SEATTLE — There is a high rate of poverty in Turkmenistan. The country is slightly larger than California, lies east of the Caspian Sea and North of Iran and Afghanistan and houses the fourth largest oil reserves on the planet. Despite being resource-rich and making multiple trade deals since breaking away from the Soviet Union, a large portion of the population remains below the poverty line. Below is a timeline distinguishing events which led up to the current poverty projection.
1925 – Turkmenistan becomes a republic of the USSR. During the Soviet era, Turkmenistan was considered one of the poorest republics and with an estimated 45 percent of the population facing poverty in Turkmenistan.
1991 – The Soviet Union breaks apart and Turkmenistan gains independence.
1998 – A natural-gas pipeline to Iran opened.
1999 – Poverty in Turkmenistan included 58 percent of the population.
2001 – An estimated 34.4 percent of the population was below the poverty line.
2003 – An agreement was signed with the Russian Gazprom monopoly. It agreed to buy 60 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas each year. An estimated 58 percent of the population was under the poverty line.
2004 – An estimated 30 percent of the population faced poverty in Turkmenistan.
2007 – Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan agree to build a new pipeline north of the Caspian Sea.
2008 – Turkmenistan cuts gas supplies to Iran.
2009 – A new pipeline to China opened. A World Bank official said that Turkmenistan was at risk of increased poverty rates, saying that its current poverty level was above twenty percent.
2011 – Transparency International named Turkmenistan as a joint third most corrupt country in the world. The president limited the number of satellite dishes in Turkmenistan to restrict access to foreign media.
2012 – The first census was taken since 1995. Poverty in Turkmenistan was estimated to be 0.2 percent.
2015 – Turkmenistan devalued its currency by almost 20 percent. The depreciation is accredited to a slump in energy prices and a weak Russian Ruble. By the end of the year, construction began on a pipeline connected Turkmen gas to India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Continued poverty in Turkmenistan over time in and out of the Soviet Union is but one trend in the nation. Economically, the country relies on oil and continues trying to find new buyers for its oil.
The environment has taken a toll from the development of the region, historically beginning with irrigation of the Amu Darya and currently through the building of new pipelines. Irrigation diverts so much water from the Amu Darya that it disrupts the replenishing of the Aral Sea. Further desertification has begun to take place in a country that is already largely a desert.
The need for economic diversification and privatization of the economy has been affirmed by the World Bank and CIA World Factbook. Turkmenistan has begun slowly working towards those suggested directions. Transparency International still ranks Turkmenistan as 154th out of 176th countries studied. It is hopeful that taking into consideration the suggested directions will aid Turkmenistan in their battle to relieve poverty.
– Michael Rose