Turkmenistan President to Give Mothers of 8 or More Free Utilities, Dental Care

Turkmenistan's president hopes to start a baby boom in the gas-rich former Soviet nation with a plan to reward women who give birth to eight or more children -- a one-time bonus and lifetime perks, state media reported Wednesday.

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov approved the measure in a decree entitling the mothers to a single $250 payment, as well as free utilities, public transportation and dental care for life.

The award bears hallmarks of a similar initiative introduced by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II, when the government awarded medals to women with five or more children.

The offer comes before International Women's Day on March 8. Last week, the government announced every woman in the country will receive a $10 bonus to mark the holiday.

Berdymukhamedov has made tentative progress in reversing the welfare policies of autocratic former President Saparmurat Niyazov, who died in December 2006.

Niyazov caused severe hardship across the country when he dismissed thousands of health personnel and ordered the closure of hospitals outside the capital, causing a sharp rise in child mortality rates.