Turkmenistan Ends Major Gasoline Subsidy

APVehicles waiting near a gas station in Ashgabat on Saturday. Gasoline cost a few cents per liter before the change.
ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan -- Turkmenistan's government announced an end Saturday to heavily subsidized gasoline prices in the energy rich Central Asian nation, prompting long lines at gasoline stations across the country.

Since 1993, motorists in the ex-Soviet republic have paid 400 manats, or a few cents, for a liter of gasoline under an order by the country's late autocratic president, Saparmurat Niyazov, that also introduced free natural gas, water and electricity for all citizens.

From Monday, the Turkmen government, which controls the country's entire energy sector, will sell gasoline on the domestic market at an unspecified "commercial price," according to a decree published in the official Neutral Turkmenistan newspaper Saturday.

The decision is aimed at "economizing use of petroleum products and improving control over incomes from their sales on the domestic market," the newspaper said.

Citizens who own motor vehicles, however, will be entitled to a fixed amount of free gasoline every month, the decree said: 120 liters for a car, and 200 liters for trucks and buses and 40 liters for motorbikes.

Cards will be distributed at banks to owners of approved transportation who present their passports, registration documents, proof of ownership of a vehicle and a technical inspection, Interfax reported Saturday.

The announcement promoted long lines at gasoline stations in the capital, Ashgabat, and beyond.

Niyazov, who ruled the desert nation of 6 million for more than two decades, died in 2006. Turkmenistan is the No. 2 natural gas supplier in the former Soviet Union after Russia.

Deputy Prime Minister Tachberdy Tagiyev, who oversees the oil and gas industries, said fuel above the predetermined limits would be available at market prices ratified by the Cabinet, Interfax said.