstanbul and party members’ various responses. Mansur Yavaş has been named by more than one party’s Ankara candidate. Yavaş is a popular candidate, who had been nominated for Ankara by the social democrat RPP despite the fact that he had a right wing political career. His name is again mentioned not only with the RPP but also central right GP and even ruling JDP. The JDP on the other hand seems to consider prominent figures for Ankara and İstanbul such as former Prime Minister, former Vice Prime Minister and Government’s Spokesperson and former Interior Minister.


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