Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the new president of Turkmenistan, wants to create a baby boom in the former Soviet republic. He is offering an incentive package for mothers who have at least eight babies.
The fabulous prizes for extra-fertile Turkmen women include a one-time cash payment of $250, free dental care, free bus passes, and free home utilities.
This extraordinary measure is a response to Turkmenistan's sky-rocketing infant mortality rate. The country already suffered appalling numbers of infant and child deaths, brought about by unsanitary hospital conditions, a lack of equipment in clinics, and folk customs such as smearing the cut ends of a newborn's umbilical cord with camel feces for good luck. In March of 2003, late dictator Saparmurat Niyazov made matters infinitely worse by closing all health care facilities outside of the capital, Ashgabat. "Regional hospitals are not needed," Niyazov claimed, though it can take more than 20 hours by bus to get to Ashgabat from other major cities. To the surprise of nobody, the resulting lack of health care instantly caused a dramatic increase in the infant mortality rate.
Meanwhile, India's government is bribing parents with $3,000 to raise their girl children, rather than aborting or abandoning baby girls.
Photo by Fraser Lewry on Flickr.com.