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Turkmen president gives son powerful new ministerial post

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Ashgabat (Turkmenistan) (AFP)

Gas-rich Turkmenistan's all-powerful leader has appointed his son minister of industry and construction, state media reported Saturday -- -- a role that will involve overseeing the reclusive country's most lucrative building projects.

State newspaper Neutral Turkmenistan published a copy of the presidential order which said that President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov had appointed 38-year-old Serdar Berdymukhamedov minister of the new ministry "created on the foundations of the industry and communications ministry."

The industry and construction ministry will also oversee the state agencies in charge of air, road and water transport as well as communications, according to the order, which relieved Berdymukhamedov junior of his previous job as governor of Ahal region.

Serdar Berdymukhamedov, 38, is regularly mentioned as a potential successor to his father who oversees a political system without opposition, checks on his authority or a free media.

The move comes after Berdymukhamedov this month ordered the cabinet to allocate nearly $1.5 billion to the construction of a new city in the Ahal region from where the Berdymukhamedov family hail.

The isolated country whose leadership cult draws frequent comparisons to North Korea began work on the so far unnamed city in April, 2019.

Prior to becoming Ahal's governor, Serdar Berdymukhamedov served as Ahal's deputy governor and the deputy foreign minister.

He also currently holds a seat in parliament.

Turkmenistan's authoritarian regime has been accused by international rights groups of diverting energy revenues towards vanity projects of little long-term benefit to the population.

An oil price crunch in 2014 and the cessation of a longstanding gas export relationship with Russia in 2016 were seen as motivating the government to cut back on subsidies that made utilities like water, gas and electricity free of charge.

Berdymukhamedov, a former dentist, came to power in 2006 following the death of his predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov who transformed himself from a Communist leader into a "Turkmenbashy", or "Father of the Turkmen" after independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

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