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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: 316 - (26/04/07)

In the giant shadow of Niyazov
Turkmenistan is still stunned by its deliverance from its nutty fruitcake of a dictator, Saparmurat Niyazov, who perished in December just before Christmas. A splendid Christmas present, one might think, except that the Turkmen are of course Muslim. 

Niyazov was trying to deflect them from the faith of their fathers, at least to the extent of making each new generation read The Rukhnama, a collection of his sayings, musings and verses that was required reading at school in place of science. The poor Turkmen, having been harassed for seven decades by Marxism, then had to endure Niyazovism in effect.

They still formally do. The new government cannot change things overnight. They fear unrest in the transition period. But that things will now change is certain, the cult of personality being wound down. 

What Turkmenistan really needs is a Khrushchev to settle accounts with the dictator. But it is unlikely to get one soon.

Turkmenistan President combined his first foreign visit with hajj
Still in a most significant departure the new man made his first foreign trip to - Saudi Arabia. At the end of March Turkmen President received an invitation from the leader of Saudi Arabia to make an official visit to the country at any convenient time by April 20.
On April 12, the terms of the first foreign visit of Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedow became known: he was to make the first official visit at the post of the head of the state to Saudi Arabia from April 13 to April 16th, which he duly did, along with the hajj. The symbolism cannot have been lost on any Turkmen.
The parties discussed projects of bilateral agreements about cooperation in fuel and energy, trade and economic; humanitarian spheres. While visiting United Arab Emirates Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedow made a hajj to the relics of Islam - Mecca and Medina.

President visits Russia 
President Berdimuhammedov made an official visit to Moscow on April 23-24 at the invitation of his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, a very predictable event. But it was Moscow after Saudi Arabia, a clear symbolism. 
This was the first visit of Turkemenistani president to Russia. According to the Russian leader's press office, the meeting's agenda included talks on bilateral relations between the two countries, as well as a comparison of Russia and Turkmenistan's standpoints on a series of international and regional problems. 
But further than that was not divulged.

President pushes ahead with education and agricultural reform 
Turkmenistan's president has made clear signs that there will be changes at home, not before time. He announced a salary hike for teachers as he pushes ahead with an overhaul of a deteriorated education system and announced plans to reform the country's ailing agricultural sector. 
Introducing a 40 per cent pay rise for teachers and 40 per cent increase in scholarships for students, effective from 1 September, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov said better pay would allow teaching staff to concentrate on their core work. Until now, low wages in Turkmen schools and universities have forced many teachers to find ways to supplement their incomes. 

Dr Dennis Soltys, a lecturer in Comparative Education at the Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics and Strategic Research, said on Wednesday that Turkmenistan's new leadership was aware of the need to reform the country's appalling education system. 
"[President Berdymukhammedov] might be sophisticated and pragmatic enough to know that if you want a modern functioning economy you do need a modern education system," Soltys told IRIN in the Kazakh commercial capital of Almaty. "There might be modernising economic interests in Turkmenistan." 

At a meeting on 30 March of the People's Council, Turkmenistan's top legislative body, Berdymukhammedov said his priority was to improve the lives of ordinary Turkmen. "If we can ensure people a worthy life, raise their wellbeing, this will be a good engine for reform in all directions," he told more than 2,500 assembled delegates gathered in the southern city of Mary. 
The salary rise comes on top of education reforms announced earlier in March, including a reduced workload for teachers, school class sizes capped at 25, schooling expanded from eight years to 10, and the abolition of a work experience requirement that had restricted access to higher education. 

Under former Turkmen President Saparmyrat Niyazov's regime, in order to be accepted for a university programme, secondary school graduates had to have at least two years work experience in the field they were planning to study - a requirement difficult to fulfil given the lack of employment opportunities in Central Asia's most reclusive state. 
Niyazov, known as Turkmenbashi, fostered a cult of personality that extended to education, with teaching centred round his quasi-spiritual guide, the Rukhnama. This bred a generation of students ill-equipped to function in a modern economy. The realisation that this policy could be damaging to the economy may be behind education reforms, Soltys said. 

Agricultural reform 
Agriculture topped the People's Council agenda, with Berdymukhammedov calling for bottom-up reform. Outdated agricultural methods are putting the brakes on development, he said. 

Three new laws aimed at stimulating agriculture were passed at the session, while Berdymukhammedov ordered local authorities to draw up a strategy to reform rural life, including the construction of social facilities in remote areas. 

Central Bank chief Geldimyrat Abilov pledged to raise the prices at which wheat and cotton are purchased from farmers to an unspecified level, expand agricultural loan opportunities and ensure that farmers receive payments on time. Payments are often delayed by the state, creating cash flow problems for farmers. 

Amid scepticism among observers, Turkmenistan has claimed bumper grain harvests since 2003. However, in November 2006, Niyazov accused officials of falsifying figures after failing to meet targets. Bread shortages were reported in late 2006. 

With agriculture accounting for 26 percent of GDP and a source of livelihood for 54 percent of Turkmen, according to World Bank figures, the sector is a key to the success of Turkmenistan's economy, and to Berdymukhammedov's pledge to raise living standards for ordinary people. 

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ECONOMY

ADB estimates Turkmen GDP growth at 8.5% 

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) recently published economic outlook for 2008 after reconsidering prospects of GDP growth in a number of Caucasian and Central Asian states in 2007, New Europe reported. 
According to this report, the growth of Central Asian economies will be robust in 2007-2008. The growth rate for Turkmenistan in 2007 has been increased from 6.5 per cent to 8.5 per cent. GDP growth estimates for 2008 also stand at 8.5 per cent. It is reported that potential discovery of new gas fields, social and economic reforms and Turkmenistan's cooperation with the world community was also considered. As regards economic performance in 2006, the GDP growth (nine percent by ADB estimates) was determined by gas prices hike and increase in exports. The GDP growth outlook for Armenia in 2007 was upgraded from six per cent to 10 per cent; in Azerbaijan - downgraded from 30 per cent to 25 per cent; in Kazakstan - downgraded from nine per cent to 8.6 per cent; in Kyrgyzstan - downgraded from 5.5 per cent to four per cent. GDP growth for Tajikistan in 2007 was increased from six per cent to 7.5 per cent; Uzbekistan - from six per cent to 7.4 per cent. Next year, GDP growth in Armenia will total nine per cent, in Kazakstan - 8.9 per cent, in Kyrgyzstan – five per cent, in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - 7.1 per cent, according to ADB estimates. The Asian Development Bank was established in 1966 to promote economic growth in Asia and Far East. Turkmenistan joined ADB in 2000.

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ENERGY

LUKoil, Stroytransgaz may join Turkmen projects

Russia's LUKoil and Stroytransgaz are interested in participating in energy projects in Turkmenistan, Russian Ambassador to Turkmenistan Igor Blatov said. "Russia and Turkmenistan are holding talks on expanding cooperation throughout the oil and gas sector, Interfax News Agency reported.
Together with Gazprom, which is not a newcomer on the Turkmen gas market, LUKoil, Stroytransgaz and other leading Russian oil and gas companies want to participate in energy projects in Turkmenistan," Interfax News Agency quoted him as saying.
The Russian-language newspaper Neitralny Turkmenistan (Neutral Turkmenistan) published the ambassador's speech, given on April 8th to celebrate 15 years of diplomatic relations between Turkmenistan and Russia.
Partnership in the fuel and energy sector is a priority task for Russia, the ambassador said. Together with traditional partnership in gas, economic relations between the two countries are expanding in other areas.
More than 1,000 Kamaz vehicles were supplied to Turkmenistan in 2006 and Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) customers in Turkmenistan doubled to 160,000, the news agency quoted Blatov as saying.
Power Machines completed an energy unit upgrade at and supplied parts to Mary Power Plant. Opportunities are being considered for further cooperation between the St. Petersburg engineering consortium and Turkmenistan. The Russian airline began making regular flights to Ashgabat in February 2006, the ambassador said.
Russia is one of Turkmenistan's leading foreign trade partners. Turkmen exports to Russia made up 47 per cent of the total in 2006 and Russia accounted for 9.5 per cent of imports, he said.

Two gas compressor stations inaugurated in Dashoguz

Two gas compressor stations, Deryalyk and Yylanly, were inaugurated on April 6th in Dashoguz province by Turkmen President, Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov, Turmenistan.ru reported on April 7th.
The stations have been built by the Ukrainian partners, specialists of Sumskoye machine construction scientific-industrial association named after MV Frunze on orders of Turkmengas state concern. The total cost of facilities is US$180 million. The Deryalyk gas compressor station stands at the tail end of the interstate main. It is the last compressor station in the territory of Turkmenistan through which gas is exported to CIS and European countries. Each station is capable to increase export throughput by 33 billion cubic meters a year. At the inauguration the State News Service (TDH) quoted Berdimuhammedov as saying: “Today, by launching these new facilities, we want to emphasise that Turkmenistan is committed to the contracts signed with our partners, making big investments in modernisation of equipment and developing industrial infrastructure. There are speculations in a number of foreign mass media as to the reliability of information about Turkmen natural gas reserves. Thus, our country's reputation as an honest and trustworthy partner who strictly fulfils all its international agreements is doubted."

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