Mecca Trips Oust Music as Turkey Adjusts Inflation Index

Turkey’s consumers now spend more of their budget on pilgrimages to Mecca than they do on vacuum cleaners, compact discs or rice flour, according to new weightings in the official inflation index.

The national statistics office today released inflation figures for the month of January, calculated by tracking the changing price of a selected basket of consumer goods. The basket is determined by surveying households about their top expenditures and now includes tablet computers, blank DVDs and a round trip to Mecca for the first time this year.

The inclusion of the pilgrimage comes after respondents to surveys said more than 0.1 percent of their expenditures went to the trips, Birol Aydemir, the head of the statistical agency, said in an interview in Ankara today. The new calculation is based on a pilgrimage to Mecca called umrah that Muslims can take at any time of the year, as opposed to the hajj, which must happen during a certain month.

Inclusion of the religious pilgrimages is a reflection of Turkey’s changing cultural profile under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development, or AK party, which has its roots in political Islam, according to Emre Deliveli, a Turkish economist who writes for Roubini Global Economics’ EconoMonitor and the Hurriyet Daily News.

“The number of Turks going to umrah has increased massively in the past decade,” Deliveli said in an interview in Istanbul today. “The figures prove that the AKP’s implicit economic policy of enriching their conservative voter base has been hugely successful.”

Some 1.7 million Turks made the trip to Saudi Arabia’s holy places in 2012, according to Turkey’s state-run news agency on Jan. 21, which cited figures from Saudi Arabia’s hajj ministry. That compares with fewer than 20,000 Turks making the trip in 2001, the year before Erdogan’s party came to power, according to an article in Sabah newspaper in May of last year.

Inflation accelerated to 7.48 percent year-on-year in January, the highest rate since October on an annual basis.

To contact the reporters on this story: Isobel Finkel in Istanbul at ifinkel1@bloomberg.net; Ali Berat Meric in Ankara at americ@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dale Crofts at dcrofts@bloomberg.net

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