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How Turkey used math to drastically boost its economy

A 20% upward revision in the size of the Turkish economy will notably improve the country’s economic profile on paper, but not without controversy over the new calculation method and the discrepancies it created.

The Turkish Statistical Institute (TUIK), an official agency attached to the prime minister’s office, had announced a while ago its intention to change the calculation method used to determine the country’s main economic indicators. The new method was to be based on ESA2010, the European Union’s accounting framework, to align with the way EU countries calculated their gross domestic product (GDP). With this explanation at hand, the planned change seemed necessary and reasonable.

On Dec. 12, however, the release of the new GDP data sparked myriad objections and criticism disputing the scientific merits and objectivity of the way the revision was made. Pundits had been especially curious about the third-quarter growth rate, which was expected to be in the negative. So it turned out, but according to the TUIK, the economy contracted 1.8% in the third quarter, well beyond the 0.5% expected in line with earlier data sets. Then the entire picture painted by the new calculation method raised questions, both in terms of methodology and consistency.

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