There aren't many benefits to living in an energy-rich dictatorship like Turkmenistan, but free energy rationing happens to be one of them.
Yet President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov, or Arkadag (The Protector), has tweaked the Turkmen social contract by ordering the abolishment of free monthly petrol handouts to private car and motorcycle owners starting July 1. The presidential decree was issued back on April 30.
Berdymuhamedov himself initially introduced the handouts – 120 litres per person per month – in 2008, but is now keen to “ensure the sustainable development of the national economy, as well as the rational use and distribution of fuels.”
Over on RFE/RL's Turkmen service, Azathabar, the decision resulted in a mixed response:
Merdan commented [tkm]:
bu adamlarda name guna name un benzini yatyrdylar (DOWLET ADAM UCHIN) diyen shygary one surya hormatly prezidentimiz diyyaler hany one suryan bolsa gorkotsinda shun etyan zatlarynyn hic birem halka peydaly dal bir giden jay salya hicisem el yeterli dal parahorlar alya dine pully para alyp bayayan adamlar alya hany adalat nirede, intak shu gunumize shukur ederis bu bashlangyjy dine ALLAN ozi gowsyny etsin, halk yatyr, ayaga galyp shu zatlara garshylyk gorkozmeli nagiledigini bildirmeli, berdimuhammedem gorer intak bu etmishlerinin netijesini.
What have people done to deserve this? The President claims (THE STATE IS THERE FOR THE PEOPLE). I don't see that the government is there for the people, in fact, officials are doing everything for themselves. Where is justice? It will get worse in the years to come, may ALLAH help us! People are sleeping, they should go and demonstrate their disappointment to Berdymuhamedov.
Kadyr coments [tkm]:
Millete hayirli bolsun.Yuwas yuwas durmusy kynlasdyryarlar.Men pikirimce adalatsyzlyk yatirildi.Sebabi mugt benzini dine masyny bara beryardiler.Yoklara adalatsyzlyk.Masynlaryn kopelmegine sebap bolyardy.Mende bar yone yoklara denlik dal.Ussesinede zaprawkalar 10 litrden ortaca 2 litr iyyarler.Sonun ucinem zaprawka ishe girjek bolsan 5-6 mun dollar sorayarlar..Gayrat etsinde sony byr duzeltsinler.
The government is always giving us a hard time, but in this issue I think that equal conditions were made for all, since the free petrol was only given to those who had cars. I myself have a car. What I am disappointed in is the fact that our petrol stations steal 2 liters from every 10 liters of petrol you put in your car. That is what we should be complaining about.
Despite Berdymuhamedov's petrol u-turn, Turkmens still consume gas, electricity and water free of charge, part of what Berdymuhamedov's erratic predecessor Sapurmurat “Turkmenbashi” Niyazov referred to as the Golden Age of Turkmenistan.
Given the country's progress towards a free media, political pluralism and adherence to human rights norms has been stunted to put it mildly, these core privileges represent an important comfort for Turkmen citizens.
In terms of gas, at least, the state can afford to continue being generous. Only Quatar has more cubic metres of natural gas per capita than Turkmenistan, rated the fourth gas-richest country in the world based on proven reserves.