08/19/2022, 09.59
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Turkmen businessmen tell president to end corruption and nepotism

by Vladimir Rozanskij

In an open letter to Serdar Berdymuhamedov published in the local press, industry and trade representatives denounce an untenable climate. "Only close relatives of your family can work freely." The manat exchange has been blocked since 2018. Taxes to support state events and festivals also under scrutiny.   

Ashgabat (AsiaNews) - In a heartfelt appeal to President Serdar Berdymuhamedov, Turkmenistan's businesspeople have denounced the bureaucracy, corruption and bribe system that prevents normal business activities. The document was also forwarded to the editorial staff of the Turkmenistan Chronicles, with a request to give it the widest circulation.

Representatives of industry and commerce speak of an untenable climate of obstacles due in large part to familism and preferential relations, to which the presidential family itself is anything but a stranger, having in fact grabbed the country's most profitable business. First and foremost, therefore, it calls for the possibility of directly addressing the highest authority without having to go through the myriad filters that prevent direct relations between the president and the various expressions of Turkmen society.

It is understood that "as the people know, you as the new president have been given the serious task of running a country that is far from easy, with its great economic problems," not excluding the pandemic, which however much it is denied at the official level internally, "has nonetheless resulted in damage to the country because of the limitations around the world." Even before Covid, the entrepreneurs observe, "business here had collapsed due to super-corruption of public officials," and during the period of pandemic closures all kinds of restrictions were imposed.

During this very difficult phase, "only a select few, that is, the close relatives (so-called plemjanniki or "nephews") of your father [former President Gurbanguly] could work freely, selling almost all export products across the border through shell companies." Nepotism has in fact dispossessed a great many "honest businessmen," and the arbitrariness of the power caste "is impossible to measure" because of its extent. The names of the "nephew-grandfathers" are also named: "Shamirat, Khakymirat and their father Annanazar Rezhepovy feel like the monarchs of the country, and they own incredible capital abroad."

Huge bribes are demanded for the raw materials needed for production, or they are forced to put themselves at the service of the plemjanniki, as in the chemical industrial complex in Kijanlinsk, where the various types of polymers are produced, totally under caste control. The same goes for the Turkmenistan Materials Trade Exchange, where export items are traded, and also various dimensions of the country's domestic trade. Yet private companies that make use of polymers "have many workers to maintain, not to mention the taxes and utilities to pay each month."

They also complain of pressure from power bodies and law enforcement agencies (interior ministry, security services, prosecutors' offices and courts) that "do not miss their opportunities, using the powers entrusted to them, to create new barriers and grab bribes and percentages on business." Entrepreneurs, however, recall that "private initiative, as the experience of more developed countries shows, is the real foundation of the economy, while here we seem to do everything to scuttle it."

Another reported problem is the exchange rate of the manat, the local currency, which compared to other world currencies "has completely frozen in 2018, and today everyone is doing calculations based on the black exchange of currencies." It is proposed to accept the rules of the market economy, letting the currency fluctuate transparently, both up and down. Banks should also cooperate, granting the currently prohibited credits and allowing the use of cash within the right limits, while at present even ATMs are effectively inactive. Because of the inability to exchange money, even Turkmen students abroad are unable to pay for their studies, despite all the efforts of their families, and in fact remain refugees abroad, as even passport expirations are blocked unless they can tip the right person.

In this context appear the chareliers, the additional taxes required to support large state events and festivals to which all students and state officials, as well as employees of private firms, are particularly odious and a required contribution, "to please you and your family," the appeal's signers write, "and to avoid unbearable retaliation against our activities."

Private firms are not allowed to have more than two cars (not so long ago they were banned altogether), which women are forbidden to drive, while the cars of the powerful, the only ones allowed to use dark colors, and with tinted windows, whizz around the country all the time. What is darkened, for most of the population, is only the Internet connection; entrepreneurs are asking the "guardian of the Fatherland" president to finally shed some light.

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