Turkmenistan - Infrastructure, power, and communications

Turkmenistan inherited an aging infrastructure from the Soviet Union, with 13,000 seriously depreciated railway cars, insufficient signaling and communication equipment, and inadequate staffing. The Turkmenistan government has ambitious plans for a highly extended transport infrastructure, with priorities devoted to railroad and pipelines development. Turkmenistan's transport system carries freight chiefly via rail, roads, internal waterways, and pipelines. Air transport accounted for less than 1 percent of transportation in the early 1990s. Turkmenistan still uses the Turkmenbashi-Ashgabat-Chardzhou Line as its primary railroad, which links Turkmenistan with Russia and Europe through Uzbekistan. Construction of this

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Turkmenistan N/A 276 201 N/A 1 N/A N/A 0.56 2
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Russia 105 418 420 78.5 5 0.4 40.6 13.06 2,700
Iran 28 265 157 0.0 6 N/A 31.9 0.05 100
a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium ( http://www.isc.org ) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

railroad began in the 1880s to connect Turkestan with the Russian Empire. In recent years, construction has begun on a line expected to link Turkmenistan with Iran, although most observers do not expect it to develop as a primary trade route. Plans are being made to build 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) of new railroads, but this requires substantial foreign investment which is lacking. Another plan has called for a railroad that would connect Istanbul with Beijing, running through Turkmenistan, but this too has failed to materialize.

Turkmenistan has focused considerable attention on expanding its present pipeline capacity and building new pipelines. In April 1993, Niyazov announced that an agreement had been reached with Iran to construct a new pipeline to transport natural gas from Turkmenistan through Iran to the Persian Gulf. These plans were met with serious international opposition, particularly from the United States and Russia. The Russians profit from the Turkmenistan dependence upon old Soviet transport routes; however, aging pipelines and insufficient capacity subject Turkmenistan to the whims of Moscow and the inability of former Soviet consumers to make payment. The United States encouraged Ashgabat to construct a line under the Caspian Sea to Turkey, or increase merchant fleet trade, in order to export its most valuable commodity.

Roads in Turkmenistan vary considerably in quality, with 2 major highways that crisscross the country. In 1990, there were nearly 23,000 kilometers (14,292 miles) of roads, of which a little more than 15,000 kilometers (9,321 miles) were paved. Poor maintenance and increased freight and passenger traffic have severely strained the system.

Turkmenistan has 64 airports of varying sizes and capacities, with only 22 having permanently surfaced runways. The main airport, in Ashgabat, includes a new international complex connecting the country to China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, and European locations. There are plans to upgrade Turkmenistan Airlines with Boeing airplanes, replacing some of the aging Aeroflot aircraft.

Telecommunications is provided exclusively by the Turkmenistan Ministry of Communications, which also manages the country's postal services. There are 2 state-controlled broadcasting centers, the Orbita station in the capital and another in Nebitdag. The telephone network is inadequately maintained and insufficiently developed. Less than 30 percent of households have a telephone, and those are principally in the capital. The government has been upgrading the system, including signing agreements with Turkey to install electronic exchanges and international circuit capacity designed to improve local, long distance, and international communications.

Electrical power is one resource that Turkmenistan exports. Approximately 99.94 percent is supplied by fossil fuel, particularly natural gas, and 0.06 percent is hydraulically produced. In 1998, 8.745 billion kilowatt-hours (kwh) of electricity was produced, of which 2.7 billion kwh were exported. In May 1998, a new line was developed to export electricity to Iran. Plans to export electricity to Afghanistan and Turkey are also being negotiated.

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