ASHGABAT — Turkmenistan is a relatively small Central Asian presidential republic consisting of approximately 5 million people, and is bordered by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Iran and Afghanistan. Like many developing nations, Turkmenistan’s economy is heavily reliant on agricultural and industrial energy exportation, with the People’s Republic of China accounting for nearly 70 percent of its global exports.
The question remains that as a developing nation with an economy consisting of agriculture and oil exports: what is the Turkmenistan poverty rate?
Prior to the withdrawal of communism from Turkmenistan in 1989, a staggering 45 percent of the nation’s population (accounting for approximately 2 million people) lived below the official poverty line; a number which rose even further to 58 percent by 1999. In fact, between 1990 and 1998, the average GDP per capita has fallen by nearly 75 per cent. This dangerously high figure is largely due to the country’s economy still following old Soviet models, despite the country becoming a presidential republic in 1991.
One key reason that helps explain the worsening Turkmenistan poverty rate is the political nature of the central government, based in the nation’s capital of Ashgabat. In 2015, Freedom House (a non-profit international watchdog monitoring the status of freedom in foreign elections, press and politics) has declared that none of Turkmenistan’s elections since its independence in 1991 has been either free or fair, and assigned the nation the lowest possible score in the categories of civil liberties and political rights.
How does that connect to the Turkmenistan poverty rate?
With the top 10 percent of the nation’s population holding approximately 30 percent of the nation’s wealth (consisting mainly of politicians and oil barons), the levels of inequality in Turkmenistan have led to high levels of corruption. In fact, Forbes, Freedom House and The Independent have all classified Turkmenistan as one of the most corrupt nations on Earth, with Transparency International ranking it the 7th most corrupt country in the world. In Turkmenistan, politicians spending money on luxury goods for themselves, rather than improving national infrastructure.
Finally, the Turkmen poverty rate continues to rise as a direct result of climate change. With 80 percent of the country’s natural landscape consisting of non-arable desert, agriculture (which constitutes approximately 10 percent of the national GDP, and one half of the national labor force) is constantly at risk of, and highly vulnerable to, the effects of desertification.
This issue, exacerbated by oil extraction and refinement, as well as widespread chemical pollution from poorly applied fertilizers used to support the Turkmen cotton industry, is causing dry salt marshes incapable of supporting agricultural activity to spread across not only Turkmenistan, but much of Central Asia.
As a result, many of those based in agricultural sectors are at risk of losing not only their primary sources of income, but those in every sector is at risk of losing their primary source of food as well.
With an extraordinarily corrupt government supporting desertification-accelerating activities for national income, all on an outdated Soviet model of national administration, the Turkmenistan poverty rate is, at present, dangerously high – but not beyond repair.
Through programs that seek to severely cut down on corruption, and improved environmental regulations that shift Turkmenistan away from relying too heavily on oil extraction, the national economy and environment can both witness a steady growth rate over the coming years.
– Bradley Tait