Turkmen president risks public anger with subsidies cut

OCT. 14 (The Conway Bulletin) — Turkmenistan started unwinding its Soviet-era system of state subsidies for water, gas and electricity, a government budget cut aimed at saving money during a sustained economic downturn.

The roll-back on state subsidies had been flagged up although critics said that it still risks angering people in Turkmenistan where the state, and not private enterprise, dominates people’s lives.

Opposition groups also reported that ordinary Turkmen were frustrated with the flatlining economy, the lack of basic foodstuffs in the shops and now a price increase for utilities and other services.

The Alternative News of Turkmenistan, an opposition website based in Europe, said that there had been some small anti-government demonstrations in Turkmenistan to protest against the cutting of free kindergarten places. Protests in Turkmenistan are rare.

In a speech to the Council of Elders, an assembly that meets once a year and rubber stamps the President’s decisions, on Oct. 12, Pres. Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov said scrapping subsidies on water, gas and electricity were necessary to modernise the economy.

Turkmenistan’s economy is reliant on gas and its price has fallen with oil prices since mid-2014 but, at the same time as he was announcing cuts to subsidies, Mr Berdymukhamedov was also promising to spend billions of dollars propping up the energy sector.


>>This story was first published on Oct. 15 in issue 347 of the weekly Conway Bulletin

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