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TURKMENISTAN


 

 

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 6,010 7,672 4,000 110
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,120 1,200 950 131
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Turkmenistan

 


Update No: 317 - (30/05/07)

An opening up society
Karl Popper famously distinguished between closed and open societies in The Open Society and its Enemies. It came out as the Cold War was commencing just after the Second World War, pitting the West against the USSR. To be open to criticism, whether internal or external, with free media and travel and an independent rule of law, free elections and the like characterise open societies; the absence of these attributes closed ones.

It is a fact that it is easier to preach the good life than to practise it. At the London School of Economics where he taught Popper was renowned for his rebarbative ways and intolerance of criticism. His book came to be referred to as "The Open Society' by one of its enemies."

Turkmenistan was certainly a closed society under its former president, Saparmurat Niyazov. His death in December has not created an open society overnight, but it is becoming slowly an opening up society.

Turkmen novelist receives US honour
One sign of the new times is that a novelist from Turkmenistan who had been barred from leaving his home country for more than two years travelled to the United States for the first time to accept an award for his work defending freedom of expression. Rakhim Esenov, 78, a writer and freelance correspondent for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, was allowed to leave Turkmenistan to attend an evening's PEN American Centre Gala in New York on April 23rd, after the U.S. Embassy and others protested the Turkmen foreign minister's refusal to let him make the trip. 

"It is very noble and humane to fight for someone you don't know and to see them as a human being," Esenov said through an interpreter in his acceptance of the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award at the American Museum of Natural History. 

The PEN American Centre advocates free expression, defends writers in legal disputes and sponsors literary programmes. Esenov was arrested in February 2004 on charges that he incited social, national and religious hatred through the mass media. His novel "The Crowned Wanderer" was banned from publication by the country's president, who said it was historically inaccurate. In an interview before the dinner ceremony, Esenov said he coped with the restrictions placed on him by "working, working, working." 

"I am by nature an optimist, and that helped me, too," he said through an interpreter. He said he hoped to meet with publishers while he was in New York. 

Japanese cinema days start in Turkmenistan
In another indication of new ties with the wider world, "Japanese Cinema Days" opened in the Turkmen capital on April 27th. The event was dedicated to the 15th anniversary since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Turkmenistan and Japan. It was organized by the Japanese Embassy in Turkmenistan in association with the Ministry of culture, TV and Radio broadcasting of Turkmenistan. Films were demonstrated in the Turkmen National Music and Drama Theatre named after Magtymguly.

As the Ashgabat correspondent of Turkmenistan.ru reported, the three-day film festival programme included demonstration of best feature films and documentaries shot by Japanese cinematographers in different years. These were "Drums of Japan", "Sweeties of Japan" and "Firework", as well as feature films "About women and Asura", "First love" and "Swing girls". Animation films were represented by "Express-Galaxy 999" cartoon.

All film demonstrations were free to public.
Of course the Japanese are very interested in Turkmen energy supplies. "Chinese Cinema Days" or the like can be expected next.

Turkmen president in Moscow
The death of Boris Yeltsin, the first Russian president, cut short Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov's visit to Moscow. 

Contrary to Moscow's hopes, it was not the first stop in the new Turkmen president's diplomatic tour. Several days before his Moscow trip, he went to Saudi Arabia, and the haj hardly explains his choice of priorities. Moscow was the second stop, in line with the Eastern system of political symbols. Turkmenistan made it clear that the momentum was still there, no matter how it may respond to the special attention it is getting from the West. The new Turkmen president arrived in Moscow to prove the existence of that momentum. This is the gist of the matter. 

Turkmenistan is among the few countries whose sovereignty Russia has always respected. It is probably the only former-Soviet country with which Russia has built relations that are completely free of any verbiage about centuries-long friendship or involvement in some irrational alliances. Turkmen-Russian relations have rested strictly on business, no matter what surprises the current president's predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov, might have liked to spring on the world. At the end of his life, Niyazov seemed to show amazing reciprocity towards Russia by letting Gazprom contract virtually all Turkmen gas until 2028 and ridding Ukraine, Russia's main rival, of all possible illusions. Even a rise in price to $100 per thousand cubic meters did not seem so disheartening considering that the relevant agreement expires in 2009. 

Niyazov had shown more than once that he did not believe contracts were written in stone, and for this reason, Russia's apprehensions persisted even during his lifetime, all the more so since its pragmatic style of dealing with Turkmenistan was readily adopted by other interested parties. Moreover, their number has been steadily growing. Now even Armenia, not to mention Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine, cannot conceal its excitement over proposals for transporting gas via a trans-Caspian pipeline, bypassing Russia. Likewise, all countries that lie along the proposed Nabucco gas pipeline, which would transport Central Asian gas from Erzurum in Turkey to Austria, have announced their interest in the project. 
These ideas did not emerge overnight. The hopes for global gas diversification that seemed to have faded away have come back with the change of power in Turkmenistan. However, such hopes were before and are still nothing more than an absorbing exercise in drawing on a geopolitical map. The pipe's underwater leg from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan carries a price tag of five billion dollars. Some 10 years ago, it was half that figure. This is no surprise if we recall the enormous gap between the tentative estimates for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline and its final costs. There are no volunteers lining up to finance the drive to diversify gas supplies just like there were no enthusiastic oil giants ready to pay for the BTC project. In general, these projects have one common feature: their economic practicality lags several years behind political scheming. 

But as follows from the history of the same BTC project, sooner or later this gap may be bridged, despite the price and the less-than-ideal route. Therefore, Turkmenistan may take the liberty of making a rather sophisticated and at the same time simple manoeuvre. 

President Berdymukhammedov does not say "no" to anyone - neither to Russia, which he assures of his loyalty, nor to the West, which expects him to take a broader look at the world. He may choose to build the same kind of triangular relationship he currently has with Moscow and Kiev but on a much bigger scale and with different stakes. As a skilful auctioneer, he can wait for new proposals. 

There is not even any need to blackmail Moscow independently. On the eve of Berdymukhammedov's visit, Moscow learned that the European Union had already offered 1.7 million euros for a feasibility report on the proposed trans-Caspian pipeline. This money can be accepted without any qualms since such a report has never come with any strings attached. But the West also has to know it is not the only suitor, and it is enough for the Turkmen president to visit Moscow and let the world hear, for the umpteenth time now, about Turkmen loyalty to the established traditions. 

There is only one thing that Turkmenistan cannot do: make a final decision. None of its partners, who are compelled to be nice, demand that it do so. The world's interest in the country, particularly while the exact amount of its gas reserves is still unclear, is far from exhausted. His somewhat ambiguous status as a successor does not encourage Berdymukhammedov to take abrupt steps, something which the interested world is also ready to understand. 

To sum up, there is a dynamic equilibrium. Today, it has shifted in the direction of Russia, which had to back up its interest with investment proposals. Regardless of the visit's programme, both sides have done their bit. Moscow has reason to believe in the momentum shown by Turkmenistan. The world may now expect a third, Western, visit by the Turkmen president, the scenario for which was written a long time ago. 

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ECONOMY

Economy grows by over 20% in Q1


Turkmenistan's economy grew by 20.3 per cent between January and April, Economy and Finance Minister, Khojamyrat Geldymyradov, told a Cabinet session broadcast on national TV, New Europe reported.
He said production remains stable in the oil and gas, chemical and energy sectors, with electricity production up six percent, natural gas 8 per cent, oil 10 per cent, oil products six percent, polypropylene 27 per cent and fertilizer 12 per cent.
Foreign companies operating in the oil and gas sector have posted impressive growth figures compared to last year. For instance, gas production soared 187 per cent and oil production 152 per cent.
At the same time the textile industry - a cornerstone of the national economy - reported a 14 percent drop in the production of knitted fabric and 20 percent in knitted wear due to the limited use of production capacities.

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ENERGY

Burren to produce 1.13m tonnes of oil in 2007

Britain's Burren Energy plans to produce 1.127 million tonnes of oil in Turkmenistan in 2007, a source in the Turkmen president's press service quoted Burren Energy President, Finian O'Sullivan, as saying, Interfax News Agency reported.
Interfax quoted the source as saying at a meeting on April 27th between Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov and Burren management - O'Sullivan, Vice President Atul Gupta and Burren Resources Petroleum Limited (Turkmenistan) General Director Muhammed Ahtar Husein Sharif - the sides discussed fuel and energy partnership.
O'Sullivan said that by constantly increasing crude production and actively developing hydrocarbon fields the company has increased daily production to 3,000 tonnes. He said Burren Energy management is carefully monitoring the socio-economic changes in the country and sees them as a powerful stimulus for expanding mutually beneficial cooperation.
The sides also discussed the training of highly qualified specialists for Turkmenistan in various institutes in Britain. Burren Energy has been working in Turkmenistan for over 10 years. The company produces oil in the west of the country, under a production sharing agreement.

Petronas plans to start producing gas at end of 2009

Malaysia's Petronas plans to produce up to 1,700 tonnes of oil a day in Turkmenistan in 2007 and start producing gas beginning at the end of 2009, Turkmen President, Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov, said at a press conference after meeting with company executives, Interfax News Agency reported.
"Developing sea deposits remains one of the strategic areas of developing the oil and gas sector of our country, which is now ready for mutually-favourable partnership in this priority sector for the national economy," Interfax quoted him as saying. Petronas signed a 25-year production-sharing agreement to explore and develop the contract territory of Block 1 in 1996 in the Turkmen sector of the Caspian Sea.

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FOREIGN COOPERATION

Putin pursues major Kazak, Turkmen energy agreements

Kazakstan's cooperation with Russia in transporting energy is strategic in nature, Kazak President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, said. "Kazakstan is absolutely committed to shipping most of oil, if not all of it, through Russian territory. We have always said this," Nazarbayev said at negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Astana on May 10th, New Europe reported.
"Facts show that 42 million out of the 52.3 million tonnes of Kazak oil that we transported this year passed through Russia," he said. "The fuel and energy sector is the first and main issue" in cooperation between Russia and Kazakstan, he said.
"This cooperation in the oil and gas sector is of a strategic nature. This concerns, in particular, the transportation of Kazak hydrocarbons to international markets using Russia's trunk pipelines and the joint processing of hydrocarbons," Nazarbayev said.
Kazakstan will not search for other routes to transport its hydrocarbons, so long as Russia provides a fair and mutually beneficial access to its pipeline system, the Kazak president said at a joint press conference with Putin after the negotiations. "I think that Russia is able to give more possibilities to transport Kazak oil and gas through its territory. Kazakstan and other our neighbours are unlikely to search for other routes," the president said. "The issue is that there is fair and mutually beneficial access," he said. "I am thankful to the Russian president and authorities, who understand this and who we have been working together with us on this issue," he said.
Nazarbayev also said the two countries agreed to increase the amount of Kazak oil shipped to Russia via the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, a pipe running from Kazakstan to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiik, to 40 million tonnes from a current 23 million tonnes. 
The increased amount, he added in the Kazak capital, could then be shipped to Europe via the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline, a Russian-owned transit line that is to run through Turkey and Greece. "We are thinking about this and consider it possible," Putin said of the Bourgas-Alexandroupoli proposal. "A large amount of the oil that could fill that pipeline may come from Kazakstan." 
Putin's trip to Central Asia coincided with a Polish summit due to take place last week devoted to securing energy sources other than Russia, which Kazak's Nazarbayev had promised to attend in March, Russian daily Kommersant reported on May 10th, cited by Deutsche-Presse-Agentur (dpa). The newspaper said Nazarbayev had cancelled in order to meet with Putin. 
Russia also agreed to raise the price it pays for natural gas from Kazakstan's Karachagansk fields to "more than US$145 per 1,000 cubic metres," Kazak Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Baktykozha Izmukhambetov told reporters in Astana. 
Putin and Nazarbayev were expected to meet again on May 12 in the Turkmen city of Turkmenbashi, where they, along with new Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, were expected to discuss energy cooperation.
Russia, Kazakstan, and Turkmenistan should reach significant agreements in the energy sector, Putin said. "As for possible tripartite agreements in Turkmenistan, I would ask you to have patience. We need to hold essential negotiations with our Turkmen partners and friends, and I expect that we will seal significant agreements," Putin said on May 10.
Turkmenistan claims the world's third-largest known natural gas reserves, most of which it sends to Moscow, where state-owned natural gas monopoly Gazprom blends Russian gas with Turkmen fuel for export. 
China struck a deal with Turkmenistan last year to import 30 billion cubic metres of the fuel annually beginning in 2009, and Moscow, Beijing and the West are all seen to be courting Berdymukhammedov for access to the Central Asian nation's fuel. 

Berdymukhammedov invites Nazarbayevto visit Ashgabat

Turkmen President, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, has invited his Kazak counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev, to make an official visit to Turkmenistan, Turkmenistan.ru reported. 
The Turkmen president gave his invitation to Kazakstan's Prime Minister, Karim Masimov, who arrived in Ashgabat on a one-day working visit. According to the Turkmen president's press service, the delegation involves heads of ministries and agencies, national companies and banking structures. During the one-to-one meeting, the presidents of the two countries discussed a wide range of issues, including problems in the fuel and energy sector, transport, education, healthcare and agriculture. As part of the visit the delegation is also expected to have talks with government members. 

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FOREIGN INVESTMENT

Turkish firms win tenders in Turkmenistan

Three Turkish companies have won tenders for the construction of residences and government buildings in Turkmenistan. The overall cost of the tenders is US$81 million, Turkmenistan.ru reported. 
The contribution of Turkish firms to the reconstruction of Turkmenistan reflects the success of the firms at various tenders for new constructions. Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov approved several tenders following the cabinet meeting. Three projects, including residential projects, prepared by Turkish firms are among the tenders endorsed by the new president. Turk Efor Construction will construct modern residences for the Foreign Ministry, Sahin Construction for the Insurance Institution and 5M Construction for the Central Bank. Last March, six Turkish companies won tenders for the construction of residences and government buildings for a total of US$168 million.

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