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Turkmen President Orders Major Hike In Household Water Prices


Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov speaking before the Council of Elders in Ashgabat

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has ordered the end of deeply discounted water, gas, and electricity in a decree prompted by falling energy prices and sales, which have depleted government revenues.

Reuters reported that the move, announced on October 11, will force households in the natural-gas-producing country to pay 25 times more for tap water starting next month.

Under Berdymukhammedov's decree, the price of tap water supplied in excess of a free monthly allotment -- 7.5 cubic meters per person -- will rise to 5 manats ($1.43) per 10 cubic meters from 0.2 manats ($0.06) starting on November 1.

Berdymukhammedov said earlier this week that his cabinet would phase out subsidies gradually, indicating there would be more price hikes.

Citizens of the tightly controlled former Soviet republic still get some cooking gas and power for free and obtain what they do pay for at subsidized prices.

"The time has come to save and use state funds effectively," Berdymukhammedov said.

Savings from the phase-out would help finance a $69 billion, seven-year investment program, of which $45 billion is earmarked for the energy sector, the president said.

The Central Asian nation of 5.5 million bordering Afghanistan sits on the world's fourth-largest natural-gas reserves.

Berdymukhammedov has ruled with an iron hand, tolerating no dissent, since he came to power after the death of autocrat Saparmurat Niyazov in 2006.

Like Niyazov, he has relied in part on subsidized prices for basic goods and utilities for the population to maintain his grip.

Turkmenistan's export revenues dropped after global energy prices plunged in 2014, and again after Russia, once the main buyer of its gas, halted purchases in 2016.

After Russia stopped buying Turkmen gas, Turkmenistan became more dependent on energy sales to China.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and RFE/RL's Turkmen Service
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