For the third week in a row President Berdymukhamedov vented his frustration with his subordinates, shuffling many key government positions as well as regional, municipal, and district officials. Such public reprimands and personnel shuffling are reminiscent of Berdymukhamedov’s predecessor, the mercurial Saparmurat Niyazov, and this most recent round is noted by the volume of firings and transfers of very high placed government officials from the justice, oil and gas, transportation, and finance sectors.
Such dismissals are usually announced in the state-controlled media, with officials, such as Deputy Justice Minister Begli Ballyev named, and the standard (and vague) rationale given for their dismissal is, for “shortcomings in his work.” Others named in purges this month included Deputy Chairman of the State Concern Turkmen Cotton, Ashyrmyrat Cherkezov and Mary power plant chief Altymyrat Gurbangeldiyev – most likely for the failure of the Mary power station. Berdymukhamedov issued reprimands to the Energy Minister, Murad Artykov, and the Minister of Public Utilities, Arslan Yagshimammedov, and dismissed Vice-Premier Rozymyrat Seyitkulyev from his post as the Deputy Chairman of the Turkmen State Committee on Emergency Situations. Seyitkyulyev was once again reprimanded, only this time in his capacity as the Vice Premier in charge of transport and communications, likely the disadvantage of holding two high-profile positions and failing at both, is two high-profile reprimands; this time, he was accused for the poor organizing of the construction of the international North-South transport corridor (i.e., the Kazakhstan – Turkmenistan – Iran international railway), and he was dismissed from both positions.
Berdymukhamedov’s wrath also fell upon Sakhetmyrad Mammedov, fired from his post as Chair of Turkmengaz State Concern; Shadurdy Alalov, Chair of State Committee for TV, Radio, and Cinematography; and Arslan Yagshimammedov from the post of Utilities Minister, all “for shortcomings in work.” Some officials were transferred, including Deputy Head of Balkan District in charge of education, culture, healthcare, and sports, Maisa Saryeva; the Minister of Economy and Development, Biashimmyrat Hojamammedov; and the Chairman of the Board of the Garagum Bank, Rovshen Nuriagdyev; the state media did not specify what their new positions would be. In addition, Berdymukhamedov transferred Durdyly Durdylyev from his positions as Deputy Finance Minister and Deputy Manager of Turkmenistan’s Monetary Fund, to a new appointment as Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Control Chamber.
Despite dissatisfaction with the personnel he has managing the country, the President nonetheless to boast about Turkmenistan’s economy and its vast energy resources. Despite the global crisis, Turkmenistan did not scale back its construction plans, he noted at a government meeting, adding that some 397 large facilities worth over $5 billion were commissioned in 2012, including new gas turbine stations, new industrial enterprises, railway stations, bridges and other facilities. The president, in harmony with his state-controlled media, expresses high confidence in Turkmenistan’s growing chemical industry and its hydrocarbon resources that the media boasts is so plentiful that there is more than enough to “ provide fuel for China, Russia, and Europe in the near future.”
Nonetheless, in order to find foreign clients for its resources, the country will need to shape up in terms of its reputation for doing business. Turkmenistan finds itself at the bottom of lists such as The Wall Street Journal’s annual Index of Economic Freedom, —placing at 169 out of 177 countries ranked as “repressed.” This index is based on criteria including the country’s trade freedom, business freedom, investment freedom, and property rights. Maplecroft, a UK-based political risk consultancy think-tank, said in a survey published January 9, that investors operating in Turkmenistan face an “extreme risk” of having their businesses expropriated. Maplecroft concluded that it had found several reasons to be wary of the business climate in Turkmenistan after “evaluating the risk to business from discriminatory acts by the government that reduces ownership, control or rights of private investments either gradually or as a result of a single action.”