In September 2002 I penned an OPED bemoaning the unfortunate fact that the antics of 'Turkmenbashi' ("Head of all Turkmen," the then "Perpetual President of Turkmenistan," Sapamurat Niyazov) obscured the miserable lot of the ordinary folk of Turkmenistan...
I said: "... The total and utter ridiculousness of this situation makes an observer want to smile. But that is an unfortunate reaction. The buffoonery masks repression and misrule, under which the vast majority of Turkmenistan's citizens live a life of grinding poverty, while the country has vast reserves of natural gas and is the world's tenth largest producer of cotton. While the masses are hungry, Turkmenbashi spends money on grandiose projects (a 10 meter high gold-plated statue of Turkmenbashi atop a 72 meter tall tower surrounded by fountains, ornate palaces, Berzengi - a hotel and business center in the desert outside Ashkhabad that has 22 empty 5-star hotels built completely from imported materials), jails any opposition (some in psychiatric wards), has a tame and muzzled press, etc. As there are shortages of staples and hunger increases, Turkmenbashi has said, "Anyone who complains about going without sausage or bread for a day is not a Turkmen."
When he passed away in 2006 his Vice President, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, took over in his stead, and a May 2008 blog entry noted that he had rolled back a couple of Turkmenbashi's actions. However, as time passed it became clear that not much was changed, as reflected in this November 2009 blog update entry.
We are now mid-way through 2019 and apparently not much has improved, see: Crazy-Ass President Of Turkmenistan Proves He's Not Dead By Doing Donuts Around 'Gateway To Hell.'
Also view the video on YouTube: Watan Habarlary 04.08.2019