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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)

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Update No: 315 - (29/03/07)

The massive event that dominates life in Turkmenistan is actually a death - that of its dictator, Saparmurat Niyazov, in December last year. People can still not quite believe it. He seemed such a fact of life. But the Grim Reaper has claimed him.

Turkmenistan Restricts Presidential Prerogatives 
His successor, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, reputedly, but probably apocryphally, his son, has shown signs of beginning to change things and of at least discarding the more absurd aspects of the dictatorship. For Berdymukhammedov's predecessor established a cult of personality, naming cities, schools, and even months of the year after himself and members of his family, while banning beards and opera and of course free thought.

The Turkmen President has abolished the power of the country's president to rename institutions and geographic locations and redraw administrative borders. State media report that only parliament will be able to do so from now on.

Whence the Golden Statue?
But the most bizarre physical relic of Niyazov's rule, in the centre of the capital, is a huge revolving statue of himself in gilt (60ft high) that always faces the sun and is surrounded by fountains and is guarded by soldiers day and night. 

Until that goes the regime remains in his shadow. 

The spirit of Niyazov pervasive
Actually, there are innumerable less material residues of his reign that are weighing down on the country, his spiritual legacy being incorporated in the Rukhmana, a work that he deemed equal to the Bible or the Koran. A turgid tract of feeble poetry, folk sayings, garbled mythology and hollow political propaganda; it bespeaks the extreme backwardness of its country of origin. This is largely a vast desert of nomadic tribes, who could only be held together, Niyazov once candidly admitted to a western ambassador, by a super-charged cult of personality of a strong leader.

Schoolchildren are obliged to read it and know it by heart, just as they had to swear oaths of allegiance to him every morning, just as doctors swore loyalty to him, not the Hippocratic Oath; His images abound in every school, office and public place.

He is a Stalin who awaits his Khrushchev. When will he come?

                                   *******

Here is one answer to that question by a seasoned observer of the country:-

Will An Incremental Approach Work in Turkmenistan?
By Martha Brill Olcott
For many in the West, this government will gain little credibility until it begins to address the human rights abuses of its predecessor, and provides international observers access to the country's political prisoners, some of whom were said to have staged an unsuccessful prison revolt upon hearing of Niyazov's death.

The death of Saparmurad Niyazov will provide no easy fix for his country's economic or political woes. But if the country's new leader, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov proves as good a leader as he is a political survivor, then Turkmenistan may actually succeed in using its hydrocarbon wealth to create a modern polity for its citizens. 

Few countries get a second chance, and fewer still make good use of it. On the plus side, Turkmenistan has a dependable income stream from gas exports to help fund much needed reforms in the agricultural and social sectors. 

The transition leadership recognizes the need for reform and has called for major changes in education and health care and even endorsed, albeit vaguely, the development of a multi-party system. 

On the minus side, President Berdymukhamedov has very little experience in any of these sectors, save health care, where he was responsible for introducing the most regressive of Niyazov's policies. With the exception of the country's foreign minister, Rashid Meredov, most of the senior officials in key economic sectors are relatively new to their jobs, which is one reason why Berdymukhammedov, the most senior deputy prime minister was able to come to power. 

To date Berdymukhammedov and his inner circle, have sent no signals that political or apolitical refugees are to return home. This sharply limits the available expertise, especially on key economic questions. It also insures the continued presence of a vocal opposition beyond the country's borders that will question the legitimacy of the upcoming election.

Despite the last minute constitutional changes, which facilitated Berdymukhamedov's candidacy, the OSCE did decide to send a limited mission in to observe the elections, and welcomed the invitation by the interim government to allow them to visit. Moreover, the OSCE even found some positive features to the new election law, which provides for equal access of all candidates to media. 

In the end though, the real choices will be made by the Turkmen people. The first step for Berdymukhammedov is the easiest one. Absent any tradition of participatory politics, are likely to give even a relatively unknown political incumbent a resounding victory, not withstanding the help he will presumably get from Turkmenistan's election officials. 

But then, lacking the political credibility that Niyazov had accumulated, Berdymukhammedov is going to have to deliver on his promises of economic and social reform pretty quickly. Alternatively he will have to hope that political apathy and the remains of Niyazov's security network will be enough to ensure his survival. This latter option, though, will win him few friends in the West. 

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AVIATION

Boeing to prepare cooperation programme


Turkmen President, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, and Boeing Commercial Director, Aldo Basile, discussed prospects for mutually beneficial long-term cooperation on February 27th, Interfax News Agency reported.
The Turkmen president hailed the cooperation with Boeing, thanks to which the fleet of Turkmen civil aircraft was fully renovated, the Turkmen presidential press service told Interfax News Agency. Boeing was offered to prepare a programme for further cooperation.
The parties showed mutual interest in continuing partnership at the meeting, in particular they discussed issues related to staff training for the Turkmen civil aircraft fleet, ranging from pilots to technicians and service personnel. The parties also reached an agreement to jointly upgrade the infrastructure of local airports.

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ENERGY

Gazprom, Turkmenistan plan gas contract to 2028


Russian gas monopoly Gazprom and the government of Turkmenistan have confirmed their plans to implement a contract to supply Turkmen gas to Russia until 2028, the gas company's press service said after a visit by Gazprom CEO, Alexei Miller, New Europe reported.
"The sides highly evaluated the results of many years of cooperation in the gas and oil sphere. Gazprom and Turkmenistan have confirmed their plans to implement a contract to supply Turkmen gas to Russia until 2028 and expressed plans to strengthen partnership relations based on the current long-term contract," the statement said.
The Gazprom press service said that Miller took part in the inauguration ceremony for the Turkmen president, and in talks between Russian Prime Minister, Mikhail Fradkov, and Turkmen President, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. During his visit, talks also took place between Gazprom and representatives from the Turkmen Cabinet of Ministers and with the heads of Turkmengaz and Turkmenneft.

Omani-Canadian company eyes Turkmen hydrocarbons 

Turkmen President, Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov, received a delegation of the Omani-Canadian Buried Hill Energy Company which visited Ashgabat, the State News Service (TDH) reported. 
During the meeting, the Canadian officials expressed interest in cooperation in the development of rich hydrocarbon resources in the Turkmen part of the Caspian Sea, in particular, in one of the promising Serdar section, as well as in production of liquefied gas in Tagtabazar in Mary province. In turn, Berdimuhammedov supported the Omani-Canadian company's intention and said that Turkmenistan welcomes the foreign partners' readiness for close and fruitful cooperation, and that all conditions have been created for this in the country.

New round of talks to produce gas in Turkmenistan

Ukraine hopes to implement gas production projects in Turkmenistan, Ukrainian Fuel and Energy Minister, Yuriy Boiko, said. "We have many interests in Turkmenistan. The market for Ukrainian goods is large there. We hope to produce gas there, we begin as new round of talks and we will strengthen our positions there," BBC radio quoted the minister in an interview. 
Ukraine will receive Central Asian gas through RosUkrEnergo AG (Switzerland) until the "pattern suits us and complies with the interests of our state," the minister said. "We have the cheapest (imported) gas of all our neighbours and guaranteed deliveries. If someone presents a more advantageous delivery pattern, we will sign an agreement. As yet the situation suits us from the point of view of the price and guarantees for the deliveries," the minister said.

Itochu eyeing energy projects in Turkmenistan

Turkmen President, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, discussed Turkmen-Japanese cooperation in oil and gas with a delegation of Japanese businessmen on March 8th in Ashgabat, Interfax News Agency reported. 
The Japanese delegation was headed by co-chairman of the Japanese-Turkmen economic cooperation committee and senior corporate advisor at Itochu Corporation Minoru Murofushi. The meeting also focused on the production of polypropylene at the Turkmenbashi complex of oil refineries. Murofushi noted Itochu Corporation's high interest in further cooperation with Turkmenistan in fuel and energy. Moreover, he voiced an intention to launch a project to build gas-purifying and desalination stations in the Caspian region, as well as to assist in the delivery of high-quality Turkmen polypropylene to world markets. It was decided that another meeting of the Turkmen-Japanese economic cooperation committee will take place this September.

Turkmengeologia discovers large gas field

Exploration work carried out by divisions of the state company Turkmengeologia in the south east of the country has confirmed the presence of large reserves of natural gas, a source in the company said, Interfax News Agency reported.
"During drilling of well number three at the Osman section, we hit a powerful gas flow with a daily output of five million cubic metres," the source said. The new gas field is located in Serkhetabat district in Mary region, near the South Iolotan field, which was launched last year. Gas was struck at a depth of 4,577 metres. According to preliminary estimates, the thickness of the productive layer is 450-500 metres, which is 10 times higher than the capacity of hydrocarbon deposits at all fields currently being developed in Turkmenistan. In addition to the high concentration of reserves, the field has highly porous rock, which significantly simplifies the development of hydrocarbon deposits and reduces expenditure. The source said the unusually high pressure in the deposit was unexpected by specialists - 540 atmospheres, which led to the open gushing of the well. At the moment, thanks to the use of effective engineering solutions, the gas flow has been brought under control. According to company specialists, the natural gas deposits discovered at the Osman section and the deposits at the South Iolotan field are an integrated whole.

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FOREIGN RELATIONS

Turkmenistan wants stronger ties with China

Turkmenistan President, Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov, is pleased with his country's relations with China and sees the importance of strengthening and expanding ties with China, Turkmenistan.ru reported. 
"Turkmenistan and China will remain close friends and reliable partners forever," he said.
According to the president, in the 21st century, Asia will play a leading role in international politics and economics, with China playing an important part in that, as China currently enjoys a stable society, long-lasting economic development, and an improved social welfare system. 
The close cooperation between China and Turkmenistan is a positive contribution to stability in the region and peace in the world, Berdymukhamedov said. 
Niyazov's visit to China in 2006 elevated bilateral ties to a new level, he said. The president pledged to push forward bilateral relations for the benefit of the two peoples and expressed hope that more major Chinese companies enter the Turkmen market and carry out joint work in agriculture, textile industry, science, culture, education and healthcare. 
Berdymukhamedov said Turkmenistan attaches great importance to the bilateral ties. The close cooperation between China and Turkmenistan, is a positive contribution to stability in the region and peace in the world. Berdymukhamedov said Turkmenistan is ready to make concerted efforts with China in pushing forward even greater cooperation in areas including energy, culture, education and medical services. With Spring Festival nearing, the Turkmen president expressed a wish for the prosperity of China and a healthy and happy new year to the Chinese people.

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