In Turkmenistan, Whatever You Do, Don’t Mention The Coronavirus
ASHGABAT — Authorities in Turkmenistan have yet to admit there are any cases of the coronavirus in the country. Now, officials are making sure the word doesn’t appear in print or casual conversations either.
RFE/RL correspondents in the capital, Ashgabat, report that people talking in public about the pandemic were being quickly whisked away by plainclothes agents.
The word “coronavirus” also has disappeared from newly published state brochures on disease prevention in the tightly controlled Central Asian nation.
In place of old brochures instructing citizens about ways to prevent the spread of the virus, new publications replace the word “coronavirus” with words like “illness” and “acute respiratory diseases.”
“The Turkmen authorities have lived up to their reputation by adopting this extreme method for eradicating all information about the coronavirus,” said Jeanne Cavelier, head of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk of the media rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
The lack of any report confirming even one coronavirus infection in Turkmenistan has raised suspicions and criticism about the country’s official data on the pandemic.
Countries that border Turkmenistan — including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan — have registered dozens of infections.
To the south, nearby Iran had reported more than 44,700 infections by March 31, including nearly 3,000 deaths.
Traffic between the country’s provinces has been restricted as well, with checkpoints set up on highways.
Concern over the outbreak among locals, along with the restrictions, has pushed food prices to record highs.
“This denial of information not only endangers the Turkmen citizens most at risk but also reinforces the authoritarianism imposed by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov,” Cavelier said on March 31. “We urge the international community to react and to take him to task for his systematic human rights violations.”
Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.
The Senate will hold Parliamentary Hearings on Subsoil Use Issues
During a number of Parliamentary hearings in the Senate, one of the most acutely raised issues is the need to identify additional sources to meet the challenges facing the socially oriented budget in 2020.
During the hearings, the focus was on the fact that our economy is largely a raw material economy and depends on the export of natural resources, primarily oil and gas. Falling oil prices in world markets may affect the development of planned social programs.
At the beginning of this year, during regional meetings of the Senate deputies, issues of the impact of subsoil use problems on the economic and social development of the regions were raised. These issues affect both the development of local infrastructure (the use of common minerals such as water, gravel, clay, etc.) and the use of local goods and workers involved in the development of solid minerals and hydrocarbons. During these discussions, problems related to imperfect legislation were identified, which significantly affects the development of exploration and the conclusion of new contracts in the regions.
During the Parliamentary hearings on the development of light industry, the issues were raised about the infringement of interests of local producers by the organizers of tenders for large subsoil users.
Analysis of the legislative activity of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan for the current period shows the significant shortcomings in the legislation on subsoil. The deputies drew the attention of developers to a number of serious problems related to subsoil use, especially amendments concerning auctions for granting subsoil use rights for hydrocarbons.
In order to monitor the norms adopted by the law, requests were sent to the Government on efficient practical use of the procedure for granting a national hydrocarbon company the right to use subsoil through direct negotiations. The analysis of the received response shows that there are serious gaps in legislation that negatively affect the development of exploration, the oil and gas industry and all related areas.
In addition, many problems related to subsoil use are also indicated in the appeals received by deputies.
As part of the instruction given to the Government by the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, K. Tokayev, on development of anti-crisis action plan, preparation of a special plan to support employment, as well as on prompt response to the adoption of necessary legislative measures, the Senate of the Parliament arranges the Parliamentary hearings on effectiveness of legislation on subsoil and subsoil use.
At the hearings, it is proposed to develop proposals for measures to help remove barriers to the development of exploration and create jobs in the regions. It is also proposed to consider the analysis of law enforcement practice of conducting tenders by large subsoil users to establish an effective legal mechanism that governs the availability and transparency of conditions for Kazakhstani producers and broad involvement of local personnel.
The hearings are scheduled for May this year.
Source: Mazhilis of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan