04/02/2021, 10.21
TURKMENISTAN
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No more bread in abyssal economic crisis

by Vladimir Rozanskij

There are places where there has been no bread for over a month. The police must intervene to disperse the beggars from the streets. Often violent street fights between young people and little children over a piece of bread.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - For more than three weeks the state shops in the Velayat (province) of Mary, in the south-eastern part of Turkmenistan, have stopped selling bread at the state imposed price.

Now it can only be purchased from individuals at astronomical prices.

The global economic crisis is reaching dramatic levels in the Central Asian nation on the border with Afghanistan, so much so that the police must intervene to disperse the beggars from the streets.

A resident of Mary tells the correspondents of Radio Azatlyk: "Every morning at dawn, people line up in front of the state bakers, hoping to be able to get some loaves". There are places in the area such as Bayramaly, where the bread has not been found for over a month. In private stalls, the loaf of bread costs 6 to 9 manat instead of one (50 euro cents).

In addition to bread, there is a lack of other food and basic necessities in the shops. In general, there is a lack of all low-cost products "controlled" by the state. Six eggs cost 5 manat from private traders, and the price of flour has also doubled, due to the increasing difficulties and costs of transport.

At the Bayramaly market a seller explains: “The flour comes from the capital Ashgabad, and we have to buy it at 600 manat per 50 kg instead of 400; we pay 3.5 manat for eggs, but above all we have to bribe the guards at the checkpoints, who want more every day”.

Poultry products and eggs are becoming more and more expensive also due to the lack of feed for poultry, with the increase in the price of maize and all cereals.

The value of the dollar and the euro on the black market is also increasing. This leads to further devaluations of the local manat and the decreasing spending power of households. The police are forced to constantly deal with crowds roaming the streets, rummaging in garbage cans, and an increasing number of beggars and homeless people.

Many of these are women and children. The police try to identify and photograph these people, to carry out "re-education work" with them.

Some of these people are offered to wear the uniform of the garbage disposal units and help in the collection of waste, with the promise of being able to keep something edible or reusable. The police explain that "all these beggars will be less impressive if they wear the uniform of the municipal services". Many also collect glass, plastic and cardboard, trying to scrape together money to buy the municipal uniform, which costs 24 manat.

Increasing numbers of children between 5 and 12 years old wander the streets with buckets and rags, looking for cars to clean for a manat. Many of them have not only stopped going to school, but even claim they don't know what it is. The police threaten to arrest their mothers if they don't send them to school. A child told reporters that "his mother replied: if only, then at least we can eat every day".

At funerals and weddings, it is now normal to come with your own spare containers, to be able to take away as much food as possible, at least the bread and sweets. Many participate in the ceremonies with their children, in order to feed them. There are increasing incidents of violent street fights between young people and small children over a piece of bread.

The economic crisis has caused not only the lack of food and the stoppage of production in general, but also a state of "total unemployment". The government does not want to admit the gravity of the situation: Turkmenistan is one of the most isolated countries and resistant to external intervention, but the population is now at breaking point.

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