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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: 318 - (28/06/07)

Under President Saparmurat Niyazov Tukmenistan was a pariah state, certainly as regards the West. Six months after his death in December, the new president has been invited to go to Brussels, an unthinkable invitation to his predecessor.

President of Turkmenistan to visit Brussels 
The president of Turkmenistan has expressed gratitude to the EU for seeking positive cooperation with Turkmenistan. On June 8th, the EU special representative for Central Asia, Pier Morrel arrived in Ashgabat. He took active part in the organization of the meeting, "Turkmenistan and EU - sustainable development," that is under way in Ashgabat. 

At the talks with Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov the new president, Pier Morrel noted that European countries see Turkmenistan as a promising partner, as well they might, with the fourth largest gas reserves in the world. According to him, the EU is preparing a number of programmes that will become part of the European Union strategy of cooperation with Turkmenistan. He also aired the EU initiative to open the information centre "The European House" in Ashgabat. Turkmenistan's initiatives on bringing its energy resources to the world markets were paid particular attention. 

"Discussing the future plans of cooperation, the sides looked into the issue of preparation for Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov's visit to Brussels. They noted that this visit would become a good ground for development of new relations in the fuel-energy sector, agriculture and education," the State News Service of Turkmenistan (TDH) reports.

Making up for the lotus years
There is, indeed, much to do in these and other areas. Niyazov neglected them almost entirely, while focusing on grandiose projects that fed his unquenchable megalomania. He built international hotels galore for foreign visitors who never came, countless palaces for himself, a gigantic ice-house in the desert and a 60-metre high revolving statue of himself in the capital, that in daytime always faced the sun, a new Sun-King, indeed, in a desert land.

The cult of his personality continues with the intonement of his tome, the Rukhnama, being the staple fare of the school curriculum, ahead of the study of the sciences, agronomy and engineering.

Clearly, there is going to have to be a reckoning - a 1956-style Khrushchev 'secret' speech. It will surely come - but only when the new regime feels more surely in the saddle. The metaphor is highly appropriate in Turkmenistan; it has magnificent horses and horsemen, indeed horsewomen. When Niyazov was trying to ingratiate himself with UK premier John Major, he sent him a splendid steed as a present. This was handed on to Princess Anne. 

Central Asia's Dutch Disease 
The International Crisis Group on June 11th distributed its new report on stability risks in the Central Asian countries that are extracting hydrocarbons - Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

ICG believes that the main problem for the Stans is "the Resource Curse" - hydrocarbons can become a source of destabilization, if petrodollars are spent inadequately by the authorities of these countries.

Experts say that Kazakhstan (occupying the 7th place in the world with its oil reserves), handles its incomes better than its neighbours. But they also warn of the future problems:

"More has been spent on Pharaoh-like projects such as the new capital, Astana (for which read Niyazov's mad building schemes in the case of Turkmenistan), than on healthcare or education. Growth has been impressive but the wealth gap has widened faster. The economy remains undiversified, manufacturing has been stunted by an over-valued currency and the whole country will be subject to a shock if energy prices come down", the report reads. 

ICG report also contains recommendations for the European Union, which will adopt a new EU Strategy in Central Asia within the next few weeks. In this Strategy, as expected, energy issues and "neutral" environmental and educational topics will prevail over the problems of democracy.

"If the Western countries continue to turn a blind eye to the human rights record of tyhe region, counting on short-term benefits, they risk greater instability in Central Asia that will aggravate their energy and security problems in the long run", ICG expert Charles Esser says.

Turkmenistan will reopen embassy in Azerbaijan amid improving relations
Turkmenistan will reopen its embassy in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, shut six years ago during a dispute over Caspian Sea oil deposits, official media reported on June 11th.

Turkmen President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliev, reached the agreement at a weekend summit of leaders of ex-Soviet republics in Russia, the newspaper Neutral Turkmenistan said.

Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have conflicting claims to rich oil deposits beneath the Caspian, a long-standing dispute stemming from the deadlock in talks between the energy-rich inland sea's five-shoreline nations on its legal status. Azerbaijan is on the western shore, Turkmenistan on the eastern shore.

The Turkmen government closed its Baku embassy in 2001 amid an escalation of the dispute over several oil fields, citing financial difficulties in maintaining a diplomatic presence there.

Relations between the two former Soviet republics have shown signs of improvement since the December death of Turkmenistan's long-ruling President Saparmurat Niyazov.

The issue of the division of the Caspian arose in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, which increased the number of shoreline nations from two to five. Iran, on the southern shore, has insisted that each country get an equal portion of the seabed, while others want the division to be based on the length of their shorelines.

The Caspian, which is believed to hold the world's third-largest oil reserves, has acquired strategic importance as the United States and other Western nations seek alternatives to Persian Gulf oil. 

Nazarbayev has the new idea here
President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan has proposed that there should be a canal constructed between the Caspian and the Black Sea (see Kazakstan).

The details are still to be worked out. But, if the idea gets off the ground, or rather between the ground to be exact, it would change everything for Turkmenistan as well as the other 'stans.' Hence another reason for the gratifying rapprochement with Baku. 

This is a story that deserves to run. It has a majestic sweep about it, as did the construction of the Suez and Panama canals in their day. It would transform the economies of Central Asia, notably that of Turkmenistan.



Shell believes Caspian pipeline to benefit EU

Shell favours the agreement between Kazakstan, Russia and Turkmenistan on construction of Caspian gas pipelineInterfax News Agency reported.
"Today we see the start of a new scenario in Central Asian gas. This will have a positive impact on the gas supply situation in Kazakstan, Russia, and I would hope Europe also," said Martin Ferstl, Managing Director of Shell Kazakstan Development BV (a subsidiary of Shell).
"The decision on construction of the Caspian gas pipeline means that the three presidents of the countries (Nursultan Nazarbaev, Vladimir Putin and Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov) confirmed a common position on the issue of transportation of their own gas to the world markets," Interfax quoted Ferstl as saying.
In regard to the agreement on construction of the other gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China, Ferstl said: "Turkmenistan has huge gas reserves. And the country itself can transport the gas, both to the West via Russia and to the East - to China. Western Europe and China are two enormous markets. Turkmenistan is located just in the centre of these two markets."
Speaking about the construction of Trans-Caspian gas pipeline Ferstl said: "In regard to the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, I would like to state that this is both a strategically important project for Turkey and Europe as well as a challenging one. Its implementation will depend on the support of the five Caspian countries, their expert commissions, and a great number of international agreements will be required to make the project a reality."
"Such issues can't be solved quickly and take a large amount of expertise and compromise before they can be implemented," Ferstl added.
The presidents of Russian, Kazakstan and Turkmenistan reached an agreement in Turkmenbashi on May 12 to construct a Caspian gas pipeline.
The presidents instructed their governments to draw up and sign an agreement on cooperation for construction of the gas pipeline by September 1, 2007.
According to Russian Industry and Energy Minister Victor Khristenko, the first stage of the reconstruction of the Caspian gas pipeline in 2009-2010 could increase its throughput capacity to 10 billion cubic metres of gas a year.
After 2010, he thinks, the further increase in the gas pipeline's capacity accordingly with the exploration and development of new assets in Turkmenistan may reach 30 billion cubic metres a year.
According to Khristenko, at the second stage of the project, which could take five to seven years, the gas pipeline system's capacity could be increased by 20 billion cubic metres of gas.
The interested parties suggest that the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline has the following route: Aktau (Kazakstan) - Turkmenbashi (Turkmenistan) - Baku (Azerbaijan) and then hook up with the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum (Turkey) pipeline.
Kazakstan earlier said it was looking into the possibility of participating in the construction of the Trans-Caspian pipeline. However, the officials believe that the project may not be implemented unless approved by all the Caspian states.



Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan sign long-term agreement 

Turkmen President, Gurnbanguly Berdimuhammedov, and his Kazak counterpart signed a package of bilateral agreements on May 28th-29th in Astana, which aim to deepen Turkmen-Kazak interaction. Foreign Minister, Rashid Meredov, said about it at the Cabinet of Ministers meeting, reported. 
It was predicted that a long-term treaty on cooperation in the trade and economic sphere until 2020 as well as a number of intergovernmental and interdepartmental documents would be signed in Astana. Agreements reached during the summit in Turkmenbashi regarding, first of all, laying of the East-Caspian gas pipeline and new North-South transport corridor will be furthered.

Ashgabat, Baku to set up joint commission 

Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mamedyarov, recently visited Turkmenistan. He was received by Turkmen President, Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov. During the meeting, the sides exchanged views on a wide range of issues regarding expansion of the bilateral partnership, first of all, in transport, which, given the geographic proximity of the two countries, is the most important factor of interaction, New Europe reported.
The talks concluded in a decision to set up a joint intergovernmental commission in order "to provide proper organisational level for the start of a new stage in the history of Turkmen-Azeri relations. I had a very warm and productive meeting with President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov," said Mamedyarov after the meeting. He added that Turkmenistan accepted with great satisfaction the Turkmen president's proposals on scientific exchanges and conducting cultural festivals in the two countries. Azerbaijan stands ready to further deepen our contacts."



Free economic zone on Caspian coast endorsed

Turkmenistan's President, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, has endorsed the project for the development of the national tourist zone, Avaza, near the Caspian port Turkmenbashi and for the creation of a free economic zone there, quoted the government's press service as saying. 
Berdymukhammedov suggested the formation of the free economic zone on the Caspian coast when addressing the trilateral summit in Turkmenbashi on May 11th. Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and his Kazak counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev accepted the proposal of Berdymukhammedov for their participation in the construction of the contemporary tourist infrastructure on the Turkmen coast. The creation of the free economic zone envisages an easier visa regime for foreign tourists wishing to vacation on the Caspian coast in accordance with the normative legal concept of the use of the country's huge tourist potential. Foreign investors will be granted tax benefits, the right for a long-term lease of land to build social and economic facilities, water mains and gas pipelines, electric transmission lines and other engineering structures. There will be benefits also in the areas of services, communications and transportation, including the construction of highways and forming special air routes. The plan envisages full or partial exemption from tax on equipment and goods for national tourist zones beings brought into Turkmenistan. The inter-branch working group at the state committee for tourism and sports will consider investment projects. The group comprises representatives of the justice ministry, ministries of economics and finance, Central Bank, the Main Tax Service, ministry of construction and mayor's office of the city of Turkmenbashi. 



Turkmenistan to buy 200,000 SIM cards 

The Ministry of Communications of Turkmenistan was authorised to make a contract with French company Axalto S.A. for the supply of 200,000 SIM cards worth US$200,000. Turkmen President, Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov, signed a special resolution to this effect, quoted the ministry of communications as saying. 
The French company won the international tender that was conducted as part of development of the national cellular network. It should be noted that Turkmenistan owns Altyn Asyr (Golden Age) operator of cellular communications of GSM standard which is a business unit of the state telecommunications company Turkmentelekom. In August 2004, Altyn Asyr joined the world association of GSM standard cellular communications operators headquartered in Dublin (Ireland). Turkmenistan registered its national cellular network as TM-Cell. Apart from Altyn Asyr, Turkmenistan has the Russian MTS provider of cellular communications services of GSM standard. MTS is undisputable leader of cellular communications services in Turkmenistan.





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