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Turkmenistan: the odd one out

Written by on Monday, 17 August 2009
Business and Economics, Turkmenistan
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Being an isolated gas exporter can be a blessing in times of unprecedented economic chaos. Thanks to its miniscule integration with world markets and the rather good deal it is getting on its natural gas exports (via a long-term Gazprom contract that is subject to some controversy between Russian and the Central Asian country), Turkmenistan has fared rather well in 2008. The economy grew at double-digits and is expected to do well again this year. A new stabilisation fund is supposedly putting gas money aside for rainy days. Further reforms to make the currency more convertible seems in the pipeline. The IMF has concluded its recent Chapter IV Consultations in Ashgabad and confirms the upbeat assessement:

Executive Directors welcomed Turkmenistan’s continued strong macroeconomic performance despite the ongoing global financial crisis, and commended the authorities for their prudent policies and recent reform initiatives. Directors noted that the favorable economic outlook and comfortable financial position offer a good opportunity to accelerate economic reforms toward a more market-oriented system. This will require careful sequencing of reforms, with priority areas being public financial management, the monetary policy framework, and financial sector development. Strengthened implementation capacity, with technical assistance, including from the Fund, will be key to success.

It is quite interesting to see the IMF be so relatively positive on the prospects of the Turkmen economy and Berdymukhammedov’s handling of it since taking over as the country’s president. The fund’s mission got underway in 2008 once the Manat’s exchange rate regime was liberalised. Relatively speaking for Turkmenistan’s post-independence period, this is an economic reform bombshell, albeit long overdue.

In its continuous media coverage from Turkmenistan, BBC Monitoring had a summary of a recent TV Altyn Asyr program that shows how proud the leadership is about these careful steps at more integration with the rest of the world:

Speaking about Turkmenistan’s fruitful cooperation with the world’s major financial institutions, Deputy Prime Minister [Tuwakmammet] Japarow briefed [the meeting] on a report provided by the International Monetary Fund executive council on a working visit by an IMF delegation to Asgabat. In their report, IMF experts highly rated the ongoing economic and financial reforms in Turkmenistan, as well as measures initiated by the country’s esteemed president to prevent the negative impact of the global financial crisis, including the establishment of the stabilization fund.

And this wouldn’t be a post on Turkmenistan without mentioning at least one real oddity emanating from Ashgabad. The TV station on which the above report was aired on got to feel some presidential fury towards the end of the show:

Esteemed Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, touching upon the work of national TV, harshly criticized its programmes. Their quality and content are very poor, and there is no sign of creative approach, the head of state said. National TV has been provided with all conveniences for efficient work, including modern technical equipment, esteemed Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow said.

In this connection, the head of state reprimanded the head of the Altyn Asyr TV channel, [Maksat] Altayew, and ordered him to take urgent measures to remedy the situation.

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