In 2020, humanity began to live in a new reality, whose name is COVID-19. Countries that are not affected by the pandemic can be counted on the fingers. But least of all, it influenced life in Turkmenistan.
While the number of people infected with coronavirus in the world exceeded 10 million, the official Ashgabat did not register a single case of this disease. This is already a huge achievement. But even more impressive is how the country overcomes the consequences of the global coronacrisis.
Turkmenistan has not only maintained socio-economic stability, but also continues to show steady growth in various fields. Many political scientists and journalists are trying to explain this phenomenon. And today, on the birthday of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, I want to give another interpretation of the processes taking place in the country and the world.
Not a reason, but a factor
The media often call coronavirus the cause of a new global crisis. But rather, it should be considered as a factor of aggravation of processes already occurring on the planet.
Fluctuations in oil prices and trade barriers have existed before. But with the emergence of the pandemic, these trends acquired new content and accelerated.
Earlier, protectionist policies forced some countries to tighten customs procedures, but with the spread of COVID-19, the borders were completely closed. While individual states tried to influence the oil and gas sector, forcing oil prices to fall, then soar, the coronavirus introduced even greater instability into the market.
Against the backdrop of all these international trends, Turkmenistan has always remained true to its principle of neutrality. At the same time, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov actively promoted and implemented the strategy of import substitution and digitalization of the national economy.
These two directions of the country’s development have become the foundation of the economic policy of the Turkmen leader. Therefore, when the world just started talking about a new type of dangerous virus, Turkmenistan was already ready for the consequences of its influence on the global market.
Import substitution rate
… It was the year of 2015. At a regular meeting of the government, President Berdimuhamedov signed a decree approving state programs to increase export and import substitution. These programs became a significant step towards the diversification of the national economy, and in 2020, they helped the country in a collision with the global coronacrisis.
In 2018, the head of Turkmenistan demanded that the government decisively reduce imports and increase the capacity of its own production and processing enterprises. At the same time, the task was set to increase the support of private entrepreneurs who are engaged in agribusiness. Banks began to give them soft loans, helping to purchase the necessary agricultural machinery, equipment, etc.
Noting the trends in the global economy, President Berdimuhamedov systematically transformed the national one. On the one hand, it became more and more competitive in the global market due to diversification, and on the other, more and more independent from the situation in the world due to its emphasis on the development of domestic industries.
Turkmenistan simultaneously integrated into the international economic space, and at the same time insured itself from its negative influence. A self-sufficient market has become protected from global economic shocks. And then came the period of active digitalization.
Before the crisis, people used the Internet to save time and effort. With the advent of a pandemic in our lives, it also became a way to maintain health.
Berdimuhamedov spoke about the need for digitalization almost from the first days of his presidency. Thanks to the initiatives of the head of state to develop telecommunication networks in the country, the number of Internet users has quickly begun to grow. Today, access to the World Wide Web is available to almost every Turkmen family, and in remote areas of the country it is even cheaper to connect than in the capital. All for the sake of expanding the reach and development of the global network.
In 2019, the Government adopted the Concept for the Development of the Digital Economy in Turkmenistan. Currently, the country already has its various elements necessary for conducting trade operations and doing business.
Successful integration into the digital space allows the Turkmen state and the private sector to continue political and economic dialogue with foreign partners. And the point here is not only the availability of the necessary technical infrastructure.
Turkmenistan promptly declared itself in the international information space, took a profitable niche in the digital sphere and demonstrated its readiness to strengthen dialogue in this format. A clear confirmation of this is the multiply increased number of online conversations that are regularly organized at the departmental level.
Thus, the far-sighted measures undertaken by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov earlier helped the country not to flinch before the onset of the coronacrisis.
Some experts see other reasons why Turkmenistan coped with the consequences of the pandemic. Someone even blames this on a coincidence. But in our pragmatic world, nobody builds such huge medical complexes as the Directorate of Infectious Disease Centers (Ashgabat) or the Multidisciplinary Medical Center with a large Infectious disease hospital (Turkmenabat) just in case.
Behind every government decision is a clear, well-thought out strategy. And today, the Turkmen people are sure that no matter what happens, a deeply thought-out strategy will help the country overcome any adversity.