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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 No: 258 - (270/06/02)
The Turkmens are languishing in isolation from even their fellow Central Asians. President Saparmurat Niyazov runs the tightest regime in
the region and wants to keep dangerous foreign contacts to a minimum. Not but that a measure of foreign direct investment (FDI) is not encouraged. FDI,
which was US$131m in 2000 and US$130m in 2001, is estimated at US$150m for this year.
One cannot rely on the official statistics in Turkmenistan. Admittedly from a very low base, the economy looks as it if is taking off. GDP is alleged to
have risen by 17.6% in 2000, 12% in 2001 and a prospective 8% this year.
Niyazov has had the sense to spend some of the rising taxes generated by growth on welfare for the people. Subsidised housing, cheap rents and fuel prices
are the norm as in Soviet days. The bulk of the revenues come from two commodities, oil and cotton.
For the first time since independence there are some signs of discontent surfacing. Niyazov looks less secure than beforehand.
He is carrying out a thorough purge of top officials in the security services and border control apparatus. This is partly a reaction to the widening
discontent with his dictatorial regime, and partly an act of revenge against defectors to the growing opposition.
In early March Mukhammed Nazarov was relieved of his post as chief legal advisor to the president and coordinator of law enforcement and the military. Two of
his deputies shared his own fate, on grounds of "serious mismanagement in their work, and inability to perform their duties."
A few days later Niyazov dismissed the head of the Border Guards Service.
An increasing number of top-level Turkmen politicians are coming out in opposition to the Niyazov regime. The most prominent politician to join the opposition
is Boris Shikhuradov, the former foreign minister and ambassador to China. Another is the former ambassador to Turkey Nurmuhammed Hanamov, who announced his
defection earlier this year.
Others include former chairman of the central bank and deputy premier, Khundai Orazov, and the ambassador to the Arab Emirates, Pirjan Kurbanov.
Orazov accuses Niyazov of fixing the figures, which as central bank chief he was able to see at first hand. This is a plausible claim and endorsed by
Moreover, the scale of corruption and chicanery is vast. Niyazov would cap interest rates and force the central bank to make loans to state firms run by his
cronies, in effect stealing from the public purse.
The opposition in Moscow calls itself the People's Democratic party of Turkmenistan. Orazov, like other defectors to the opposition, is open to the charge of
why he worked for a corrupt a regime for so long. He, like them, can reply that he wanted to reform it from within.
It is not just government corruption, which after all is endemic in Central Asia, to which one can find objection, but also its incompetence. This is what is
tipping things against Niyazov and might just topple him.
Energy deals awry
What all these figures feel is that Niyazov has bungled in a colossal way in his negotiations with Western energy firms. Instead of making sure that an
alternative route to Western markets than the Russian one was opened up via the Caspian Sea, the Caucasus and beyond, he insisted on unrealistic conditions
and the deal fell through. Turkmenistan consequently remains totally in the Russian domain as regards its energy.
Dragon Oil sees testing of Turkmenistan offshore well completed by end-June
Dragon Oil plc said testing has begun on one of four zones of the recently completed well 22/103, drilled in the LAM field, offshore Turkmenistan, and that
it expects testing to be completed and final results available by end-June 2002.
The company added it expects drilling of well 22/104 to begin at the end of June.
Turkmen-Afghan-Pakistani gas project backed by Nyyazow
A working group for the implementation of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan gas pipeline project has been set up by the government of Turkmenistan.
President Saparmyrat Nyyazow of Turkmenistan signed a corresponding decree at the government's meeting held on 7th June to sum up the results of his visit to
Islamabad on 29th-30th May, ITAR-TASS News Agency has reported.
"The tripartite agreement on the construction of the gas and oil pipeline signed with the leadership of Pakistan and Afghanistan means that these projects are
quite viable and there are real political conditions for their realization," Nyyazow said at the meeting.
The working group faces the task of searching for investors and creating a consortium of companies, as the president stressed. He also said that the World
Bank and the biggest Asian banks showed interest in the project of transporting Turkmen gas to Pakistan's market.
The pipeline, 1,500 km long, will transport 30bn cubic metres of gas, the Turkmen president said, commenting on the Islamabad agreements. Gas will be sold for
hard currency only, Nyyazow stressed.
According to the agreement, the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan are also to create working groups on the preparation and realization of the gas
pipeline project. The first tripartite meeting at the level of ministers of fuel and energy complexes is to be held in Ashkhabad on 10th July after the
holding of an all-Afghan assembly and formation of a government.
The first results of the work on the pipeline project will be summed up at a meeting of the member-countries' leaders which is scheduled to be held in Asgabat
in October of 2002.
Turkmenistan's industrial output up 18% in Jan-May
Industrial production in Turkmenistan grew 18% year-on-year to 8.8 trillion manat in the first five months of this year, Interfax News Agency reported quoting
the National Institute for Government Statistics and Information.
The greatest growth was 5% in oil refining, 80% in the petrochemicals industry, 12% in oil production, 11% in gas production, and 31% in cotton ginning.
The gas sector produced 34% of industrial output, the oil production industry 12.8%, light industry 6.4%, the food industry 2.6%, oil refining 3.3% and the
power sector 3%.
The value of shipped products in the five months grew 17% and exceeded output by 0.4%. Exports made up 73% of shipments. Sales revenues were down 17%, and
amounted to 74% of shipments.
Turkmenistan in the five months produced over 3.5 million tonnes of crude oil and gas condensate, and 24.6 billion cubic metres of gas, and refined 2.1
million tonnes of oil, respectively 12%, 11% and 5% more year- on-year.
The country increased electricity production by 5% to 4.74 billion kilowatt-hours.
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