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Authorities want to achieve their aim by attracting private firms to the construction business and selling plots of land for housing, analysts say.
ASHGABAT – Turkmenistan has decided that in 2014 it will begin to tackle its chronic housing problems.
"Our country has large reserves of gas and makes big profits from exporting them, so we have the chance to lead the region in building homes and other social infrastructure," Gurbanmyrat Mulkiyev, a Ministry of Construction spokesman, said.
More than 20% of residents currently live in housing that either offers inadequate space for the family or is very old and lacking updates, according to the latest Ministry of Construction statistics.
Annar Mammedov, chairman of the State Committee on Statistics, also sees great opportunities for the construction industry. Turkmenistan completed 20.1% more construction projects in 2013 than in 2012, he told the cabinet January 10, though he did not provide the number of projects for either year.
The country in 2013 spent almost US $17 billion (48.4 billion TMT) to finish 435 construction projects, more than any of its neighbours, he said.
"But even that's not the limit," he said. "We have good prospects for expanding the construction business," he added, referring to President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov's recent call for having private investors and construction firms help solve the housing problem.
Recently, Turkmen construction firms have enjoyed increasing government demand for their work. For about 20 years, the government relied on large Turkish and French constructors to do the major jobs. Turkmen firms were relegated to sub-contracting on major projects and had full responsibility only for smaller projects in the provinces.
Two years ago, the government allowed private Turkmen firms to have full responsibility for apartment and other large buildings on the outskirts of Ashgabat. Last August, it enabled them to participate in a 1.41-billion-TMT (US $500m) project in south-western Ashgabat, which is expected to include dozens of apartment and office buildings and to end in 2016.
Turkmen builders are eager to take on the challenge.
In 20 years of performing sub-contractor work for Turkish construction giants, the Turkmens have learned to match world standards on projects regardless of complexity, Eziz Khanveliyev, chief engineer of the Turkmen contractor Myradym, told Central Asia Online, adding that self-reliance is the best solution.
Giving contracts to Turkmen firms "keeps money in the country ... and creates new jobs and demand for building equipment and materials," he said.
The new policy means more private Turkmen contractors and more competition among them, raising the quality of their work, Merjen Khalnazarova of the Institute of Strategic Planning and Economic Development of Turkmenistan said.
The number of Turkmen construction firms has soared from 40 to more than 200 since 2008, she added.
Another firm, Beyik Bina, has begun designing dozens of models of cottages that it plans to build to order, an architect at the firm, Baymyrat Tuvakov, said.
"I'm confident that demand ... will be tremendous, because the country soon will experience a real construction boom," Tuvakov said, adding that parliament before the end of 2014 might pass a law that would allow the general public to sign long-term leases or purchase agreements for land to building detached houses on.
Possible good news for house buyers
At the cabinet's first session in January, topics included that possible law on allocating land for house construction.
"This [idea] pleased us considerably, because when sons get married, not everyone can afford to buy them a separate apartment or house," Orazniyaz Cherkezov, a resident of Babadaykhan, Akhal Oblast, told Central Asia Online.
Due to confusion over the allocation of plots, Residents of all five are oblasts impatiently waiting, Mulkiyev said, adding that desperate land seekers have been forced to rely on personal acquaintances and bribes at times.
In the unregulated environment now in place, phantom settlements built without authorisation and lacking utility lines have arisen in the provinces, Mulkiyev said.
Once Turkmenistan has a law on housing plot allocations, "people won't have to pay bribes ... to obtain a plot and they won't have to pay out of pocket for roads and [utility] connections to their houses," he added.