Turkmenistan opens $2.3bn airport in Ashgabat

By bne IntelliNews September 19, 2016

Turkmenistan has launched a new international airport in the capital city of Ashgabat, the government said in a statement on September 17.

During the opening ceremony, the Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted the airport’s significance for the country’s transit potential. However, the main purpose of the new airport is tied to the country’s preparations to promote itself during the Asian Olympic Games, which will be held in Ashgabat in 2017. The games and the new airport can be seen as one of the small steps towards the president’s goal to gradually open up the isolated Central Asian country to the world.

Few foreigners get to visit the country because of strict visa regulations. Only 105,000 tourists visited the country in 2015, government figures show.

The airport has an annual capacity to process 14mn passengers, the government said. Construction costs amounted to $2.3bn, according to a report by BBC

The new airport, designed to replicate the shape of a soaring falcon, will be a great fit to the capital city which already boasts several other unique structures, including a publishing house in shape of an otheropen book. The city also has two giant golden statues of both Berdymukhamedov and his late predecessor Saparmyrat Niyazov.

Overall, Berdimuhamedov has been slightly more open than his predecessor, who preferred to stick to strict authoritarianism and isolationism until his death in 2006. According to opposition-run news website chrono-tm.org, Berdimuhamedov has reversed several of Niyazov’s policies by restoring pensions for more than 100,000 elderly citizens, lifting a ban on graduate programmes and supporting the attendance of foreign universities by Turkmen youth.

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