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turkmenistan

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  TURKMENISTAN

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km)
488,100

Population
4,483,300

Principal
ethnic groups

Turkmens 77%
Uzbeks 9.2%
Russians 6.7%

Capital
Ashkhabad

Currency
Turkman Manat

President
Saparmurat Niyazov

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Background:
Annexed by Russia between 1865 and 1885, Turkmenistan became a Soviet republic in 1925. It achieved its independence upon the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. President NIYAZOV retains absolute control over the country and opposition is not tolerated. Extensive hydrocarbon/natural gas reserves could prove a boon to this underdeveloped country if extraction and delivery projects can be worked out.

UPDATE January 2002

Turkmenistan is the one former Soviet republic bordering Afghanistan that is not known to be helping the US with bases for its troops. It is, indeed, keeping a low profile in the crisis. Nevertheless, its president, Saparmurat Niyazov, was quick to denounce terrorism and align Turkmenistan in the campaign against it after 9:11. There is no reason for his regime to have any truck with terrorists at all. 
He runs a very tight regime indeed, with an adulatory personality cult that would make even Ceausescu blush. He is of course the former communist leader of the country, which is in many ways an unreconstructed Soviet backwater, with largely the same personnel in charge right down the hierarchy. 
One major asset is oil and gas wealth, with cotton the staple export earner. Its reserves of oil are circa one billion barrels, with possible reserves of three billion barrels. Its natural gas reserves are two trillion cubic metres, with another two trillion, making four in all, of possible reserves.
But all the ageing pipelines go via Russia, a dependency the regime has not been able to shake off. Some oil is going through Iran, but the scope for this is limited. 
The successful conclusion of the Afghan war raises a new exciting prospect for the regime, that of dusting down a proposal made several years ago of an Afghan route. In the mid-90s Unocal of Texas was interested in the idea of a gas pipeline, to be followed by an oil one, via Afghanistan to Pakistan's Arabian Sea ports.
The plan had to be abandoned in 1998 when it became clear that bin Laden was operating out of Afghanistan and had masterminded the US embassy bombing in East Africa. But now the Taleban are no more and bin Laden is on the run. The Afghan route is now a distinct possibility. Naturally, Unocal and any other Western firm, particularly investors interested in the idea is likely to wait and see how things shape up in Afghanistan. If they look good in a year or twos time, then Turkmenistan could be one of the great beneficiaries of the conflict.
Its growth of GDP has been in double figures for some time, albeit from a very low base. Growth of 18% is planned for 2002. Some foreign companies are interested in prospecting for 15 new oil and gas fields; four foreign firms are already in oil and gas production-sharing deals. Turkmenistan is ready to open up to the wider world.

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AVIATION

Turkmen air company expands British destinations


As of 7th December, Turkmenistan Airlines [state] company started scheduled flights on the Asgabat-Manchester route, the Turkmen Press news agency has reported.
Flights are scheduled for once a week and the aircraft will return on the same day. The new route is viewed as highly convenient for passengers because the aircraft leaves in the daytime.
There will now be eight flights a week to Britain, (including the existing two Asgabat-London and five Asgabat-Birmingham routes). The new route will mainly carry transit passengers flying to India's Delhi and Amritsar.
The launch of the new air route is due to the fact that a significant number of the airline's Turkmen passengers are bound for Manchester, which is 150 kilometres away from Birmingham, the Turkmenhowayollary [Turkmen Airlines] said. Many of them also use return flights.
As is known, Manchester, Great Britain's third largest city, is a largest industrial centre where millions of people live and work. Many of them are regular customers of Turkmenistan

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ENERGY

Turkmen-Russian gas purchase agreement signed


Turkmen President [Saparmyrat Nyyazow] received the head of the Itera international group of companies, Igor Makarov, and the director-general of the Zarubezhneft [Russian] state enterprise, Nikolay Tokarev, Turkmen Press News Agency has reported.
In September, Zarubezhneft and Itera set up a joint venture to develop promising deposits in Turkmenistan. On 11th December the heads of these companies presented a tripartite draft agreement to the Turkmen president who welcomed the foreign firms' readiness for mutually advantageous and long-term partnership in the oil and gas sector.
The signing ceremony of a tripartite "protocol of intent to develop oil and gas deposits in Turkmenistan" and that of a contract on the sale and purchase of 10bn cu.m. of Turkmen gas by Itera in 2002 took place recently.

Turkmenistan sourcing electrical equipment from Siemens

Turkmenistan has signed an agreement with German company Siemens to supplement a framework contract to supply electrical equipment and materials for oil fields run by the state enterprise Turkmenneft, Interfax News Agency has reported.
Turkmenneft is the Turkmen signatory to the supplementary agreement.
About €7m have been allocated under the supplementary deal for equipment and spares, a source in the Turkmen president's office told Interfax. The source also said President Saparmyrat Nyyazow had exempted Turkmenneft and state corporation Turkmenneftegaz from all taxes until all investment under the framework contract is repaid.
The Turkmen State Fund for the Development of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Industry and Mineral Resources is funding operations under the contract, which was signed in October last year.

Six-year deal for Turkmen purchase of Chinese drilling gear

China has signed a contract to manufacture and deliver to Turkmenistan four ZJ70D drilling rigs, components and spare parts between September and December of next year [2002].
The contract, signed by state enterprise Turkmengaz and China Petroleum Technology Development Corporation, is put at US$52.5m, of which 15 per cent is to be paid in advance and the rest will be spread over a six-year period from 2003, a source in the Turkmen president's office told Interfax News Agency.
State corporation Turkmenneftegaz will have to use revenue from exports of gas condensate and condensate products to compensate for money to be spent under the deal by the Turkmen State Fund for the Development of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Industry and Mineral Resources.
The Turkmen president has exempted Turkmenneftegaz and Turkmengaz from all taxes, excise, customs duties, deductions for the Interbank Currency Exchange fund and for the national foreign currency reserve and other duties on any operations under the project.

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TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Turkmen paper says country's east getting modernized telephone facilities


Residents of the town of Atamyrat [formerly Kerki, on Turkmen-Afghan border] have started to use the services provided by a new telephone exchange unit, designed for 1,000 users. Hundreds of subscribers are already connected and a further modernised telephone exchange for 5,000 users is also planned for the near future, Neytralnyy Turkmenistan has reported. 
During the years of independence, three telephone exchanges, each for 10,000 users, have been built in the region's centre [Turkmenabat]. A large four-storey communications centre has also been built there. New telephone exchanges, each for 2,000 subscribers, were commissioned in [the districts] of Sakar and Sayat, and for 1,000 users in the settlement of Jeyhun. During the same period, new [telephone] exchanges, each for 100-500 users, were put into operation in a number of villages in Serdarabat, Hojambaz, Farap and other districts.
The commissioning of a 196-km long Turkmenabat-Halac-Dostluk radio relay line was an important event for the residents of Lebap Region. This made it possible for five southeastern districts and the town of Gowurdak [Gaurdak] to obtain an additional 300 trunk lines. Along with this, an international telephone exchange with 1,700 lines has been put into operation in Turkmenabat, thus offering local residents access to the rest of the world.
The national sector of the Transasian-European [TAE] fibreoptic communication line runs through it [Turkmenabat] and putting this into operation has considerably improved the quality of communications services.

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