Turkmenistan president fires energy chief amid oil and gas sector woes

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ASHGABAT (TCA) — The official Neutral Turkmenistan newspaper on April 6 reported that Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has fired Yashigeldy Kakaev, the deputy prime minister for energy, for “weak control” of the country’s oil and gas sector.

Kakaev will be replaced by Maksat Babaev, the head of the Turkmengaz state gas company.

The energy sector accounts for more than 90 percent of Turkmenistan’s exports. The country has been hit hard by a prolonged slump in natural gas prices, which have fallen almost 50 percent since 2014, RFE/RL reports.

Turkmenistan, nevertheless, has insisted on exporting natural gas at pre-2014 prices, leading to the loss of Russia and Iran as customers and leaving essentially just China.

The firing of Kakaev, a respected energy industry veteran, from such a crucial position could have wide-ranging impact on the economy.

Kakaev became chief of the energy sector in 2015 after serving in several other top energy-related positions over the past 20 years. He has been credited with driving big gains in the sector.

Luca Anceschi, a professor of Central Asian studies at Glasgow University, told RFE/RL that Kakaev’s dismissal “certifies the ultimate failure of Berdymukhammedov’s energy policy.”

“It is a sign of regime denial, as Kakaev’s failures are not attributable to personal shortcomings,” Anceschi added. “They relate most directly to the implementation of a policy course that was flawed at its very onset.”

Speaking about the key aspects of work of the fuel and energy sector at the Turkmen Government meeting on April 5, the Turkmen leader focused on increasing the export volumes of oil and gas products, and construction of a gas chemical complex at gas deposits rich in high-structure ethane, the State News Agency of Turkmenistan reported.

“The combination of such productions will open up the opportunities to produce various polymers. We should intensify the development of gas processing industry to launch the production of ammonia, carbamide and industrial hydrocarbon, increase the volumes of production of liquefied gas that is of great demand on the world markets. These important production areas will allow diversifying the national economy. In this regard, it is necessary to continue modernizing the fuel and energy complex, build new plants, explore and develop new oil and gas deposits,” Berdymukhammedov said.

Sergey Kwan

TCA