Turkmenistan plans to abolish free utilities for population

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ASHGABAT (TCA) — Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has ordered the government to outline ways to abolish utilities benefits that have provided households with free electricity, natural gas, and water for a quarter-century, RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service reported.

Berdymukhammedov said on June 6 that the benefits system established by his predecessor in 1993 was “ineffective,” according to state-run media reports.

Berdymukhammedov ordered the cabinet to “prepare proposals on eliminating the system of benefits in order to leave such benefits only for those who really need social assistance.”

The natural-gas-rich country’s autocratic first post-Soviet leader, Saparmurat Niyazov, introduced the benefits system two years after the Soviet collapse.

At the government meeting on June 6, Berdymukhammedov said that difficult external geopolitical conditions including the falling of oil and gas prices would affect the situation in international assets and investments markets, reducing the economic activity in the states which are the partners of Turkmenistan, the State News Agency of Turkmenistan reported.

“Our economy continues developing under conditions of the external demand reduction,” he said, noting that measures aimed at saturation of the domestic market with local products and stimulation of import substitutive productions are being implemented.

Export oriented branches are established in industry, agriculture and service sphere, which would allow expanding our opportunities to come over negative impacts of the world’s crisis, the President said.

The State budget was made considering the real situation by reduction of unreasonable expenditures, Berdymukhammedov said, adding that it also stipulates more balanced and purposeful use of finances.

Berdymukhammedov also urged the government to start reforms in the banking and taxation systems.

The orders come amid growing signs of economic troubles in the isolated country of 5.3 million.

Sergey Kwan

TCA