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Source: International Monetary Fund

Tao Zhang, IMF Deputy Managing Director

December 12, 2020

On behalf of Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, I would like to express my gratitude to President Berdymukhammedov for the kind invitation to address this conference, celebrating the 25th anniversary of Turkmenistan’s neutrality. We very much value the constructive relationship between the IMF and Turkmenistan, and I hope that our engagement today will further advance our cooperation. Once the pandemic is over, I look forward to visiting the beautiful city of Ashgabat in person.

I’d like to make a few comments today on the global economy, which, as you know, is going through unprecedented stress and uncertainty. Energy exporters like Turkmenistan face the challenge of not only dealing with the pandemic but also managing the collapse in oil prices at the same time.

The crisis puts decades of progress in jeopardy . For example, across the world, the equivalent of 400 million jobs were lost this past spring. And 90 million people are expected to fall into extreme poverty. While some economies are beginning to rebound, critical health and education advances in many low-income developing countries are unwinding. More than 1.5 billion children have been affected by school closures. Inequality is growing, as the burden of the crisis has fallen unevenly across sectors. And women, migrants, and rural populations are the particularly hard hit.

The crisis has also made the task of achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals more daunting. Before the pandemic, achieving the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda was already challenging. The pandemic, as well as the projected slow and uneven recovery, are putting additional pressures on the SDG timeline.

While we are encountering setbacks to the sustainable development agenda, our eyes remain fixed on the horizon. Our economic recovery will be a “Long Ascent,” accompanied by uncertainty and prone to setbacks. But when it comes to the 2030 Agenda, we are joined together. We, the global community, are interdependent and only as strong as our weakest members.

Fortunately, Turkmenistan is starting from a position of relative strength. Your fiscal position provides you with options and room to maneuver. This fiscal space, if allocated wisely, could safeguard long-term financial sustainability.

But spending is as much about quality as it is about quantity. By targeting assistance to the unemployed and those without access to public services, Turkmenistan can lift up the most vulnerable. By promoting trade and investment, Turkmenistan can diversify revenues and raise incomes. And by fostering transparency and good governance, Turkmenistan can improve its business environment and open its economy. A thriving private sector will help the entire region to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality, and lay the foundations for sustainable development.

The IMF is here to work with Turkmenistan and the region. We can provide policy advice and macroeconomic expertise and can help articulate a vision to emerge from this crisis better than before. Since the start of the pandemic, the IMF has approved over $100 billion in support of nearly 90 countries, 49 of which are low-income. We have also adapted our extensive technical assistance program to the new remote-working arrangements to flexibly help 160 of our members.

As the old saying goes, “Unity makes strength.” Working together—with inclusion, resilience, and compassion—policymakers, together with civil society, international institutions, and people across the region, can take the sustainable development 2030 agenda from goals to achievements.

Thank you.

IMF Communications Department
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