Dentisti al potere.
Mr Berdymukhamedov chipped off just enough from Niyazov’s personality cult to make some space for himself. No Turkmenbashi, Mr Berdymukhamedov settled for the title of “hero”. The television news is always happy and often shows the new president performing heroics. A recent broadcast showed Mr Berdymukhamedov, a dentist who styles himself a doctor, performing a small operation. Next morning the security services confiscated newspapers carrying the accompanying photo: someone had noticed that the X-ray the president had been holding was upside down.(Burning sands and pipe-dreams)
Not only locals are keen to flatter the president. At a recent investment forum, representatives of the world’s largest energy companies touted their services and praised Turkmenistan’s visionary leader, who did not bother to turn up. (He was represented by a huge portrait.) However, no Western company has been allowed to drill onshore yet. Only the Chinese have managed to wangle a special concession and also to build a pipeline.
The main pipeline from Turkmenistan goes through Russia. This long allowed Gazprom, a Russian monopoly which generates 70% of Turkmenistan’s GDP, to dictate the price. In recent years, however, as demand increased Turkmenistan rebelled and started raising the price. Faced with rising demand and flat production, Gazprom had to agree. When demand fell, during last year’s crash, Gazprom did not renegotiate the contract. Instead, according to Mr Berdymukhamedov, it simply stopped importing gas—which caused the pipeline to explode on April 9th. Gazprom denies it was at fault and blames the explosion on poor maintenance of the pipeline.