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Turkmenistan

Yearbook 2016

Turkmenistan. In January, Moscow halted its purchases of Turkmenistan gas, a severe blow to Turkmenistan's economy. The country lost its main source of foreign currency income and exports, which fell sharply in the previous year, fell just over 40% in the first quarter. Low gas prices contributed to the decline.

2016 Turkmenistan

According to countryaah, the central bank stopped the sale of foreign currency, which led to a higher dollar exchange rate in the black market in fear of devaluation. It did not, however, and in February the amount of money Turkmenistan is may send abroad.

The regime restricted companies' access to foreign currency due to the sharp decline in export earnings. It sparked speculation that the country's foreign currency reserves were running out, but the government gave no information on this.

The budget information was also not public, but the IMF calculated that the government had a deficit after several years of heavy surpluses. The government was ordered by President Gurbanguli Berdimuchammedov to investigate whether the country's generous welfare system needs to be changed due to the economic crisis. This included, among other things, free access to drinking water, electricity and household gas.

In the wake of the economic crisis, President Berdimuchammedov made major changes to the government.

During the year, a modern trade route was opened through Turkmenistan along the historic Silk Road. The first freight train then went from China to Iran on over 1,000 kilometers of railroad. The trip took two weeks, which is a month shorter than the sea freight. A railway line was also opened between Turkmenistan and Afghanistan with a view to increasing gas and oil exports.

On a visit to Germany, President Berdimuchammedov said his country was negotiating with the EU on gas exports, an attempt to widen the market after the Russian downturn.

Berdimuchammedov himself led a commission that proposed a constitutional amendment with an extended mandate for the president from five to seven years and the 70 year old age limit for presidential candidates expired. The proposal was intended to consolidate 59-year-old Berdimuchammedov's concentration of power and open him up to a long-term candidate. Parliament approved the constitutional amendments in September.

Public sector officials were given new rules during the year that prohibited them from openly criticizing the authorities and the regime's policies. They were also forbidden to disclose information about the economy and they had to adhere to official dress code and code of conduct.

When Freedom House ranked the world's countries for freedom of the press, Turkmenistan received the second worst rating after North Korea. A Swedish Turkmen journalist was arrested during the year in Belarus and threatened with extradition to Turkmenistan, where he was previously imprisoned and tortured, according to Reporters Without Borders.

In November, the president's son, Serdar Berdimuchammedov, was elected to parliament by a parliamentary election. Assessors interpreted it as a sign that he was eventually appointed to succeed his father.

During the year, the Swedish Consumer Organization urged IKEA to stop buying cotton products from Turkmenistan, where the harvest is done with forced labor. According to human rights organizations, tens of thousands of public servants are forced out into the cotton fields in order for growers to deliver their quotas and not lose their land.

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