Poverty in Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan is a country in the Central Asian region with a population of more than 5.6 million and a coastline along the Caspian Sea between Kazakhstan to the north and Iran to the south. Prior to gaining independence in 1991, Turkmenistan was a Soviet republic.

The country is well-endowed with energy reserves including natural gas and oil, and its economy is highly dependent on energy production and exports. In addition, Turkmenistan is rich in cotton, another highly exported commodity. Although 48.2% of the country’s labor force works in agriculture, this sector represents only about 8% of its GDP. Turkmenistan, moreover, continues to grapple with substantial barriers to economic and political progress, subjecting many of its citizens to poverty and other sources of hardship. Here is some information about poverty in Turkmenistan.

4 Facts About Poverty in Turkmenistan

  1.  Turkmenistan has made significant progress when it comes to poverty reduction. In 1999, an estimated 58% of the population in Turkmenistan was living in poverty compared to 0.2% in 2012. GDP per capita witnessed a similar kind of improvement over the same period. In 1999, GDP per capita in Turkmenistan was only $1,800. That figure increased to $8,900 in 2012, and in 2017, it reached $18,200, earning the country a rank of 97th highest GDP per capita in the world.
  2. Reports have stated that Turkmenistan possesses the world’s fourth-largest reserves of natural gas. However, its heavy reliance on energy exports exposes its economy to sizeable vulnerabilities, including fluctuations in the energy prices. High energy prices in the last decade enabled sensible progress in the form of utility subsidies on the part of the Turkman government since 2014. However, the country’s GDP growth rate has declined to 10.3%, as a result of low energy prices, in 2014 from 14.7% in 2011. In 2015, its GDP growth rate further declined to 6.5%. These setbacks have resulted in cutbacks on government subsidies and infrastructure spending.
  3.  The country’s first political leader, Niyazov, died in 2006 and Berdimuhamedow, who continues to be president today, succeeded him. The reign of Niyazov led to the suppression of political dissent and tightly limited freedom of movement and travel. Moreover, in 2004 and 2005, Turkmenistan’s development experienced a significant hindrance when the government cut one year off of secondary school requirements, replaced 15,000 health care professionals with military conscripts and closed all regional hospitals. Political repression and limited civil freedoms continued under Berdimuhamedow. With a transparency index of 154 among 176 countries, corruption on all levels of government has also been a major obstacle to development in Turkmenistan, limiting its potential for foreign investment opportunities.
  4.  The state has heavily regulated Turkmenistan’s economy. In fact, the state controls an estimated 90% of agricultural production. People also report long waiting queues throughout grocery stores that the state owns or controls. Since Turkmenistan has subsidized food items like bread and considering that Turkmen farmers cannot grow unauthorized products, the country’s economy is far from efficient or self-sufficient. Government control over the foreign exchange rate, thus restricting the private sector’s ability to import the foodstuffs necessary to sustain the population, has further exacerbated this fact.

Looking Ahead

While official estimates for poverty in Turkmenistan are low, at 0.2%, there are several drawbacks that the country faces in regard to both its economy and its social and political standing. These range from the need to diversify its economic model from its heavy reliance on energy export revenues to the promotion of a more free business and investment climate. In the meantime, international cooperation and coordination ought to strive to ensure that the recent food shortages in Turkmenistan do not escalate into a full-fledged hunger crisis.

Oumaima Jaayfer
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan is a landlocked country in central Asia with a long history of poverty. It is important to first identify the issues affecting poverty in the country, and then look at what is being done to address them. Here are ten facts about poverty in Turkmenistan:

10 Facts About Poverty in Turkmenistan

  1. According to the Asian Development Bank, only 15 percent of the population used the internet in 2015. This statistic shows a lack of access to not only the internet and technology, but also to disposable income and affordable energy.
  2. Also in 2015, the Turkmenistan currency was devalued by 19 percent, which was the first drop in almost seven years.  Bloomberg noted that Turkmenistan and neighboring nations would need to devalue the currency in order to keep their exports competitive.
  3. Although the definitions for appropriate living standards defer in Turkmenistan, the World Bank reports that 58 percent of the population receives cash incomes below the official national minimum wage. According to the government, however, having 50 percent of the national median income indicates unacceptable living conditions; only 1 percent of the population falls below this line.
  4. According to the World Bank, in 2016 the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was $36.18 billion; in comparison, the United States’ GDP is around $18 trillion.
  5. Carbon dioxide emissions are also a good indicator of a country’s development and urbanization. With a 2014 population of 5,466,241, Turkmenistan produced 12.517 metric tons of CO2 per capita. This high level of CO2 production — compared to a relatively small population — indicates unsustainable and slow development, as well as low access to clean energy sources.
  6. There are only 26 registered refugees in Turkmenistan, but it is likely that this number is actually much higher. The United Nations Human Rights Commission once estimated 40,000 refugees in the nation but indicates that most of them have become naturalized citizens.
  7. In 2011, Transparency International named Turkmenistan as the third most corrupt country in the world; this corruption is preventing genuine change that could reduce poverty in the nation.
  8. According to the United Nations Development Program, Turkmenistan has an adult literacy rate of 99.6 percent, which is extremely high for a nation with such high poverty levels; this indicates strong education systems in the country.
  9. In 2012, Turkmenistan adopted the National Climate Change Strategy, which aimed to develop more efficient resource use, a greener economy and lower carbon dioxide emissions.
  10. According to the Turkmenistan government, 75 percent of the national budget was dedicated to the implementation of the National Programme (2007- 2020) on Improving Social and Living Conditions of People in 2012. This funding demonstrates at least an intention to improve the lives of Turkmenistan residents.

Based on these facts about poverty in Turkmenistan, the country has a lot of work to do. Plans need to be improved for reducing poverty, improving the standard of living and becoming more transparent as a nation. Government corruption also needs to be addressed before real change can be made.

Finally, Turkmenistan needs all the assistance it can get from organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank, as this will speed up the process of improving the lives of those in the country.

– Liyanga de Silva

Photo: Flickr