Turkmen ruler ends free gas, power, and water for citizens

AK BUGDAY, Turkmenistan – Turkmenistan's strongman ruler on Tuesday, October 10, signed a law obliging citizens of the economically struggling nation to pay for gas, electricity, and water, which they had previously enjoyed for free.

The popular subsidies had allowed each citizen to free monthly allowances of 35 kilowatt hours of electricity and 50 cubic meters of gas, as well as 250 liters of water every day.

"I am signing the law on ordering payments for gas, water, electricity, housing and communal services, transport and communications," President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov told a consultative Council of Elders known for its absolute loyalty to the 60-year-old ruler.  

"We discussed with the government the introduction of new tariff plans and we will introduce them...  gradually," he said.  

Berdymukhamedov's predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov made water, electricity and gas free in 1993 shortly after the energy-rich country gained independence from the Soviet Union.

Central Asian Turkmenistan sits on the world's fourth-largest natural gas reserves, and sells most of its gas to China.

But it has been struggling to cope with a fall in energy prices since 2014 and a decision by Russia to end its purchases of gas from the country.

The move against subsidies comes after the desert-bound country hosted what foreign critics branded an expensive vanity project – the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games – in the capital Ashgabat last month.

The complex of sporting venues created for the games alone cost $5 billion (4.2 billion euros) while last year a bird-shaped international airport was completed at a cost of over $2 billion. – Rappler.com