Somebody picks cotton, somebody – money

The 2007 cotton picking campaign in Turkmenistan turned into a period of receiving much money. However, it is not the cotton pickers who get the money but rather the administrators of dainakh (peasants) associations (former kolkhozes and sovkhozes). Their higher-ranking supervisors are also not left without "additional income".

The state, represented by the regional divisions of the Ministry of Agriculture, pays the cotton pickers 1,000 manats per kilogram of cotton. A picker receives a sum which is equivalent to $4 per 100 kilograms of submitted cotton. The payments are made every 10 days.

Yet, urban residents such as teachers, doctors, engineers, social workers and others have to pay the heads of the daikhan associations in a bid to avoid harvesting cotton and to keep working at their workplace.

All people who have employment and reside in towns and villages are forcibly sent by the local authorities to harvest cotton. As has been reported, for instance in the Dashoguz velayat people have to hire workers and pay them instead of going to the fields themselves.

An even easier way was introduced in the Mary and the Lebap velayats where hired workers were simply excluded from the above-mentioned network. So the money is now paid directly into the pockets of the tenant farmers who have grown the cotton, i.e. the people whose fields the cotton pickers from urban areas were supposed to go to.

300-500 thousand manats are needed so that one does not have to take part in the cotton picking campaign.

"I am a hypertonic and due to the state of health I cannot pick cotton. Yet, it is hard to obtain a medical waiver from cotton works; furthermore, it also costs money. Thus, it is easier for me to pay 450,000 manats from my salary which is 1500,000 manats", a teacher of one of the schools in the Mary velayats says.

The staff members of an organization collect money and give it to the head who goes to the village to the tenant farmer and passes the money to him. The daikhan association issues a paper confirming that the members of this organization harvested a certain quantity of cotton.

The head of the organization is glad to keep all his staff members at their work places. The staff members are happy not to have to work on the fields and live in dirty cold barracks. The tenant farmer receives money (and pays part of this to the head of the daikhan association) and picks the cotton himself together with the members of his family. As far as the head of the daikhan association is concerned, he receives the money for no particular reason – just for the confirmation. It goes without saying that he, in turn, also shares the money received with his higher ranking bosses.

All this together amounts to quite impressive sums. Each worker pays about 300-500 thousand manats per cotton picking campaign. Given that an organization has about 100 employees, this organization alone pays from 30 to 50 million manats. And how many such organizations, small and large, are in the country? As this money is not registered anywhere, it ends up in somebody's pockets.

High ranking officials like to repeat: "Cotton is our wealth!". Nobody will argue that this is really THEIR wealth.

Source: TIHR