Turkmenbashi the Latest City to Introduce Food Vouchers as Unemployment Grows

The rationing of basic foodstuffs at subsidized prices is gradually spreading across Turkmenistan. The port of Turkmenbashi on the Caspian coast is the latest city to bring in a voucher system for the purchase of essential foods in state shops. The sale of foodstuffs according to residence registration has already been introduced in much of the country: Dashoguz in the north, Lebap in the north-east, and Mary in the south-east.

Table of groceries listed in food vouchers

Turkmenbashi is following the example of nearby Balkanabat (formerly Nebit-Dag), where the system came into force at the end of April, by using ordinary school copybooks as vouchers. The books have a certificate from the local housing office stating the number of people in the household and a table showing the quantities of various products received that month.

The products subsidized by the state include chicken (a whole bird or a leg), flour, sugar, sunflower oil, and Ahal cotton oil. All the inserts from the housing office are stamped and signed by the head of the office.

Family size certificate

Turkmen.news sources report that the portions in the shops are small– a kilogram or less, and are supplied to a family for a month. These particular products are on sale at the markets in unlimited quantities but at twice the price. Many residents of Turkmenbashi cannot afford the market prices, especially now that the neighboring Avaza resort has been closed for the entire summer season by decision of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov

“At the start of May, two weeks before the official announcement banning holidays at Avaza, many of the seaside hotels had sent their employees on unpaid leave,” a hotel worker said. “On average, each hotel let 40 to 50 people go: cleaners, chefs, waiters, and entertainers.”

Some hotels got rid of staff in April. Turkmen.news was told that the remaining staff are doing the work of two or three people, sometimes outside their area of responsibility. For example, gardeners also look after the swimming pools, clean the outdoor areas, and do minor repairs.

The source calculates that over a thousand people have lost jobs in the hotels, while dozens of staff from the cafés and restaurants along the artificial waterways have been sacked. “The hotel management couldn’t care less about the staff. As soon as the season begins, they’ll take on new employees. Until then all these people have swelled the ranks of the already large army of unemployed,” the source said.

There has been a food crisis in Turkmenistan for several years now. Because of their low standard of living people prefer to buy basic foodstuffs in state shops where prices are lower than those at the markets. Rationing has not been introduced in the capital Ashgabat and surrounding Ahal region. Long lines form outside the capital’s state shops, however. Shoppers queue at the service entrance, out of sight of the main roads, in order to maintain the appearance of order and plenty.