Edited by Léo-Paul Dana, Mary Han, Vanessa Ratten and Isabell M. Welpe
Chapter 41: Turkmenistan
1 Gerard McElwee 1. Introduction The Republic of Turkmenistan has a population of 5 million with a life expectancy of 59 for men and 68 for women. It covers an area of 488 100 square kilometres, bordering Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and the Caspian Sea. Turkmenistan is rich in energy, with 3 trillion cubic metres of natural gas – the fifth largest reserve in the world, after Russia, the United States and Iran. In addition, Turkmenistan has 700 million tonnes of oil reserves, and the world’s third largest sulphur deposits. Turkmenistan is also among the 10 largest cotton producers in the world. Despite these riches, the people of Turkmenistan have remained generally poor. Under Soviet rule, poverty was blamed on the fact that the republic was required to sell its gas and cotton to Russia at artificially low prices. Even after independence, the environment for enterprise in Turkmenistan has not been conducive for the creation of widespread prosperity. O’Driscoll et al. found more government intervention in this country, than anywhere else in Central Asia; they noted, ‘Corruption is a major impediment, and the Economist Intelligence Unit reports that any thorough reform is unlikely for political reasons’ (2001: 368). It is still impoverished, and since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 has remained largely closed to the outside world. It is effectively a one-party state, that party being the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan led by the late president Saparmurat Niyazov until his death in December 2006. Although Turkmenistan is largely covered...
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