Turkmenistan is to spend around $1.5 billion to build a new city whose construction will be overseen by the son of the isolated country’s all-powerful leader.
A report showed on state television Tuesday said that Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov had ordered the government to allocate the money to import equipment necessary to build city infrastructure.
Television footage showed Berdymukhamedov flying in a helicopter over the site where the presently nameless new city will be built in the Ahal region where his son Serdar Berdymukhamedov heads the provincial government.
Aleksandr Dadayev, chairman of the country’s union of industrialists and entrepreneurs, praised the project as “unprecedented” and “a city for the centuries.”
The energy-rich country began work on the project in April 2019.
Serdar Berdymukhamedov, 38, is regularly mentioned as a potential successor to his father who oversees a political system without opposition, checks on his authority or a free media.
Turkmenistan’s authoritarian regime has been accused by international rights groups of diverting energy revenues towards vanity projects of little long-term benefit to the population.
An oil price crunch in 2014 and the cessation of a longstanding gas export relationship with Russia in 2016 were seen as motivating the government to cut back on subsidies that made utilities like water, gas, and electricity-free of charge.
Berdymukhamedov, a former dentist, came to power in 2006 following the death of his predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov who transformed himself from a Communist leader into a “Turkmenbashy”, or “Father of the Turkmen” after independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.