Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 3

On December 27, Niazov decreed the abolition of capital punishment, making Turkmenistan the first post-Soviet Central Asian country to take that step. In his addresses to the parliament and the People’s Council, Niazov announced a number of economic measures ranging from populist pledges to utopian goals. He promised: boosting public health programs with a view to raising life expectancy from the current average of 65 years to 75; paying all wage and pension arrears immediately; doubling the minimum wage and the minimum pension, effective immediately and with retroactive effect for December 1999; and providing all Turkmen households with water, gas, electricity and salt free of charge forever.

To finance these pledges and goals, Niazov counts on a surge in Turkmenistan’s oil and gas exports. In his speeches he held out the prospect of 50 million tons in annual oil exports and 120 billion cubic meters in annual gas exports by 2010. On the basis of those projections, Niazov professed to expect a fivefold increase in Turkmenistan’s gross domestic product by 2010 and the “dawn of a Golden Age” for the country (Turkmen Television, AP, December 27-29, 31).

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