Even though Covid-19 has not entered the territories of some countries, its ability to cause economic damage is colossal and global. Coronavirus, the seed of the pandemic, and coronavirus, the smasher of economies are two different things.
Turkmenistan, fully heedful of this sobering fact, has started planning to repair the potential damage to its economy. Going a step further, the country is analyzing its own economic configuration to identify the strong areas – the areas that are doing well under the stress of Covid-19 – and build on them to add certain degree of shock resistance to its economy.
The cabinet meeting, chaired by President Berdimuhamedov through the digital video link on Friday (3 April 2020) was focused on the need to assess the likely damage to the economy by the global wave of Covid-19. The president gave the initial guidelines for some restorative measures.
Here is the summary of president’s remarks:
More stringent measures if required – Immediately after receiving the news of outbreak of coronavirus from China, we introduced several urgent measures. We restricted, and later closed the air traffic. We checked everyone arriving from abroad for signs of infection. We retrieved students from the countries affected by coronavirus. We put into effect a number of other preventive measures.
Our decisions are aimed at preserving and protecting the health of our citizens. If required, we will introduce additional measures to safeguard the health of our people.
State budget – Various international agencies and institutions have forecast a global economic downturn this year, caused by the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
In this context, there is the need to take appropriate additional measures to preserve the existing industries and jobs. Sustainable development of the national economy should be achieved on the strength of high growth rates of domestic production and increased levels of industrial self-sufficiency, reduced imports and increased exports with the maximum use of the huge potential available in industries. We will need to work diligently to solve these problems.
In view of the global economic constraints, the expenditures envisaged in the state budget for this year should be revised. DPM Mushshikov (finance, economy) should prepare the proposals and submit to the cabinet of ministers.
When preparing the proposals, the emphasis should be on immediate and mid-term measures to reduce the negative impact on the local businesses. Practical measures should be planned to ensure the sustainable development of the national economy.
The review of the national economy should continue on daily basis and whenever possible the corrective measures and safety features should be introduced without any loss of time.
Prospects should be studied for attracting investments into the economy under the prevailing conditions.
Agriculture – The DPM for agriculture and the regional governors should focus on the wheat and cotton crops.
Cultivation of fruit and vegetables should be increased. Import of agricultural produce should be reduced. Instead the efforts should be made to meet the domestic demands from the locally grown fruit and vegetables.
Digital control systems should be introduced in the farms and greenhouses.
Urgent measures should be taken to improve the performance of the livestock sector.
Information, media – The print and electronic media, particularly the Yashlyk [Youth] TV channel should get involved in the distance learning programmes of schools and universities.
The media should actively participate in the campaign of awareness for sanitary conditions and the recommendations made by the healthcare professionals for the prevention of infectious diseases.
Support for private sector – The coronavirus can spread at alarming speed. In view of this, we should take measures to support the private enterprises. The sectoral leadership should prepare proposals for this.
Our aim is to stimulate the private sector and prevent the loss of jobs. Instead, we should try to create more employment opportunities.
Special protection should be given to the small and medium enterprises. Where necessary, they should be given relief including in the shape of deferred payment of taxes, debts, loans etc.
A list of private enterprises should be prepared that may be in need of deferment of taxes and other support measures.
Trading sector – An important task is to ensure the stable functioning of the trading system. The authorities should continuously monitor the market conditions. Steps should be taken to ensure adequate stock of essential goods including the food products in the markets.
Transport – Because of the havoc caused by coronavirus, the global air traffic has been disrupted.
The reduction of operations of our transport services, particularly the airline, has created financial challenges for them. DPM Ovezov (transport, communications) and DPM Mushshikov (finance, economy) should analyze the situation and estimate the likely negative effect on the transport sector up to the end of this year. Accordingly, proposals should be made for deferment of taxes and/or loan payments. The study should explore whether the transport sector would need some additional relief.
Oil and gas sector – The oil and gas sector should adapt to the falling/fluctuating oil prices under the stress of coronavirus.
The state concern Turkmenneft should expedite the development of the oil and gas blocks in the Caspian sector of Turkmenistan, increase their attractiveness for foreign investors, and consolidate cooperation with the foreign companies.
The state concern Turkmengaz should maintain high production rate. New markets should be studied for the export of natural gas and gas chemicals. The state concern should also maintain the planned flow of funds in convertible currency from the export of its products.
Together with this, the situation should be analyzed to determine the economic feasibility of planned and proposed projects in the gas chemical sector.
The state corporation Turkmengeologiya should continue the exploration of new deposits of oil and condensates, and mineral ores.
The Turkmenbashy complex of refineries should study the international markets to bolster the position of its products and find new slots.
Construction – The construction plans should be reviewed, particularly the objects that were scheduled for commissioning this year, coincides with the 25th anniversary of neutrality of Turkmenistan.
DPM Durdyliyev (construction, energy) should review the priority of each project in view of the difficulties caused by Covid-19 around the world.
Work should continue on TAP (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan) power transmission line and fiber optic link.
Eradication of rodents, insects – There should be eradication campaign against the rodents and insects that cause the spread of infections. The ministry of agriculture and environmental protection should lead the campaign.
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As soon it became clear that coronavirus could become a pandemic, Turkmenistan started planning its strategy to deal with the consequences. The cabinet meeting of Friday (3 April 2020) was a midway point between the start of brainstorming and the formalization of measures to mitigate the potential damages.
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Covid-19 is a lightning bolt of truth. Among other things, it has thrust upon us the clarity that the globalization was a false promise. — Strategic self reliance is a local package.
The concept of strategic self reliance of Turkmenistan includes uninterrupted, locally sustainable self sufficiency in a number of areas. /// nCa, 6 April 2020
To be continued . . .