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Last Updated: Monday, 19 March 2007, 14:12 GMT
Turkmen leader restores pensions
Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov at his inauguration ceremony on 14 February 2007
Mr Berdymukhamedov is showing signs of implementing change
Turkmenistan's new president has reversed a decision of his predecessor by restoring pensions to more than 100,000 elderly citizens.

President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov signed into law a new Code of Social Guarantees restoring pensions that were taken away a year ago.

New state benefits have also been introduced.

Mr Berdymukhamedov was made president in February after the death of autocratic ruler Saparmurat Niyazov.

While the new leader has pledged to follow the ways of his predecessor, he has also shown signs of wanting to move forward a country that was ruled with an iron fist for more than two decades.

Contradicted promise?

One of Mr Niyazov's most unpopular policies came in February 2006 when he ended state maternity and sick leave payments and cancelled pensions paid to 100,000 senior citizens.

Analysts at the time attributed the move to a shortage in the state pension fund, which had forced Mr Niyazov to siphon hard cash from currency reserves to pay the previous year's benefits bill.

Turkmenistan's map

Under the new rules, "all retirees whose pensions have been taken away will get them back," the social ministry said.

Pensions for families of war veterans will rise to one million manat ($40), while eligibility for pensions by those who have been unable to work will be made easier.

A one-time payment for each newborn baby as well as maternity benefits until the child is 18 months old are also being introduced, Social Security Minister Gurbandurdy Kakalyyew said.

The minimum pension in Turkmenistan is currently about 300,000 manat ($12) a month.

The BBC's correspondent in Central Asia, Natalia Antelava, says it is still very early to adequately assess how much Mr Berdymukhamedov will differ from his predecessor.

But certain moves since his election - such as extending the number of school years and putting foreign languages back on the curriculum - seem to contradict his promises of loyalty to the late leader, our correspondent adds.

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