Turkmenistan introduces non-cash pension system amid economic woes

ASHGABAT (TCA) — Turkmenistan has introduced a non-cash system of payment pensions to retirees, as the country experiences an economic downturn and a deficit of foreign currency largely due to decreasing revenues from its main export commodity — natural gas.

In May, Turkmenistan’s retirees were informed unexpectedly that starting from June onward their pensions will no longer be handed out in cash in bank offices as before but will be transferred to a bank card for which a bank account needs to be opened, the independent foreign-based news website Chronicles of Turkmenistan reports.

Since it is impossible to change the payment system for all the retirees it was announced that from June onward pensions will be paid to bank cards of residents under 65 years old. Later non-cash pension payments will be introduced for the remaining senior citizens.

The retirees were instructed to submit copies of their passport and pay a fee of 20 manats for bank cards.

The non-cash system was launched on 1 June with major failures. Correspondents of Chronicles of Turkmenistan report that not many retirees managed to have the bank cards issued on time to get their pensions transferred for the previous month. Those whose pensions were not transferred on time received vouchers which will be used to get pensions in cash.

It came as an unpleasant surprise for card holders that during a pension transfer to bank cards and cash withdrawals from ATMs, a commission is retained for bank services. A commission of a little over 1% applies for cash withdrawals.

Queues are being formed in front of ATMs as even in Ashgabat not all stores are equipped with PDQ machines. The overwhelming majority of local residents do their grocery shopping at the markets where no terminals are available and only cash payments are accepted.

The situation in the provinces is more complicated as the ATMs, limited in number, are installed only in major cities and quickly run out of banknotes. Rural inhabitants are forced to head to cities in search of ATMs.

Sergey Kwan

TCA

Sergey Kwan has worked for The Times of Central Asia as a journalist, translator and editor since its foundation in March 1999. Prior to this, from 1996-1997, he worked as a translator at The Kyrgyzstan Chronicle, and from 1997-1999, as a translator at The Central Asian Post.
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Kwan studied at the Bishkek Polytechnic Institute from 1990-1994, before completing his training in print journalism in Denmark.

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