Ashgabat, 15 January 2013 (nCa) — President Berdymuhamedov addressed Monday a joint session of the parliament and the government [full cabinet plus national security council].
We are producing here the complete translation of his speech, with some passages edited slightly for clarity:
Dear deputies of the Mejlis of Turkmenistan! It has become a tradition for us to meet at the beginning of each year to take stock of the work done over the past period, and discuss plans for the coming year, to determine the program of action for the near future and the challenges facing the country in the future.
I want to emphasize that this meeting has a special character, because this year the deputies of the Mejlis of the fourth convocation are completing their term. As you know, the new Constitution [of Turkmenistan], approved in 2008, defined the powers of the Mejlis. Because four years have passed since then, I think it appropriate to take stock of the national legislative activities of the Parliament.
The Mejlis of Turkmenistan as a legislative body has worked fruitfully during these years. I want to emphasize that during this period there were a total of 17 sessions of the Mejlis, it passed a total of 373 documents, including 192 laws and 181 decrees/resolutions. Among these documents, there are 28 resolutions on Turkmenistan’s ratification or accession to international treaties.
Thus, the members of parliament of the fourth convocation made a great contribution to the country’s process of transformation. The continued improvement of national legislation is necessary for the continuation of our work on the construction of a democratic secular state law, legislative support of the most important aspects of society and the state, the comprehensive development of the economy, science and culture, to improve the social and living conditions of the population, continuation of expansion and protection of the rights and freedoms of man and citizen.
Mejlis of the fourth convocation adopted a number of laws that are directly related to the political and socio-economic rights and freedoms. In these – Law “On Political Parties”, the Family Code of Turkmenistan, the Labour Code, the Code of Turkmenistan “On social protection of the population”, the Law “On Mass Media”, and a lot of legislation dealing with the improvement of the electoral system of the country.
Thus, at present, our country has a strong legislative framework, which incorporates the main areas of the world experience of lawmaking. This work, along with the ratification of and accession to the major United Nations conventions, comprehensively promote the successful integration of our country into the international legal space. The basic law of our country [Constitution] guarantees full civil rights and freedoms, consistent with international laws. We can certainly talk about it!
Fellow Deputies, BY passing the laws other legislative work you contribute to the successful solution of problems of political, economic and social development of Turkmenistan. This is confirmed by the results that have already become history of the past four years.
Results of the national development, discussed at the recent meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers, suggest that the past year was another important step in the realization of the reforms to fundamentally transform our country, to ensure its continued prosperity.
Annual GDP growth in Turkmenistan is 11 percent; there is growing investment activity. Most sectors of the economy in the past year have achieved the targets set. There is a growing movement of entrepreneurs, their work is important in life. Good results and support to agricultural producers. Therefore, we moved ahead with the full provision of basic foodstuffs.
Despite the adverse weather conditions of last year, the country has grown and harvested a rich crop of wheat and cotton. There was significant increase of the agricultural products. Thus, we consistently and successfully meet the challenges posed by the Program of the President of Turkmenistan, approved by the Elders Council in October 2012, and intended for the next five years!
Fellow Deputies, Now I want to highlight a number of important issues related to further improvement of the national parliament and address existing gaps in it.
In my view, the Majlis is far behind the times and life. However, as our poets and writers express figuratively, today our Motherland is progressing rapidly, at the pace of spirited horse rushing forward.
As an example, let us take what was said about reforms in the education system. We pay close attention to this issue, as it is one of the rights of the citizens to receive education. Improving the education system, as a spiritual, social, economic and cultural foundation of societies move forward, is a priority of the state policy.
The law passed by the deputies of the Mejlis of Turkmenistan “On education”, mainly reflects the [effort for] implementation of the provisions of the Constitution, but, while this law is adopted, it is already behind the times. Many separate directions, largely reflecting the modern trends in international education, have not been introduced in this law.
From the rostrum of the Council of Elders, I outlined the proposals to change the concept of reforming the education system. These, in particular, were about the extension of education in secondary school to 12 years, among other things, the right of citizens to receive education on a fee basis, but these legal issues are still unresolved. And time does not wait, especially since the conversion, scheduled to take place in the education system, is to be implemented in the near future.
I consider it appropriate that the Mejlis of Turkmenistan and the Ministry of Education and other ministries and departments prepare a draft law “On Amendments to the Law of Turkmenistan” On education”, and at the first meeting, consider the bill.
We are lagging behind in addressing the issue of preparation of the Housing Code. I am sure in the near future it will be prepared, fully guaranteeing the implementation on the rights of a citizen to housing. The deputies of the Mejlis of Turkmenistan must make every effort to prepare and adopt the law for formation and development of the housing market as a component of the new economic relations.
Fellow Deputies, With the gradual transition to a market economy social protection of citizens has always been the focus of the state. We never forget about the individual categories of citizens – large families, elderly people and children, the disabled, senior citizens, in short, all those who need help from the state. This is evidenced by free provision of gas, electricity, water, salt and petrol, the symbolic payment for housing and communal services, loans to buy a home, and very low taxes.
All of the above should be reflected in the work of legislators. And Code of Turkmenistan “On social protection of the population” also needs some work.
In October last year at the Council of Elders, we noted that the Gengeshes [village councils] have numerous flaws that negatively affect the lives of the villagers. In order to improve the efficiency of local government, reduce the management costs, the proper execution of the powers of local councils vested by the Constitution and laws of Turkmenistan, as well as management of the territorial distribution of the population, bringing the administrative centres close to the rural population, the provision of necessary services in rural areas, it is necessary to arrange for consolidation of the administrative units, to prepare proposals on the budget of Gengeshes.
In the preparation of draft legal acts related to this work, as well as examining the proposals to select one etrap [district] in each region as a pilot area during the administrative-territorial transformation, Turkmen parliament needs to become the coordinating body.
What is important is the question of bringing the existing practice of the administrative-territorial division in line with the legislation of Turkmenistan. I believe it is appropriate that the Turkmen parliament together with the Cabinet of Ministers prepare a proposal to create a special state agency for regional development in the future.
It is also necessary to continue work on improving the national election legislation and bring it into conformity with the Basic Law and international law. Furthermore, we should improve the legal provisions guaranteeing citizens the respect of one of the most important political rights – the right to elect and be elected, and in the future to develop and adopt the Election Code.
Fellow Deputies, This year, the focus of the Mejlis should be on further improvements in the legal framework for the fiscal system; there is the need for a new approach to the preparation of the state budget as the main instrument of formation, distribution and use of funds and the monitoring of its effective implementation.
In this regard, given the possibility of pre-planning, strategic directions of economic development of the country should accelerate the development of new, more advanced methods of the financial and economic policies, including approval of the State Budget for 2-3 years. All this should be reflected in the improved budget code.
There is the need to speed up the preparation of the Budget Code of the country in accordance with the latest international standards. The preparation of the Budget Code of Turkmenistan should involve experts from ministries and departments, universities, scientists and lawyers. This important work should be completed by the end of the term of office of members of the Mejlis of the fourth convocation.
As before, the importance will be given to the promotion of private enterprise, investment activity of the entities, and foreign investors. To solve the country’s problems to build industrial capacity through the construction of new facilities, renovation of existing facilities requires the creation of appropriate conditions, to increase the attractiveness of our markets to foreign investors and their competitiveness. In future, we should provide more serious legal guarantees and other benefits for our partners.
The focus of the Mejlis should also be on the questions of increasing crop yields through the introduction of scientific achievements in the agricultural sector, the study of climatic conditions in the provinces to meet the requirements for the management of crop rotation, introduction of advanced achievements in the seed, the rational use of land and water resources, and land reclamation.
In addition, further work is needed to improve management practices in agriculture, creating a solid legal basis for the proper organization of the provincial and district agricultural corporations, which are not currently capable of orderly and effective operations.
Close attention should be paid to the execution of legal documents related to agriculture. In this direction there is a lot of work, indicating the presence of some of the deficiencies in the performance of the Majlis’s adopted legislation. There is the need to study the international experience of management of agriculture and on this basis to induct into national legislation the international norms regulating the industry!
Fellow Deputies, In the current transition to a market-based economy the regulation of civil relations is very important. Integrity and equality of all forms of ownership, freedom to conclude contracts, equality rights of the parties in civil law relations are the main principles of settlement of commodity-money relations.
More than 15 years have passed since the adoption of the Civil Code regulating these issues. There is the need to update and adopt a large package of laws on the basis of the Code in order to ensure the conditions for a gradual transition to a market economy.
And because I think that it is appropriate to continue to improve the civil law. MPs should treat this issue from the perspective of legal reforms and given the need for a new public law and individual structuring the settlement of market-based and public relations, as well as further development of civil law.
The deputies of the Mejlis of Turkmenistan shall jointly with the Government consider how to meet modern requirements of social development adopted in the first years of independence, legal documents on securities and commodities exchanges. In case you need to make appropriate amendments to them, or adopt new ones, there should be a structured way to update these legal documents.
In this regard, I note that the Majlis fails to exercise proper control over the execution of its laws. MPs pass laws, and then completely forget about them. Who then should work with the new laws, which of the government [organization, organ] should prepare documents adopted on the basis of these laws? Do [you ensure] the provisions of the documents [based on] adopted law? The MPs do not pay enough attention to these questions.
That’s why some line agencies [and organizations] are so far working under regulations adopted in the distant past, and some of these legislations do not meet today’s requirements. This is the fault of the prosecutor’s office and the ministry of justice [Adalat] because these agencies are to supposed to supervise the execution of the laws.
Here is just one of the many examples of this. The Turkmen parliament adopted the Law “On Joint Stock Companies”. The Act created agricultural companies, and then they were forgotten. Unfortunately, this issue has not been noticed either by the Majlis, or the Cabinet, or the prosecutor’s office and the Ministry of Justice.
A recent check on my order showed that the work being done by these farming corporations, since their creation, does not meet the requirements of the law; when opened the base capital was not created, no shares were issued. Shareholders do not participate in the work of companies, they do not hold annual meeting, and no profit is distributed. In addition, there are numerous financial irregularities in the company activities. Also, in some cases, members of the Parliament are preparing legal documents of poor quality.
A. Nurberdyeva [chairperson of the parliament], I believe that the work of Parliament requires adjustment. If the need arises, you can submit proposals to establish additional committees of Parliament; be sure to settle this issue.
Fellow Deputies, The role of the Civil Procedure is very important from the point of view of ensuring the availability of fair trial, the rights of parties to civil proceedings, the effective protection and restoration of social and state interests. Based on the foregoing, I believe that MPs should accelerate ongoing work on the Code of Civil Procedure. This Code shall meet the requirements of a market economy at the present stage of development of social and economic relations, and should be directed at making the settlement of civil proceedings. The new code in civil cases should be based on the principles of competition and equality of the parties, giving the courts in civil cases high power and support of the law.
Currently, much attention should be given to the introduction of complex inter-related amendments to the legal provisions relating to the conduct of criminal proceedings and the execution of punishment in criminal cases. In other words, the state policy on criminal law aims to further exclusion of criminal offenses that do not cause much harm to society.
These offenses must be translated into the category of administrative offenses and for them there should be the administrative responsibility. It is also necessary to reconsider the severity of certain crimes and reduce the penalties for them.
The MPs, before the expiry of their current term, should try to finalize the new Code of Administrative Offences. The Code, based on humanitarian policy, should not only transform the severity of the penalties, but also ensure the inevitability of accountability for the offense. Only then will we be able to achieve the rule of law in the society and state, and respect for law and order.
Fellow Deputies, I am confident in the fact that the legislature has successfully implemented new, more responsible tasks for the legal support of foreign policy of our country. Its basic principles were specified in the Concept adopted by us on the foreign policy of Turkmenistan for the period 2013-2017. Now you need to prepare proposals for the amendments and additions to the legislation of the country resulting from the new Concept of foreign policy of the state. Therefore, there is the need to lead productive work to strengthen relations with parliaments of foreign countries and make them systematic, cooperation with international organizations, first and foremost, with the United Nations!
Fellow Deputies, As I have already noted, in 2013, the term of office of the fourth convocation of the Mejlis comes to an end. This obliges members, successfully completing a five-year program for the development and adoption of laws, to take stock of their work, a solid base for the next convocation of deputies, as well as at the highest organizational and political level, the election of the new parliament, to which little time is left .
The nature of these elections is determined by the fact that our country has entered a whole new era. For victory in the parliamentary elections the representatives of at least two parties will compete. This will give a powerful impetus to the campaign and allow voters to send to the parliament the most worthy representatives. I think that among the newly elected deputies of the Majlis there would be some of the current members. They must pass to the newly elected deputies their experience and knowledge.
In closing, I want to express my confidence that the deputies of the Mejlis of the fourth convocation will further strengthen the legal framework in order to achieve the constitutional goals – building on the ancient Turkmen land and sacred secular democratic constitutional state, multiply the celebration of a new era of the Motherland – the era of power and happiness!