Turkmenistan plans sell-offs, but not in oil and gas
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Reclusive Turkmenistan will launch a privatisation of state-held assets in its tightly regulated economy in coming months but looks set to keep control of the vital oil and gas industry, officials said on Saturday.
"I have just signed an order to approve Turkmenistan's privatisation programme for 2013-16," state media quoted President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov as telling an enlarged government meeting on Friday.
"Sell-offs of some state companies will start already at the beginning of this year," he said without giving a time frame.
The president, who wields virtually unlimited powers in the Central Asian nation of 5.5 million, made no mention of the oil and gas sector in a country which sits on the world's fourth-largest natural gas reserves.
A government official told Reuters on Saturday, requesting anonymity, that the sector would remain under state control.
The government has compiled a list of other "strategic companies of national significance" which will not be privatised, the official said.
He said sell-offs would primarily target transport, communications and construction assets.
"Our privatisation programme is just in line with our plans of gradual transition to a market economy," said Berdymukhamedov, whose word is final in a nation seen by human rights bodies as one of the most repressive in the world.
In his speech, Berdymukhamedov, a qualified dentist widely titled "Arkadag" (The Patron), also did not say whether foreign investors would be allowed to take part in privatisation.
Ruling since the death of his autoctratic predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov in December 2006, Berdymukhamedov has eased his grip on small-scale entrepreneurs and stamped out the black market in the manat currency.
The country now plans to introduce international accounting standards next year and to launch a stock market in 2016.
But two decades after the Soviet Union's demise, Turkmenistan is still lagging far behind its oil-rich post-Soviet neighbour Kazakhstan in terms of economic reforms.
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