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Turkmen Leader Dedicates $1.5 Billion To Build New City

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov

Turkmenistan's authoritarian leader, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, has ordered the government to allocate $1.5 billion to buy equipment and materials from foreign nations to build a new city from scratch.

The gas-rich Central Asian nation's state-run media said on February 3 that the president signed a decree allocating the funds towards the import of construction materials, equipment, and other items needed for the new city.

The city, which has yet to be named, will be a new capital of the south-central region of Ahal, which has been governed since June by Berdymukhammedov's 38-year-old son, Serdar Berdymukhammedov. The leader's only son is considered by some observers as a possible successor.

The move comes amid the government's policy of limiting imports against a backdrop of foreign currency shortages and depressed energy prices.

Berdymukhammedov, 62, has run the former Soviet republic since 2006, tolerating no dissent and becoming the center of an elaborate personality cult. Turkmens often refer to him as Arkadag (The Protector).

Government critics and human rights groups say Berdymukhammedov has suppressed dissent and made few changes in the secretive country since he came to power after the death of autocrat Saparmurat Niyazov.

Like his late predecessor, Berdymukhammedov has relied on subsidized prices for basic goods and utilities to help maintain his grip on power.

With reporting by Altyn Asyr and Reuters
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