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Turkmenistan strategy

The factual information was correct as of 23 March 2010, when the Turkmenistan country strategy was adopted.

Strategy (370KB - PDF)

Public comments (47KB - PDF)

Local language translation (592KB - PDF)

Over the years the Bank has been concerned with Turkmenistan’s failure to make progress towards multi-party democracy, pluralism and a market-based economy in keeping with Article 1 of the Agreement Establishing the Bank. Recent progress in the political and economic spheres, triggered by the change in leadership in December 2006, provides an opportunity for deeper engagement, though several challenges remain.

Since the new administration took office there have been political and economic changes taking place in the country, aimed at reversing social and economic policies of the previous regime. A new Constitution recognises the principle of separation of powers and the legislature has been strengthened. Wider access to the internet is permitted. 

However, much remains to be done in the area of democratic competition and accountability, strengthening the rule of law and guaranteeing protection of human rights and media freedom. Despite positive changes, the situation with implementation of the adopted laws and with upholding the rule of law and respect for human rights remains a serious concern, as assessed by specialised human rights organisations.

In the economic sphere, the Turkmen government has taken initial steps in a reform process designed to foster private sector development, with the aim to increase the private sector share of non-oil and gas GDP to 70 per cent by 2020. Following the recent unification of the exchange rate, the government has introduced a new foreign investment law, lifted the ban on international banking operations of commercial banks and started to liberalise a small number of controlled prices. These are positive steps. However, much more remains to be done to establish the basis for market-oriented economic development. 

Since the adoption of the last country strategy Turkmenistan has experienced double-digit economic growth supported by very high world commodity prices. The global financial crisis has had virtually no direct impact on financial institutions, as the banking system is dominated by state owned banks that are not integrated in the global financial system. Both foreign direct investment and the economy as a whole are focused on the hydrocarbon sector.

In its Strategy, the Bank will work together with private sector investors, the Turkmen authorities and other IFIs and donors to address the following key transition challenges:

  • Diversification of the economic base is the key challenge, with 85 per cent of exports originating from the oil and gas sector.
  • Competitiveness of the private sector is low by international standards due to hindrances in business entry and exit and there are generally poor standards of transparency and corporate governance.
  • The business environment remains difficult and the playing field for private and state-owned businesses is not level; it is critical to further strengthen the legal and regulatory framework for markets.
  • Financial sector development is at an early stage; it is necessary to increase financial depth and reduce state interference and control in order to facilitate the introduction of private sector banks and non-bank financial institutions and increased competition.
  • Promoting sustainable development and the introduction of international best practice of the private oil and gas sector.
  • Modernisation of infrastructure, which constrains private sector development and operates under below-cost prices and non-transparent practices. Commercialisation and energy efficiency improvements are necessary to ensure long-term sustainability.

The Bank’s activities in addressing these challenges will continue to be guided by its mandate and its adherence to the principles of Article 1. The focus in all its operations will be on finding private sector oriented solutions and extending market discipline where possible. In working with the state institutions, the Bank will establish clear criteria for its involvement that are consistent with its mandate to further entrepreneurship, competition and commercial practices. The Strategy outlines a calibrated strategic approach that will allow the Bank to increase its engagement with Turkmenistan on the basis of concrete implementation of sector-specific reforms designed to promote the further development of a market economy. In line with the requirements of Article 1, the Bank's strategic approach will be carefully calibrated to increase its operational scope in a measured and incremental way, as the Turkmen authorities make progress in political and economic reform.

The objectives over the Strategy period will include the following, with certain areas of activity to be phased in as progress in meeting sector conditions is documented:

  • Development of private sector micro, small, medium-sized and large businesses, in particular through enhanced access to commercially-based finance for MSMEs and direct funding.
  • Strengthening of financial institutions including the establishment of new bank for private sector development, adequate provision of trade finance and MSME credit lines. The Bank should continue to engage in policy dialogue and to pursue its efforts to develop a proper understanding on the part of the Turkmen authorities that a well-functioning, strong and sustainable financial system based on market principles is the key to the future development of the country’s private sector. This will also improve the opportunities to introduce a market-oriented interest rate system for SME/CLs.
  • Improvement of business environment for the private sector in particular in the banking and industry sectors, by improving transparency and corporate governance, by promoting regulatory reform and FDI, by enhancing the commercialisation and privatisation of state owned industries and by encouraging trade liberalisation.
  • Promotion of energy efficiency across selected commercial sectors of the economy particularly in its highly inefficient manufacturing and infrastructure sectors.
  • Improvements in selective important regional transport infrastructure, which is a part of CAREC corridors, with other IFIs or key bi-lateral donors, including key Caspian Sea port infrastructure projects.

An important dimension of the Bank’s activities in the current Strategy period will be proactive policy dialogue with the authorities, donors and NGOs on the need for acceleration of reforms and importance of enhanced political and economic openness. As a part of the strategy exercise, the Bank conducted several missions and active discussion with local and international NGOs, most of whom suggested EBRD’s more active engagement in Turkmenistan. The Bank will continue to closely monitor progress in these domains against a set of reform benchmarks.

In the political sphere:

  • Progress toward genuine political pluralism and meaningful political accountability, including the strengthening of checks and balances in the political system, removal of impediments to registration and free functioning of NGOs and even-handed application of the rule of law.
  • Substantial progress in increasing media freedom and freedom of expression.
  • Further significant progress in improving the country’s human rights record. The priority areas requiring urgent attention include:
    - the release of political prisoners,
    - free access of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to places of detention,
    - lifting the remaining restrictions on foreign travel,
    - freedom for the media and free functioning of civil society groups

In the economic sphere:

  • Progress in private sector development including lowering barriers to entry of new private businesses, reducing and streamlining of regulatory burden on existing private businesses, progress towards independent competition authorities, and functioning secured transaction legislation.
  • Progress in strengthening the financial sector and increasing financial depth through expansion of commercially-based MSME finance and introduction of private sector banks and non-bank financial institutions.
  • Significant reduction in state intervention in the economy, including through directed lending in state-owned banks, subsidised interest rates, price controls and production targets in the agriculture and textile sector, and state procurement of agricultural inputs.
  • Improving transparency in the budgetary process and public sector finances in general, including the publication of investment rules and governing principles of the stabilisation fund and other operating foreign exchange funds. Improving accountability and efficiency in the provision of public services by steps towards fiscal decentralisation.

The Bank will actively and continually monitor developments against these benchmarks and report to the Board of Directors on an annual basis on progress/regress. The monitoring will be done in the context of Country Strategy Updates. This will further enable the Bank’s management and shareholders to calibrate the appropriate strategic response to changes in the situation on the ground. 

In view of the proposed strategic approach and operational content, Turkmenistan should be a full beneficiary of the ETC Initiative, with the benefit of optimising the development of the private sector and required institutions, including the provision of Technical Assistance from the EBRD and, hopefully, other bilateral donors. In that context it is proposed, following Board adoption of this Strategy, to ask donors in the ETC Assembly of Contributors to consider including Turkmenistan as a recipient of ETC Fund resources for technical assistance.

The Bank will continue to ensure that all EBRD operations in Turkmenistan meet sound banking principles, have transition impact, are additional and are subject to the Bank’s Environmental and Social Policy and incorporate, where appropriate, Environmental and Social Action Plans. The Bank will continue and enhance its cooperation with other IFIs and international organisations through co-financing and policy dialogue, and will seek to mobilise donor grant financing from other multilateral and bilateral donors.

Last updated 21 April 2010