2011 is a remarkable year in the history of independent and neutral Turkmenistan because the country will celebrate its glorious 20th Anniversary of Independence on 27 October. 20 years ago, this date eternally entered the history of Turkmenistan and has paved the path to a new era of national revival for the Turkmen people and of a strong democratic state.
During this short historical period of time, Turkmenistan has achieved impressive success and unprecedented changes throughout the country and in all spheres of state and society, determining its rapid socio-economic, cultural progress and ever-growing authority in the international arena.
Under the wise and far-sighted leadership of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, a neutral Turkmenistan confidently progresses towards new heights of prosperity, while high achievements in socio-economic development and impressive successes of the country are the best proof of the irreversibility of our development.
These successes have been achieved thanks to the broad support of Turkmenistan’s people of the balanced domestic and foreign policy, while they have actively participated in the comprehensive and profound reform of society.
For the first time in history, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously recognised Turkmenistan’s right to bear the high title of peacemaker, and the country’s constructive role in strengthening peace and security.
A new stage of development is bringing Turkmenistan’s peaceful foreign and domestic policy in accordance with the norms and principles of international law and the UN Charter. Vigorous activity for the sake of conflict prevention, disarmament, peace and security are the policies of a neutral Turkmenistan.
Close and productive cooperation with the UN, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Union, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation, UNESCO, UNICEF and other reputable international organisations is a priority for Turkmenistan.
However, the opening of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia in Ashgabat reveals the main aim of Turkmenistan’s foreign policy remains strengthening peace, security and stability.
Turkmenistan’s positive neutrality is an important guarantee for attracting foreign investment and banking capital. In recent years, investments from different countries into the national economy directed at the modernisation of leading industries such as oil and gas, textiles, construction, transport and communication, have increased considerably.
Today, under the leadership of the Head of State, Turkmenistan is actively conducting peaceful foreign policy, establishing friendly relations with all nations based on equality, mutual respect, mutually beneficial cooperation and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.
In this context, it should be noted that cooperation between Turkmenistan and the UK is expanding steadily and is filled with new initiatives. The main purpose is a focused dialogue on the expansion of political and economic contacts between the two friendly countries.
Numerous recent meetings between President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and the now former UK Special Representative for International Trade and Investment, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, have become the most important events in our inter-State relations. The talks focused on the desire to use opportunities for deepening the partnership not only in the trade and energy sectors, but also a collaboration in humanitarian fields and in science and education.
In his message to President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, UK Prime Minister David Cameron highlighted his intention to enhance cooperation. In particular, he underlined that ‘the UK highly appreciates developing relations with Turkmenistan,’ and also expressed hope that ‘bilateral ties will develop, especially in trade, energy and in the area of assistance to Afghanistan.’
During a visit to Turkmenistan, UK Minister of Energy Malcolm Wicks signed the Protocol of Intentions document between Turkmenistan’s Ministry of Oil and Gas and Mineral Resources and the UK’s Ministry for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reforms.
In addition, UK State Secretary for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Lord Philip Hunt, made a visit to Ashgabat, leading a delegation of British businessmen that attended the second meeting of the joint Turkmen-British Energy Business Forum.
After numerous visits to Turkmenistan, Co-chairman of the Turkmen-British Trade and Industry Council, Ronald Nash, confidently stated that the relations between our two countries have reached a new advanced qualitative and progressive stage. He underlined that ‘the leading British companies are seeking to expand their presence in the promising and dynamically developing Turkmen market and are ready to take part in the implementation of new joint projects.’
Although the volume of bilateral trade may not currently be that great, the desire to expand trade and economic ties allows us to confidently assume that the work of the Turkmen-British Trade and Industry Council will promote further development and mutually benefit cooperation between our countries.
The largest oil and gas forum, ‘Oil and Gas of Turkmenistan – 2008’, held in London at the Institute of Directors has also become an important event in bilateral relations. Representatives from around 160 international companies from 23 countries worldwide took part in the two-day conference. The forum has attracted international attention and demonstrates the willingness of global business circles to establish long-term cooperation with Turkmenistan. They understand the huge potential of the energy market, as well as the favourable investment conditions that Turkmenistan provides.
A country rich in hydrocarbon reserves, Turkmenistan is one of the largest energy powers in the world. Thanks to an effective energy policy, Turkmenistan today is becoming an important exporter of energy to major international markets. Currently, natural gas from Turkmenistan is exported to China via Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The total length of this pipeline is about 7,000 kilometres with the annual capacity of up to 40 billion cubic metres. Turkmenistan also annually exports over 20 billion cubic metres of gas to Iran through newly built pipelines. The Russian Federation is a traditional importer of Turkmen gas, and more active work is being carried out on the Turkmenistan – Afghanistan – Pakistan– India (TAPI) pipeline. The TAPI project significantly strengthens the position of Turkmenistan in the promising and fast-growing gas market in the Asian region. Taking into account already existing gas pipelines to China and Iran, the supplies of Turkmen gas to the TAPI pipeline can provide more than 90 billion cubic meters of gas per year to countries within the region. Direct supply of Turkmen gas to Europe is also considered to be a promising possibility.
The diversification of energy flows and the inclusion of new countries will not only bring great benefit to the economy of Turkmenistan but also provide economic development to the countries we work with.
The country also has enough resources for large-scale projects. Results of an international audit (to assess the gas reserves in accordance with the international system of evaluation and classification of reserves of gas fields, conducted by an independent British company, Gaffney, Cline & Associates) prove that the country has enormous gas reserves.
Estimations of such fields as South Yoloten-Osman and Yashlar located in the Amudarya basin in eastern Turkmenistan, show that the South Yoloten-Osman has a high index of 21 trillion cubic metres and Yashlar has a 1.5 trillion cubic metres deposit of fuel reserves. Turkmenistan has invested around US$10 billion for the accelerated development and commissioning of huge deposits in Southern Yoloten-Osman.
Turkmenistan’s hydrocarbon potential is estimated at 24.6 trillion cubic metres of natural gas and 12 billion tons of oil. Such energy resources can provide the country’s need for heat and electricity for many years ahead.
According to the Programme for Development of the Oil and Gas Industry for the period up to 2030, annual natural gas production will reach 250 billion cubic metres and up to 110 million metric tons of oil. Furthermore, by 2015, the programme plans to export up to 125 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year.
As for developing Caspian Sea resources, Turkmenistan has implemented an enormous preparatory project. The beginning of commercial production of natural gas on the Turkmen Shelf has made the exploration of rich hydrocarbon reserves of the country successful. In July, a modern industrial complex that includes a large gas processing plant and a ground gas terminal, which now takes the natural gas produced from off-shore fields in the Turkmen Caspian Shelf, was put into operation near the village of Kyyanly. This facility cleans and prepares up to five billion cubic metres of gas per year for export, with potential future capacity reaching 10 billion cubic metres per year.
All these factors undoubtedly contribute to strengthening Turkmenistan’s economic potential and increasing interest of foreign companies to establish a full-scale cooperation with the country.
The textile industry is one of Turkmenistan’s leading exports. During the independence years, billions of dollars were invested in the development of the textile industry with dozens of factories and enterprises producing cotton yarn, knitted fabric and the highest quality denim being commissioned.
Currently, textile mills, cotton-spinning factories, terry fabric production plants and the weaving industry are already operating in the country. These factories have created tens of thousands of jobs in the country. The processing of cotton produced in the country has also significantly increased. The industry’s development is only possible due to Turkmenistan’s fast-growing nature.
Several of Turkmenistan’s textile factories received international certificates of quality assurance ISO 9002, testifying to the high standard of products made in Turkmenistan. In turn, this led to a rapid global demand for products labelled ‘Made in Turkmenistan,’ which correspond to world standards, ensured by the modern lines of the new textile factories of Turkmenistan.
Today, a significant part of the textile industry production is exported globally to USA, Russia, Turkey, Hungary and others.
Turkmenistan’s agriculture is another leading sector of the economy, and provides food security and employment in rural areas. The task of Turkmenistan’s new agrarian policy is to ensure high profitability, the abundance of food and an increase in exports.
Transformations in the agricultural sector are aimed at the development of land relations, the improvement of financial, credit and tax systems, the formation of efficient markets for food and material resources, the social development of rural areas and improving agricultural legislation.
In 2011, Turkmenistan harvested 1.6 million tons of wheat, and for the first time, the country now has a real opportunity to export high quality Turkmen wheat to the global market.
Turkmenistan’s tourism industry is an important facet of the future of the country. After all, Turkmenistan is at the crossroads of Europe and Asia and the Great Silk Road passed through the country. Turkmenistan also has a number of historical and cultural monuments which are included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List: Ancient Merv, Kunya Urgench and the Parthian Fortresses of Nissa.
There are several prerequisites for the organisation and development of tourism in Turkmenistan: an excellent climate, a key geographical position enabling the country to become a center of business activity, high capacity for the provision of elite tourism and recreational services and the availability of sufficient new opportunities.
There are also plans to create a national tourist zone, ‘Avaza,’ which was first announced by the Head of State in May 2007 during the tripartite talks involving the Presidents of Turkmenistan, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan. In July of the same year, the first presentation of future tourism took place in the town of Turkmenbashi, and was attended by overseas ambassadors accredited to Turkmenistan, along with heads of well-known companies that had submitted detailed proposals and projects.
Over a short period of time, the Caspian region’s excellent tourism potential has drawn the attention of foreign businessmen and investors. Today, a new international airport terminal, a man-made river, electric power plants, water desalination facilities and infrastructure for an ultramodern resort have been put into operation. In addition, there are a number of resorts, Bed and Breakfasts and hotels such as Vatanchi, Hazyna, Nebitchi, Kerwen, Kuwwat, Serdar, Arzuw and Dayanch, as well as children’s health and recreational centres, which deserve a special mention. Undoubtedly, the new world-class seaside resort on the Caspian coast will be an important centre of international economic and investment activity.
This story testifies to the current economic and financial capabilities of Turkmenistan. For a long time, the people of Turkmenistan have enjoyed free gas, electricity, water and salt. There is a symbolic payment for housing, and the lowest prices for petrol and other fuels in the world. These things have become possible thanks to sound government policy that ensures the dynamic development of the economy and the consistent growth of the welfare of the population.
The undisputed success of the Head of State’s creative strategy – the key aspects of which are the formation of a fundamentally new model of national economy – is underlined by the International Monetary Fund’s forecasts for Turkmenistan in 2011.
According to IMF forecasts, Turkmenistan’s 2011 economic growth will be no less than 10-11 per cent. The IMF Executive Board has stated that there is a solid foundation for Turkmenistan to accelerate the ongoing economic reforms and development, including improving public financial management and promoting private sector growth.