Strapped For Cash: Officials in Turkmenistan Have to Buy Watches With the Berdymukhamedovs’ Faces on Them

In Turkmenistan’s Balkan province, heads of government agencies are being forced to buy wristwatches with the current president Serdar Berdymukhamedov and his father, the previous president Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov on the face. They cost from 1,500 to 3,000 manats ($430-$860 at the state exchange rate or $75-$150 at the black-market rate), according to a report by Radio Azatlyk.

The heads of all departments — including healthcare, education, law enforcement, transport and communication companies — at the velayat (regional) and etrap (district) levels are required to buy wristwatches with portraits of the Berdymukhamedovs elder and younger.

The heads of higher-level offices were obliged to buy a commemorative watch with double portraits costing 3,000 manats, while the heads of small budgetary organizations will have to shell out 1,500 manats for the watch.

According to Azatlyk, several different watches are available. The most expensive one has a portrait of Serdar Berdymukhamedov in a black tie on the left and his father Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, now chairman of the Halk Maslahaty (People’s Council), in a red tie on the right. The flag of Turkmenistan is placed at the top of the face, and there is a map of the country at the bottom.

Other watches have only the portrait of Serdar Berdymukhamedov and a map, while the third watch has him with the flag and map.

During the reign of independent Turkmenistan’s first leader Saparmurat Niyazov, watches with his portrait were also produced and given as gifts to schoolchildren and employees of state-run and government agencies.

A government worker from the town of Turkmenbashi told Azatlyk’s correspondent: “We used to see watches with the president’s image during Niyazov’s time. It is not surprising that Serdar Berdymukhamedov has also started producing gift watches with his portrait on them. Now all that’s left is for him to start installing statues to himself all over the country.”

“We already can’t make ends meet because of constant extortions to buy books and [attend] various events,” the frustrated worker added.



Times of Central Asia

Askar Alimzhanov graduated from the journalism department of the Kazakh State University named after S. Kirov, then worked as a correspondent for the daily republican newspaper Leninskaya Smen. He then moved to the United States to be a reporter for the daily newspaper "Cape Cod Times" in Hayanis, Massachusetts, (USA) under the journalist exchange program between the Union of Journalists of the USSR and the New England Society of News Editors. Since then, he has helped build transparency and understanding of Central Asia region in various executive level positions at esteemed media organizations including "Akbar"(Alma-Ata) international center for journalism, the Khabar News agency, the Television and Radio Corporation "Kazakhstan" JSC, and MIR- Kazakhstan.

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