The energy-rich Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan looks set to scrap free provision of electricity, household gas and water to its citizens as the economy shows the strain of reduced demand for natural gas, its chief export.

The proposal was made Thursday during a gathering of the Council of Elders, an advisory body of local officials that mirrors government positions, in the resort town of Avaza.

The authoritarian government of the ex-Soviet nation has traded lack of political pluralism for generous welfare benefits.

According to official statistics, Turkmenistan has registered steady economic growth for several years, but that data is regarded as insufficiently transparent by international experts. Depressed global energy prices have severely curtailed revenues in an economy dependent on natural gas exports.