Turkmenistan Domestic Developments
Turkmenistan’s Minister of Road Transport Dismissed
During a government meeting, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov pointed out a number of shortcomings in the work of the Ministry of Road Transport of Turkmenistan, stressing that the transport enterprises lack discipline and do not provide quality services to the public. President Berdymukhamedov then dismissed Minister of Road Transport S. Berkeliev for serious shortcomings in his work and appointed Deputy Minister of Road Transport M. Gurbandurdyev as Acting Minister.
Top managers of Main State Service “Turkmen Standards” dismissed
President Berdimuhamedov dismissed the Chairman of the Main State Service “Turkmen Standard,” Nurgeldi Orazov, as well as his deputy, Ovezmuhammet Atayev, for “serious shortcomings in their work.”
The officials were dismissed following an audit by the Prosecutor General’s Office of “Turkmen Standard.” The audit revealed a number of violations relating to the issuance of permits to operate heavy vehicles on the territory of Turkmenistan. The load capacity of these vehicles exceeds the maximum weight allowed for transportation of goods on the roads of Turkmenistan. These vehicles also suffer from excessive engine noise, as well as faulty brakes.
Deputy Minister of Communications Dismissed
During a regular government meeting, Prosecutor General of Turkmenistan Yaranmyrat Yazmyradov reported on the results of an audit of the Ministry of Communications, which revealed a number of issues such as financial abuses. Deputy Minister Annadovlet Mohammedov was dismissed for “serious shortcomings in his work.” President Berdymukhamedov ordered the Minister of Communications, Bayramgeldi Ovezov, to eliminate these shortcomings as soon as possible.
Minister of Construction of Turkmenistan reprimanded
President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov severely reprimanded Minister of Construction Dzhumageldi Bayramov “for unsatisfactory performance of his duties and shortcomings in his work,” and demanded that he take immediate measures to improve the situation. According to the President, “First of all, this is about the lack of highly skilled professionals, the lack of technical equipment in the industry and, most importantly, the lack of a specific work plan and carefully thought-out policies to ensure the active participation of domestic enterprises not only in the construction of residential buildings but also other important facilities.”
President Berdymukhamedov Ordered to Eliminate Flight Tickets Deficit
On July 20, the heads of transport and communication, construction energy and industry, finance and economic sectors, met to discuss the problems of the Turkmenistan state airlines, “Turkmen Airlines.” Among the problems are the delays in renovations of the Turkmenabad and Dashoguz airports and the construction of a new Ashgabat airport; the lack of aviation professionals to staff the airlines; and problems with ticket sales for individuals and for cargo. Participants noted that, while it is difficult to buy tickets, the planes frequently have many empty seats. The President ordered the Head of the National Service “Turkmen Airlines,” Merdan Aiazov, to eliminate these shortcomings as soon as possible, and warned him that failure to shape up would lead to his dismissal.
Independent mass media repeatedly reported on numerous issues that consumers have with the state airlines. In particular, the media said that passengers with valid tickets have to pay significant additional sums of cash in order to take their seats on the plane. Media reports also described cases where passengers were prevented from boarding because an official wanted to transport his heavy goods for commercial purposes. Media reports described the poor customer service and random flight changes.
President Berdymukhamedov Criticized Administration of Railway Sector
At a government meeting, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov criticized the heads of the state railroad company for the low quality construction of new railroads, some of which are sub-standard. Berdymukhamedov demanded that the shortcomings be eliminated quickly.
Berdymukhamedov Unhappy with Health Path Condition
On July 19, during a working meeting, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov expressed his extreme dissatisfaction with the current state of the “Health Path.” He said that during his recent walk on the “Health Path” he “didn’t see any policemen at their posts, nor anybody else charged with overseeing order on this promenade popular among local residents and guests of the capital,” and the path itself is not properly maintained. “It is possible that in order to keep the path clean and in good condition, you need to privatize it and charge an appropriate amount of money for it, or create a special service within the city administration, which would be responsible for maintaining the path,” – said Berdymukhamedov to the Vice-Premier Akmurad Egeleev, and Ashgabat mayor, Shamukhammed Durdyliev, ordering them “to examine the issue and present their proposals shortly.”
Turkmen Executives Forced to Spend Holidays in Avaza
Unlike his predecessor, dictator Saparmurat Niyazov, who did not provide any holidays to his subordinates, President Berdymukhamedov annually gives his employees 10 days of vacation time which they must use at the beginning of July and must spend at the Avaza tourist resort on the Caspian Sea. The President explained that three days of the stay would be covered by the federal budget whereas the remaining days would be paid at the personal expense of the officials. The average monthly salary of a Turkmen official is 100 USD, and the nightly cost at Avaza is 100 USD, thus making seven days at the resort prohibitively expensive. Many therefore found excuses to leave the resort early.
Turkmenistan’s Only Party Members to Pay Fees
Members of the only Turkmen political party have been urged to pay membership fees. Until recently, the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan as well as quasi NGOs – the Women’s Association, the Youth Union, the Union of Veterans, each of which fulfills the functions of ideological support to the authorities, were sponsored by the state budget. As of June, monthly fees amounting to 1% of monthly salary are now deducted.
468 people involved in illegal trucking identified in Turkmenistan
In 2012, at the instructions of the President, the Ministry of Internal Affairs identified 468 people involved in trucking without permits, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Isgender Mulikov, reported at a government meeting chaired by President Berdymukhamedov. The Minister also reported that truckers have now been registered as taxpayers. According to him, over 98,000 trucks used in the construction industry have been registered.
Why Young Turkmen Men Are Afraid to Serve in the Army
A certificate of completion army service in Turkmenistan costs USD 1,500. The cost of service postponement or a certificate of health condition exempting the holder from army service costs between USD 300 to 500. Local people say that the tendency to pay bribes to avoid army service is so strong that if it continues, there will soon be no soldiers to protect the country. Young people are afraid to join the army because of violence and hazing. Only this past March, 63 violations and three suicide attempts were registered in the border guard units.
Turkmen Authorities Are Demolishing Homes Again
In May, Turkmen authorities began the demolition of summer houses (dachas) in Berezenga village near Ashgabat. Some families still remain in their homes and consider the demolition illegal. Berezenga’s residents bought their plots of land about 20 years ago in full accordance with the law. However, in May, representatives of the local administration visited people’s homes and demanded that they demolish their own houses, remove the leftover debris and free the territory of the village. They did not offer any compensation. Several days ago the authorities switched off the water, gas, and electricity supply to the houses of the remaining residents. The residents intend to appeal to international organizations.
Kh.Agabaev: Turkmenistan – Private Garden for President’s Family
In an article for centrasia.ru, Kh.Agabaec asserted that cronyism in President Berdymukhamedov’s inner circle is undermining the Turkmen leader’s authority. Many of the President’s relatives use their position for personal benefit, including his father, Myalikguly, who does his friends and acquaintances various favors for a minimum charge of 50.000 USD. Next on the list are Berdymukhamedov’s sisters, their husbands, and children. They actively expand their commercial activities, taking over various hotels, bazaars, supermarkets, and granting themselves exclusive rights to import tobacco, alcohol, medicines, and other in demand goods. You cannot mistake them for anybody else, says the author: nobody else is so rude, obnoxious, and disrespectful to the people, driving around in luxury cars, and always surrounded by bodyguards. Berdymukhamedov’s two older sisters, Ainabat and Gulnabat, are the worst offenders of abusing their “privileges” as relatives of the President, says the author. They control major foreign and local businesses and demand sizable kickbacks. Berdymukhamedov’s son, Serdar, has also began to intervene in state personnel policy. At the beginning of June he became the Deputy Minister of Agriculture and began to control the agrarian sector of Turkmen economy, thus significantly expanding his areas of influence in determining the composition of the government.
K.Niyazaliev: Whims of Turkmenbashi the Second
In an article for centrasia.ru, K.Niyazaliev describes the growing discontent with Berdymukhamedov’s rule among Turkmenistan’s political elite, caused by his grossly irrational spending of the state budget. During the last two years, the President spent 1.5 billion USD from the budget on building unnecessary facilities. For example, the construction of hotels, most of which remain empty, totaled 450 million euro. Roughly the same amount was spent on the new presidential palace. The rest of the funds were devoted to building the Avaza tourist resort on the Caspian Sea, which doesn’t attract tourists due, in part, to its proximity to the oil refinery and the cold temperatures of the sea water. To save the situation Berdymukhamedov prohibited his subordinates from going on holiday abroad and forced them instead to go to Avaza only, making them very angry. The President also developed a taste for fancy cars, and for adorning them with golden spare parts.
Some high-placed officials say that after his re-election for a second term, Berdymukhamedov decided that Turkmenistan is his private playground or his own kingdom to be exploited only by him and his family. He personally determines the color and style of suits to be worn by officials, as well as clothes for students and singers. Behind his back, Turkmen officials call him a top model or a showman. Recently Berdymukhamedov ordered his subordinates to make a low bow when greeting him, and they allegedly respond by making crude jokes behind his back about his desire to make people bend down. At the same time, the President’s reforms do not bring the desired results, and in fact have the opposite effect, proving Berdymukhamedov’s inability to combat growing crises in Turkmenistan’s national economy. Mindful of the mass protests in the Arab world, the Turkmen president fears for his position. Without waiting for any possible conflict to unroll, he decided to stock up on arms and bought from Belarus special military uniforms, weapons, shields, and batons for Ministry of Interior law enforcement units. Earlier, Ashgabat purchased from Belarus a special system for the forced landing of unmanned enemy aircraft. Special units conduct daily exercises to practice their reaction to possible public protests.
True Life: I Was A Turkmenbashi Flower Girl
In an article for Radio Liberty / Radio Free Europe, Zach Peterson, citing a female journalist of the Turkmen service of the Radio, whose true name is not revealed for security reasons, describes what it was like to be a girl selected to give flowers to the Turkmen leader. According to the article, children selected to participate in official events spend dozens of hours in rehearsals and miss classes, while their parents often have to pay for their expensive costumes. The festivities and ceremonies are a trial for children, both physically and emotionally. The journalist said that often children had to stand for hours waiting for Turkmenbashi to appear without food or drink.
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