Novye Izvestiya (Russia)
Turkmenistan has redefined “civil service” as slavery, said Mehmet Gafarli in Moscow’s Novye Izvestiya. In his latest kooky plan to turn his desert country into a paradise, Turkmen dictator Saparmurat Niyazov is forcing government employees to become his personal gardeners. Niyazov has divvied up hundreds of acres of the Kara Kum desert around the capital, Ashgabat, into large plots, one for each government agency or ministry. Each agency must buy, plant, and tend trees and flowers on its plot, but they have not been provided extra budget or staff. “In other words, the cultivation of Kara Kum comes out of employees’ pay.” You’d think Niyazov would be discouraged by the failure of an earlier project to plant a forest in the foothills of the Kopet Dagh range. Since trucks couldn’t navigate the mountain paths, state employees and students were forced to hike up and down carrying buckets of water to irrigate hundreds of imported trees. Not surprisingly, the trees are all dying. Niyazov, though, is still making grandiose predictions of “a forest that will last a thousand years.” He would do better “simply to build a city park.”
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