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.
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
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
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
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.