Turkmenistan’s benzene-based social contract gets “renegotiated” by authorities
Business and Economics, TurkmenistanNo Comment
Underneath Turkmenistan is abundant natural wealth, with more being discovered all the time. So, our government applies useful rules for the Turkmen people. Natural gas, electricity, and even some amount of petrol — in 2011, we were the fourth cheapest in the world, at 12 pence per liter (click images to see more information) — are free for us, which is really something amazing. For example, at present, every person is entitled to 720 liters of free benzene per month. However, the process is that you must prepare the documents of your car and submit to the proper authority; afterward, you receive your benzine chip. The six months start from the moment you receive it.
Still, salaries are not good and there is huge unemployment among the population; we barely have enough to buy food. The social contract here is basically silence in exchange for subsistence: the authorities buy Turkmeni passiveness with free services. However, free service comes are also often at low quality and are not broadly available in the country. For example, during this winter there were serious heating problems everywhere. Also, the authorities may hinder at any time certain people (those who are on their blacklist) from receiving the services.
Therefore, some people have started saying that it would be better to charge a small amount for resources while making them broadly available for everybody in every corner of the country. A good idea, a better social contract: everyone pitches in, but everyone gets, and we don’t have to be so dependent on authorities. But then the state has to provide, or allow, real salaries to the people, not to mention relinquish power and control. “Real salaries” translates as “inflation” to some Turkmeni, especially because “free market” also means chaos and price-gauging. For example, on the eve of every Nowruz, which is celebrated broadly and lavishly, the government keeps an eye open that enough foodstuff is available in shops and that prices are not raised too much by sellers.
Since this past January, the government has made a new arrangement about the benzene chips, extending them to one year and distributing them all in January. If you miss the distribution, then you will have no free benzine. This is quietly a swindle, a violation of the social contract. Where is the Turkmen people’s signature on the dotted line?