Turkmenistan is regarded by most observers as the most restrictive state in the region. Human rights organizations have consistently criticized the political and economic environment in Turkmenistan. President Niyazov has promoted a political system that rigorously opposes any liberalization or reform programs. Many specialists believe that Turkmenistan has the natural resources necessary to make an effective economic recovery; however, the political environment is considered by most to be a major impediment to future prosperity. For instance, the investments made by major transnational petroleum companies have thus far ended up in the bank accounts of political elite.
The best option for Turkmenistan to restructure its economy and develop some sort of sustainable growth appears to be its ability to market and sell its natural resources, in particular its natural gas. The absence of infrastructural preconditions, economic reforms, and political liberalization raises doubts about Turkmenistan's ability to do so quickly enough for expansion. The most serious non-political obstacle to Turkmenistan's economic future is its lack of access to markets with clients capable of paying for Turkmenistan's trade resources.