Rob the audience with stats! – Aziz Çelik (BirGün) – Syndicate.Org

Preparing prison sentences for those who leak statistics without TÜİK’s permission is an unscientific attempt. Scientific research is a universal right and cannot be subject to political authorization. All labor income in the country is indexed to TUIK data. TurkStat not only explains statistics, it determines the bread of citizens.

Are those who release statistics without the permission of the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) sentenced to prison? This question was on the agenda last week. According to a report by journalist Fikret Kozok published on Bloomberg on April 14, 2022, researchers risk up to 3 years in prison if they publish unofficial data without TURKSTAT’s approval. According to the bill seen by Bloomberg, publication of any data on any platform will be blocked unless its methodology is approved by TURKSTAT.

No bill has yet been submitted to Parliament on this issue. So we don’t know the details. However, the news has not been denied by TURKSTAT or AKP officials so far. It is highly likely that such a preparation exists. Therefore, it is not enough to dwell on this serious initiative and mentality. TURKSTAT previously filed a criminal complaint against ENAGrup, which announced an inflation rate different from the official inflation rate, for “deliberate defamation of the institution” and “misleading the public”. Apparently, they are not content with this denunciation and aim to completely silence alternative statistical voices.

Survey of statistics?

This bill is a sort of statistical inquisition attempt. The research methodology will be subject to TÜİK’s approval, and those who publish statistics without TÜİK’s approval will be sentenced to imprisonment for up to 3 years. You must submit your method for TURKSTAT’s approval, otherwise you will end up in jail! We do not know if this rational, illegal and unscientific practice was suggested by TÜİK or by some members of the AKP. However, considering the intolerant practice of TÜİK against alternative statistics, it is possible to think that TÜİK is also involved in this initiative.

Survey-based data published by TÜİK in areas such as labor markets and inflation have long been questioned by the public. There are justified and widespread criticisms of Turkstat, especially regarding unemployment and inflation data. It has often come out that TURKSTAT has not accurately reflected price increases in recent months. For example, ENAGrup announced an annual inflation rate of 142.63% in March, compared to the official rate of 61.14% announced by TURKSTAT. It is known that there are differences between the price increases of various institutions that perform inflation calculations within a limited scope, but not at this level, and TURKSTAT. Food inflation, calculated by Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, Istanbul Wage Livelihood Index and Turk-Is, is higher than TURKSTAT rates. On the other hand, DİSK-AR performs calculations for low-income groups and pensioners using TÜİK raw data and achieves higher rates than TÜİK’s average inflation rate.

TurkStat is the biggest employer!

I have written several times before that TURKSTAT is the biggest employer in the country. Because the inflation rates announced by TURKSTAT are the basic criteria for workers’ salaries, civil servants’ salaries and pensions. All labor income in the country is somehow indexed to TUIK data. TURKSTAT not only explains statistics, it determines the fate of citizens, it determines their bread. Reducing the inflation rate by a few points means a huge loss of income for workers. It means toying with the bread of the people. When you explain that the inflation is low, the pensioner receives a lower salary, the salaries of civil servants increase less and the worker receives less increase. The public is robbed by statistics. It is possible to rob the public with fake statistics and fake data.

In fact, everyone knows that this is possible with various methodological interventions. Many interventions are possible, both to determine the inflation basket and to know where and how prices are collected. TURKSTAT is a deeply rooted institution and has a very valuable staff, but it would be a bit naive to believe that TurkStat is a pure data collection institution and to believe that it is far from political interventions and considerations. The top management of TÜİK is appointed and dismissed by the political power. For this reason, it is extremely important to audit TurkStat data. One of the ways to achieve this is to open the data and application details of TURKSTAT to the inspection of the scientific world and various social organizations. However, it is known that TURKSTAT does not address a stand-alone internal audit process. The advisory councils on labor markets and inflation, created in 2021, were quickly disbanded.

If he is confident, let him argue scientifically.

TurkStat does not allow relatively autonomous advisory councils within it and acts intolerant of or ignores criticism from independent research institutes. However, the existence of independent research institutions is a guarantee within TURKSTAT. It serves as a warning against the mistakes and mistakes they will make for political and administrative reasons. I wish there were more independent research institutions.

There are research institutes that publish various statistical indicators similar to the statistical data announced by TURKSTAT or using raw data. For example, the DISK research center has been calculating and publishing general unemployment data since 2010. In doing so, Turkstat uses raw data. However, TurkStat refrained from reporting a general unemployment rate until 2021. It stubbornly ignored such claims. However, DISK-AR’s persistent calculations led to the formation of public opinion. Over time, other economists began to use this ratio. In fact, the narrowly defined standard unemployment rates announced by TUIK during the pandemic period have become highly unreliable. In the face of mounting public pressure, TURKSTAT began reporting broad unemployment rates as “idle labor” from March 2021. Without DİSK-AR’s insistence, TÜİK would continue to announce narrowly defined unemployment rates. The same is true for inflation rates. Without the inflation rates announced by ENAGrup, TurkStat could have announced lower inflation rates.

TURKSTAT may subject data from institutions that disclose data different from their own data to scientific review. If TURKSTAT thinks this data is inaccurate and its methodology is flawed, it should share its assessments with the public. Those who publish alternative studies should also respond. It’s the only thing to do. The discussion of scientific research takes place on scientific platforms. TURKSTAT has a large number of specialists with doctorates and a large number of qualified personnel. If they think the alternative method of calculating inflation is wrong, let them make a full assessment. So far, I haven’t seen any scientific answer given by TUIK regarding alternative calculations. The explanations provided consist of two-line repudiation statements.

If TurkStat wants to defend its own methodology and criticize alternative methodologies, the paths are clear. You make complete explanations, you make scientific publications through your experts, you meet and discuss with your detractors during scientific meetings. Those who think their methods are good do so. Showing a stick, threatening imprisonment, is helplessness. It is clear how scientific research will be conducted and how field research will be conducted. There are universally accepted standards and principles in this regard. Academic ethics committees carry out this audit. The result of field research is presented to the scientific public in a thesis or a scientific article and is discussed there. This is the method. Allowing scientific research and threatening unofficial research in prison are typical products of the autocratic mentality.

Scientific research is a fundamental right

This attempt, in addition to being powerless, is illegal. The abandonment of scientific research with the authorization of the administrative authorities is a flagrant violation of the Constitution and of the European Convention on Human Rights. Conducting scientific research and publishing its results is a basic human right. This right is guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right includes freedom of opinion and the freedom to receive and impart information and opinions without interference from public authorities and regardless of national borders. According to Articles 26 and 27 of the Constitution, everyone has freedom of expression and scientific research. According to Article 27, everyone has the right to learn and teach science and art freely, to explain, disseminate and do all kinds of research in these fields.

Advice to TÜİK: If you don’t want doubt to grow on you, explain that you are against this illegal and unscientific initiative. Ensure transparency about the data you collect. There is great controversy over price statistics, for example. Explain where and when you collected the data. Let the price data you describe be controllable. Thus, it can be seen that your data is compatible with daily life data. It is not difficult to publish this data electronically. Let this be your first job. Not just the prices of goods and services in May 2022. Also explain where you got them from. Quit vacancies, legal and unscientific jobs. Do your work. Make scientific explanations, make scientific criticisms.

Source: One day

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