Turkmenistan has reported a whopping 32.7 percent decline in industrial production during the first five months of 1997 (relative to the same period in 1996). According to a report recently issued by the State Statistical Committee, natural gas production declined by 38.8 percent during this time, while cotton processing was down a stunning 75 percent. (Russian agencies, June 17) Output in the chemical and petrochemical sectors fell 35.1 percent, while food production was off 4.9 percent.
The decision to release such stark figures suggests that the government of President Saparmurad Niazov is increasingly worried about the country’s economic situation. It also suggests that Niazov’s ambitious "Plan for the New Millennium" is on the rocks. According to this plan, which was announced on April 7, Turkmenistan is to enter the 21st century as an "economically developed and law-based state" in which GDP is to grow at least 10 percent annually until the end of the century. Top priority in the plan is to be given to developing the fuel and energy sector and agriculture, while Turkmenistan’s cotton production is to rise to 2 million tons by the year 2000 (from the 450 tons recorded in 1996).
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