Archive for February 5, 2008

Turkmenistan’s map to “Democracy” and Economics

central asia map The map of Central Asia shows the location of Turkmenistan just north of Iran and south of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.  If you read yesterday’s blog, it was about the laws which do not seem to exist or are not adhered to in order to protect the Turkmen citizenry.  Thus, it is logical to assume it “is impossible to import democracy from outside; it should be grown inside in the Turkmen society.” This quote was written by a 30 year old male from Dahoguz, Turkmenistan wanting to study Public Policy in the U.S.  He also pessimistically admitted:  “I know that it is very hard to be a political analyst in Turkmenistan, it is almost impossible because in my country, there is only one person who can and who may do political comment – our President, Absolute and Autocratic.  

This young Turkmen went on to explain despite the obstacles set up in the existing government why he wants to study Public Policy.  “Because I believe changes happen….The social structure we have today may be called only as governmental capitalism with monopoly to all means of productions.  By the highest standards after disintegration of Soviet Union, the political system in Turkmenistan is not changed.  The true socialism as Marx described we never had, as well as we don’t have true capitalism now with real market and real competition.”   

According to a 22 year old female in Public Policy, her observations about Turkmenistan’s economics and politics follows: “Nowadays, Turkmenistan presents early signs of transition from its “dark past” of whimsical authoritarian regime towards liberalization of economy and easing of political stranglehold.  The evidence for government’s progressive thinking would be declared reforms in education, improving Internet access, removing attributes of personality cult, attempts in improving investment climate and steps toward open convertibility of local currency.” 

 When she lived in Moscow as a student, she discovered the different spending practices of Russians compared to her countrymen from Turkmenistan.  She wrote:  “I was struck by distinct behavior of customers in choosing goods, like more attention to its brand name and popularity rather than utility and price, or it was strange to see when one purchased exact quantity of goods based on number of family members whereas in Turkmenistan, people tended to buy in large amounts considering extended family, guest and other unexpected occasions.”  If she were to go to the U.S. to pursue further education in Public Policy, her research project might include investigating the “values and mindset of consumers with Muslim background that were affected by Soviet regime and currently living in the transitioningsocities.”                                                                                         

Politics have played havoc with people’s lives in Turkmenistan as witnessed by a married male, age 34 years old also in Public Policy.  He wrote the following:   “A change in the leadership of my country in Dec. 2006 created an opportunity for long-awaited reforms in the political system and economy of Turkmenistan that would positively impact lives of each citizen and the society as a whole.Despite the controversial nature of the political processes that occurred after the death of the previous president [Turkmenbashy] and the subsequent presidential elections falling far short from the modern democratic standards, yet it is hard to underestimate public implication of those events and potential value for the nation that may yet follow. 

This young Turkman seems hopeful, if not optimistic that his country will surge ahead because: These events have somewhat restored almost forgotten public memory of the right to participate in discussions of political issues that impact every one individually and society in whole.  Although pre-stages and tightly controlled, political authorities had some dialogue with public.  The presidential elections presented an opportunity to exercise the electoral rights that were previously “deactivated.”  The key implication is probably public realization that the long and hard frozen political system began to defrost: slowly and hesitantly.” 

I’m not sure how well grounded his optimism is after reading some of the other reports from students who want to leave their country to study elsewhere.  Many of those who were Russian trained, took flight during the rule of the former president.  Perhaps with the new economic and political reforms of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, there is indeed hope for the country of Turkmenistan.


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