03/23/2009, 00.00
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Global crisis could further increase poverty in Turkmenistan, World Bank reports

According to the World Bank, Turkmenistan’s economy might even shrink. The International Monetary Fund expects growth in Central Asia to be less than 2 per cent. Just last week however Turkmen President Berdymukhammedov announced 10.7 per cent growth for this year.
Ashgabat (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A World Bank official said that Turkmenistan's economy will contract in 2009, and that the country is considered to be “highly exposed” to further poverty risks because its poverty level is above 20 per cent.

Robert Taliercio, a senior economist in the bank's Poverty Reduction and Economic Management section for Europe and Central Asia, said that whilst 40 per cent of developing countries could experience the same thing, Turkmenistan is in a better position than many because of its large natural gas reserves and greater fiscal capacity.

In early March, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a grim economic forecast for Central Asia and the Caucasus, projecting growth to slow to less than 2 per cent this year as the global economic crisis takes hold.

Exports from the region will be affected by the downturn, reducing output and impacting prices, the IMF said.

Countries in Central Asia and the Caucasus are also expected to face serious financing constraints, putting a damper on their development plans. Steps will have to be taken to protect the poor.

Such a negative forecast is quite in contrast with Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov’s expectation that his country’s GDP growth would reach 10.7 per cent this year.

The president did not explain how that rate could be achieved, but many energy importing countries are openly courting the Turkmen leader.

Very little of the wealth generated by energy exports benefited the population during the reign of Berdymukhammedov’s predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov, who was in power for more than 20 years until his death in December 2006.

When he took the presidency Berdymukhammedov announced his intention to introduce reforms but so far only a very few have been implemented.

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