President Stayed in $45K a Night Hotel Suite While Turkmen Citizens Stood in Line for Food

In fall 2018, when Turkmenistan was experiencing an acute shortage of foodstuffs, the then president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov stayed in a hotel suite costing 45,000 dollars per night on a working trip to New York. This is revealed in presidential instruction No. 637 dated August 8, 2018, sent to by a source in one of the country’s ministries.

Bread queue in Turkmenistan
Bread queue in Turkmenistan

The entire trip to the USA to attend the UN General Assembly lasted four days, so the head of state’s accommodation cost the Turkmen budget $180,000. That level of expenditure is the norm for a Turkmen president. According to another document, during a different visit to New York in 2015 $28,300 per night was paid for Berdimuhamedov’s suite.

Going back to 2018, Berdimuhamedov did not travel to the USA alone of course. Nineteen single rooms at $2,250 per night were booked in the same hotel, presumably for his closest security guards. Another 18 single rooms at $1,250 per night were taken for seven days. Finally, ten single rooms were booked for eight days at $550 dollars per night for members of the delegation.

“Additional hotel services” for $60,000 and “representative expenses” for $21,000 are shown on different tally sheets. And the country’s budget paid over $205,000 to hire cars for the visit.

In all, $839,357 was allocated for the trip for the presidential office alone.

An additional $131,250 was paid to book another 15 hotel rooms at $1,250 per night for the ministry and department employees accompanying the president. And another $109,300 was spent on accommodation for the 12-person flight crew. The crew of the plane that brought the delegation to the USA spent five to seven days in rooms costing $1,450 per night. This sum also included $2,000 for baggage services to the rooms and tips for porters.

So, over one million dollars were spent on the trip for Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and other officials. The sum does not include expenditure on fuel and airplane parking at the airport in New York.

It was at this time in 2018 that problems with food supplies in Turkmenistan worsened severely. People stood in line for cheap chicken legs under the watchful eye of the police, while the shelves were full of sham packaging stuffed with cotton wool instead of chicken. People could not buy enough flour to feed their families.

Subsequently, during the coronavirus pandemic Turkmenistan introduced a ration system for foodstuffs at state prices. A limited quantity of produce was available to families every month. The food situation has improved somewhat now, but problems still remain.

Against this difficult background Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov did not hesitate to relax in a $45,000 hotel suite. The average monthly wage in Turkmenistan is $100. It would take the average citizen 37-and-a-half years to earn the sum spent by the then president on one night in a hotel.