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ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday slashed sales tax on dairy products, fruit, vegetables and other basic food items from 8 percent to 1 percent as inflation surges to a near 20-year high.

The rising cost of living has become a major source of public discontent in Turkey, where it is expected to feature prominently in next year’s presidential election. Inflation hit 48.69 percent in January, the highest level since Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted party stormed to power two decades ago.

Erdogan said the fall in VAT would apply to a host of products, including cooking oil and dried fruit. “All these reductions will help in our fight against inflation,” he said.

Protests are planned across Turkey this weekend over falling purchasing power. Last month, Erdogan changed the head of the state statistics agency Tuik for the fourth time since 2019.

Turkish media reported that he was unhappy with the inflation figures it published. The opposition and some economists believe that the official figures grossly underestimate the reality.

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