The begging bowl. Turkmen authorities urge to donate for AIMAG

Letter from Chairman of State Tourism Committee of Turkmenistan

Various state-funded and self-financed organizations of Turkmenistan deduct part of staff salaries for the needs of the forthcoming 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games (AIMAG). In some cases the officials deduct up to 30% of an employee’s monthly wage or demand contribution in cash, sources told Alternative Turkmenistan News (ATN).

A document obtained by ATN shows that money requisitions for AIMAG are countrywide and are authorized by the president of Turkmenistan. It also shows that any money put into the “bowl” is considered donation, which means the funds are non-repayable.

A photocopy of the letter dated February 25, 2017, is signed by Serdar Cholukov, chairman of Turkmenistan’s State Tourism Committee. It is addressed to all state and private enterprises and companies working in the sphere of tourism in Turkmenistan.

It appears that on February 21, 2014, a special Executive Committee Fund on preparation to the AIMAG was created, based on the presidential decree №13505. On October 10, 2015 another presidential decree №14439 was issued to record the Fund’s sponsors and the amounts of their donations.

Based on these decrees, State Tourism Committee Chairman Cholukov urges companies to help “create a funding source for the AIMAG-2017 Executive Committee Fund from voluntary donations of your enterprises.”

“In Turkmenistan a word of the president is the law for all, and a chief’s favor or request is considered an order by his subordinates,” sources told ATN, adding that similar directives with a favor, read as an order, were sent by ministries, departments, state concerns and enterprises to their respective subordinate organizations.

A year and a half ago the authorities raised funds for construction of AIMAG facilities and now they “passed a begging bowl around” in order to cover organizational expenses associated with the opening ceremony and conducting the Games.

Holding sports events even at a small scale is a costly affair, especially amid the ongoing economic and financial crisis in Turkmenistan. The 7th Asian Winter Games in Kazakhstan in 2011 came to $1.65 billion, according to the country’s Accounts Committee. The AIMAG in Ashgabat will cost Turkmenistan at least $5 billion.

However, those are not all expenses. The country needs additional funds, for example, for fireworks at the opening and the closing ceremonies, but the money is not available. That is why the Turkmen authorities, under the guise of plausible wording on sponsorship and charity, are trying to put the financial burden on the shoulders of citizens, for whom the AIMAG-2017 does not seem to be a vitally important issue.

While the article was being prepared, ATN’s sources in the business circles in Ashgabat said that large businesses were also required to donate to the AIMAG Fund. At the last summer’s meeting of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs its Chairman Alexander Dadaev demanded 350,000 manats ($100,000) from Turkmen companies and $200,000 from companies with foreign investments.

The AIMAG will take place in Ashgabat in September 2017.