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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
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: 352 - (25/04/10)

The Kyrgyz cauldron
The Turkmen ruling elite is deeply perturbed by recent events in Kyrgyzstan. A veritable revolution has occurred. A very unpopular regime, riddled by nepotism and corruption, beset by financial and economic crisis and lacking a genuine legitimacy, such as comes from, say, free elections, has been overthrown in a fellow Central Asian state. Is it not looking at itself in the mirror?

Actually, Turkmenistan is a very different country from Kyrgyzstan. It has no tradition of democracy whatsoever, whereas the Kyrgyz had their Tulip Revolution in early 2005, as a result of dubious elections in February. The Turkmen regime does not have that sort of problem, because it does not hold elections at all.

Turkmen stoically, if sullenly, accept their downcast lot. The media have kept the news from Kyrgyzstan pretty thin, so only rumour has kept them informed.

The Turkmen were ruled until December 2006 by a crackpot dictator, Saparmurat Niyazov, who fancied himself as the leader of all the Turks everywhere, Turmenbashi. He has been superseded by his dentist, who happens to be his son, with a long name, Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. He is turning out to be a sanitised version of his father.

But does Turkmenistan in the back of beyond matter? Well it does.

A very tangled affair
Turkmenistan has vast gas reserves, recently augmented by a huge new find in the Caspian Sea, the South Yolotan field, now deemed one of the world's top five gas fields, with an estimated capacity of 4-14 billion cubic metres (bn cu m), with others probably to come. Gas is after all the fossil fuel of the future. The Turkmens, about four million of them, sit on something like one fifth of the world's reserves of gas, circa 25bn cu m. Not a bad position to be in, for a country with a small, young population.

Yet Turkmenistan has so far been subaltern to Russia, the country with the largest gas reserves of all, more than 50bn cu m. Virtually all of its gas exports have gone so far via the truly colonial gas pipelines of Russia.

The repressive Turkmen regime of yore was somehow bonded with whomever was in charge in Moscow, so subservient was the Soviet mind-set of Niyazov. He was simply a Turkmen in Ashgabat, an outpost of the Kremlin. The Turkmen are inching away from Russia. There are several alternatives developing, notably the Nabucco project, taking gas from Turkmenistan across the Caspian Sea to Europe.


Nabucco to the rescue
Turkmenistan said on April 16 it was ready to provide gas for the Nabucco pipeline, three months after Russia halted gas imports from the Central Asian state amid a row over shipments. "Currently, Turkmenistan has excess gas for trade. We are ready to send it abroad to any customer. This includes Nabucco," President Berdymukhamedov told a government meeting, broadcast late on April 16 on state television.

Russia, the main buyer of Turkmen gas, halted its imports in April after a pipeline which carries more than half of its most valuable export exploded. Analysts have said Turkmenistan is losing up to $1 billion every month in lost gas export revenues. Central Asia's biggest gas producer blamed Moscow for blowing up the pipeline, a charge Russia denies.

U.S. Under-Secretary of State, William Burns, in an interview with Turkmen state television also on April 16, said he had discussed energy cooperation with Berdymukhamedov during his tour in Central Asia.

A raft of transit agreements was signed on April 19 in Turkey by the architects of the EU and U.S.-backed Nabucco pipeline, which are expected to define where the pipeline will begin. The pipeline group wants to pump 31 billion cubic metres of gas to Europe annually, meeting some 5 percent of gas needs, but a lack of supply agreements have hampered political will and financing, analysts say.

The Vienna-based project, due to come on stream by 2014, will bypass Russia, which currently supplies Europe with a quarter of its gas needs and whose spats with neighbouring transit countries in the past have halted supplies to the bloc.

Possible suppliers for the 7.9 billion euro ($11.01 billion) Nabucco project have included Iraq, Egypt, Iran, Azerbaijan and possibly Russia and Turkmenistan.

Some analysts say Nabucco has better prospects in the long run than Russia's rival South Stream pipeline, though Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom (GAZP.MM) has fought hard to outpace it in the past year by signing up many East European countries.

Azerbaijan said on April 16 that it has not given anyone -- neither Gazprom nor Nabucco -- priority for its gas coming from its Shakh Deniz fields.

Transit countries Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria will sign an accord on July 13 in Ankara. While it may help financing and reassure supplier countries, it will not be a big leap forward for a project already subject to delays.

The two countries that really matter for the Turkmen regime, after Russia, are Turkey and Iran.

The Turkish state minister for foreign trade said that Turkey had undertaken projects in Turkmenistan despite the global crisis. Turkey's State Minister Zafer Caglayan said Turkish contractors undertook the most projects in Turkmenistan in 2009 despite global crisis.

Caglayan met President Berdimuhamadow; Tuwakmammet Japarow, the deputy chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers for economy & finance; and Hodjamuhammet Muhammedow, the deputy chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers for trade, commerce, textiles and customs.

Minister Caglayan also had a meeting with Deryageldi Orazow, the deputy chairman of the Cabinet of Minister for construction.

"Turkish contractors have undertaken more than 600 projects worth over 17 billion USD in Turkmenistan so far," Caglayan said during his meeting Orazow. Turkish contractors have invested some 160 billion USD in 81 countries so far.

Caglayan also said projects Turkey planned to fulfil in Turkmenistan in 2010 amounted to 12 billion USD.





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