This week, Turkmenistan held the "Oil and Gas of Turkmenistan-2013" conference in Dubai, drawing nearly 200 participants from international players in the oil and gas sector, including players such as Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, CNPS, Petronas, Dragon Oil, Hyundai Engineering Co., LG International, RWE Dea AG, Wintershall Holding GmbH, Schlumberger and the US State Department. Courting international partners, Turkmen officials announced plans to launch the development of the country's largest gas field, Galkynysh, slated for extraction in the summer of 2013, as well as their intentions, though vague on details, to ”diversify the supplies of Turkmen natural gas and establish a reliable and stable system of exports of energy resources to the international markets.”
In efforts to bolster Turkmenistan’s ambitions to become a tourist destination, a Turkmen delegation participated in the meeting of the Tourism Council of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Moscow last week. Additionally, last week, the Turkmen Embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan, hosted a presentation entitled “Turkmenistan's Tourism” within the framework of the program “Development of tourism in Turkmenistan in 2012 – 2016.” In Germany, at the World Equestrian Sports Fair “Equitana 2013” a Turkmen delegation focused on promoting equestrian sport and horse tourism in the country to the international community.
Turkmen citizens potentially may find themselves with increased property rights, with the newly adopted housing code, which returned Turkmen citizens the right to privatize their homes. Privatization of property became possible in the country after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and public servants were given the opportunity to purchase the apartments given them by the state. However, former President Saparmurat Niyazov quickly ended this in 1992, prohibiting Turkmen citizens from privatizing their homes or conducting other real estate transactions. It remains to be seen how the code will be put into practice, given that there is a cost to those wishing to privatize their homes, which may be beyond the reach of much of Turkmenistan’s population, which has a high level of poverty.
Turkmenistan recently had the dubious honor of being ranked at the bottom of the 47 countries designated as Not Free, keeping company with Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Uzbekistan in the US watchdog Freedom House’s latest edition of “Freedom in the World.” In Freedom House’s annual report “The World’s Most Repressive Societies,” Turkmenistan was named as the second most repressive country in the world, to be followed only by Uzbekistan. The international anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International also placed Turkmenistan at the bottom of its 2012 Corruption Perception Index – with Uzbekistan, Myanmar, Sudan, Afghanistan, North Korea, and Somalia –as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. And the 2012 Misery Index, compiled by Business Insider, rates Turkmenistan as the fifth worst country followed only by Belarus, Burkina Faso, Liberia, and Zimbabwe.
However, in the latest UNDP Human Development Index (HDI), which provides a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education, standards of living, and quality of life for countries worldwide, Turkmenistan was placed on the list of 47 countries with a medium level of human development. That said, the country’s usual companions, such as Uzbekistan, Equatorial Guinea, Syria, and Somalia, which normally rank low in the freedom and political rights indexes, were also given a medium level ranking. It also should be noted that even in this Index Turkmenistan went from 87th position in 2010 to the 102nd in 2011, where it has remained since. This year, the Index evaluated 186 countries, dividing them into four categories of countries with “very high development,” “high development,” “medium development,” and “low development”, consisting of about 45 – 47 states each.