Economy of Turkmenistan
|Currency||Turkmenistan manat (TMT)|
|GDP rank||84th (PPP, 2016)|
GDP per capita
GDP by sector
|agriculture (12.7%), industry (50.1%), services (37.7%) (2018 est.)|
Population below poverty line
|0.2% (2018 est.)|
|2.405 million (2018 est.)|
Labour force by occupation
|agriculture (44.2%), industry (15%), services (40.8%) (2018 est.)|
|Unemployment||15% (2020 est.)|
|natural gas, oil, petroleum products, textiles, food processing|
|Exports||$11.1 billion (2019)|
|gas, crude oil, petrochemicals, textiles, cotton fiber|
Main export partners
|Imports||$5.8 billion (2019)|
|machinery and equipment, chemicals, foodstuffs|
Main import partners
Gross external debt
|$5 billion (2021)|
|Revenues||$9.047 billion (2019 est.)|
|Expenses||$10.659 billion (2019 est.)|
|Economic aid||$4.3 million from the US (As of 2021[update])|
|$40.06 billion (31 December 2018 est.)|
The economy of Turkmenistan continues to recover from the 2014 downturn in hydrocarbon prices, but remains "in the grip of its worst economic crisis since the immediate postindependence period, driven in part by low gas prices, the suspension of gas exports to Russia between 2016 and 2019...and poor harvests." President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow at a session of the Cabinet of Ministers on March 11, 2021, called the rate of GDP growth unsatisfactory. When discussing the 2021 government budget, he noted that 2021 would be "as difficult" a year as 2020 had been. According to the 2020 Investment Climate Statement of the U.S. Department of State,
Turkmenistan’s economy depends heavily on the production and export of natural gas, oil, petrochemicals and, to a lesser degree, cotton, wheat, and textiles. The economy is still recovering from a deep recession that followed the late 2014 collapse in global energy prices. The current investment climate is considered high risk for U.S. foreign direct investment.
Turkmenistan is largely a desert country with intensive agriculture in irrigated areas, and huge gas and oil resources. In terms of natural gas reserves, as of 2020 it is ranked 4th in the world. Turkmenistan’s two largest agricultural crops are cotton, most of which is produced for export, and wheat, most of which is domestically consumed. Turkmenistan is among the top ten producers of cotton in the world.
From 1998 to 2005, Turkmenistan suffered from a lack of adequate export routes for natural gas and from obligations on extensive short-term external debt. At the same time, however, total exports rose by an average of roughly 15% per year from 2003 to 2008, largely because of higher international oil and gas prices. As in the Soviet era, central planning and state control pervade the system, and the Niyazov government (in power 1991–2006) consistently rejected market reform programs. The state subsidized a wide variety of commodities and services from the early 1990s to 2019. Following his election in 2007, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow unified the country's dual currency exchange rate, ordered the redenomination of the manat, reduced state subsidies for gasoline, and initiated development of a special tourism zone (Awaza) on the Caspian Sea.
Since 2009, Turkmenistan has maintained a fixed exchange rate. In that year, the rate was set at 1 United States dollar to 2.85 Turkmenistan manat. On January 1, 2015, the official exchange rate was changed to 1 United States dollar to 3.50 Turkmenistan manat. However, the black-market exchange rate as of February 2021 was fluctuating around 29 to 30 manat to the dollar. As of mid-April, the black-market manat-dollar exchange rate had slid to 40 manat to the dollar.
The government budget is developed and implemented in accord with the Law “On Budget System”. The law fixes the legal foundations of organizing management and operating the budget system, and regulates interrelations between budgets at all levels. The government of Turkmenistan discusses the state budget draft and submits it to the President of Turkmenistan. One month prior to the beginning of the fiscal year the President of Turkmenistan submits to the Assembly of Turkmenistan (Mejlis) the state budget draft for consideration and adoption. The Ministry of Economy and Finance is responsible for state finances.
Budget statistics are unreliable because the government spends large amounts of extra-budgetary funds. The 2021 budget of the Turkmenistan government totals 79.5 billion manat of revenue, down from 84.39 billion manat in 2020, and 103.57 billion manat in 2017. The 2021 expenditure budget was set at 72.1 billion manat.
The Central Bank promotes cashless transactions. In the January-April period of 2020, the volume of cashless transactions using debit cards slightly more than tripled compared to the same period in 2019, to just under 1.9 billion manat. This shift from cash to electronic payments was not without problems; shortages of cash in automatic teller machines and inadequate availability of card payment facilities at points of sale were reported.
In the post-Soviet era, Turkmenistan’s industrial sector has been dominated increasingly by the fuel and cotton processing industries to the detriment of light industry. Between 1991 and 2004, some 14 new cotton-processing plants were opened, sharply increasing the capability of processing domestically produced cotton. The construction industry depends mainly on government building projects because construction of private housing is a low priority.
Turkmenistan's major gas deposits were discovered in its central and eastern areas in the 1940s and 1950s, and in the 1980s the republic became the second largest producer of gas in the Soviet Union, behind the Russian SFSR. During the Soviet era gas was exported mainly to other Soviet republics, as Turkmenistan steadily increased delivery from about 9.2 million m³ in 1940 to about 234 million m³ in 1960 and about 51 billion m³ in 1975. This export was under centralised control, and most of the export revenue was absorbed into the Soviet central budget.
This changed in 1991, when Turkmenistan gained independence and established full control over gas export and export revenues. However, Soviet-era pipelines dictated that much of the gas go to the Caucasus, Russia and Ukraine. In the 1990s many of Turkmenistan's gas customers in the CIS failed to pay on time or negotiated barter deals. In the mid-1990s Turkmenistan stopped delivering gas to some CIS members, citing failure to pay and unprofitable barter deals. At the same time, the government tried to attract investments in building gas pipelines via Iran to Turkey and Western Europe via Afghanistan to Pakistan. Neither deal went through due to an unfavourable regional security environment and high costs; inflation and the budget deficit rose but privatisation was resisted.
In the late 1990s the government renegotiated its export and price arrangements with Gazprom and renewed deliveries to Georgia, Ukraine, and some other countries. It also opened its first pipeline not to pass through Russia, the Korpezhe-Kurt Kui Pipeline.
On December 14, 2009, the Central Asia–China gas pipeline was opened, and Turkmenistan began delivering large volumes of natural gas to the China National Petroleum Corporation. Combined design capacity of Lines A, B, and C of this pipeline system is 55 billion cubic meters per annum (bcma), of which Turkmenistan's quota is 35 bcma. By 2015 Turkmenistan was delivering approximately 35 bcma to China, counterbalancing declining exports to Russia, which ended on January 1, 2016. Russia had earlier restricted its imports to about 10 bcma, and then 5 bcma. Russian purchases resumed, albeit in smaller quantities, in 2019.
Small-volume sales of an estimated 12 bcma to Iran halted on January 1, 2017, when Turkmenistan unilaterally cut off supplies over payment arrears. Ashgabat claimed Tehran owed some $1.8 billion for supplies delivered nearly 10 years before.
In January-November 2020, Turkmenistan extracted 62.3 billion m3 of natural gas, of which, according to one source, it exported 31 billion.
One observes in the table below that production and exports peaked in 2008 and dramatically decreased in 2009. This was due an explosion in the Central Asia–Center gas pipeline system in April 2009 for which Turkmenistan blamed Gazprom. Natural gas exports include pipeline gas to China, Russia, and previously to Iran, and liquid petroleum gas shipped by rail and truck to Afghanistan.
Natural gas to gasoline production
On June 28, 2019, a $1.7 billion factory for producing gasoline out of natural gas was commissioned in Ovadandepe. Built by Rönesans and Kawasaki using technology from Haldor Topsoe, the factory has a design capacity of 600,000 tonnes of gasoline, 12,000 tonnes of Diesel fuel, and 115,000 tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas per year, produced from 1.7 billion cubic meters of natural gas.
See also Turkmenistan / Oil
Turkmenistan's major oil-producing area is in the west, mainly in Balkan Province, and is part of the South Caspian Basin, an intercontinental depression noted for oil production. Commercial oil production on the Turkmen side of the Caspian Sea began in the early 1900s, in the environs of the Cheleken Peninsula, and modern oil drilling began in the 1930s near Balkanabat. The Gumdag field was developed in 1949, then Goturdepe (1958), Ekerem (1962), and others. Offshore drilling began in the 1970s.
Major onshore oil fields include Çeleken, Goñurdepe, Nebitdag, Gumdag, Barsagelmez, Guýujyk. Gyzylgum, Ördekli, Gögerendag, Gamyşlyja, Ekerem, Çekişler, Keýmir, Ekizek, and Bugdaýly. In 2019, capital investment in the oil industry totaled 3.29 billion manat. In January-November 2020, Turkmenistan extracted 8.7 million tonnes of oil and condensate. Production of liquid petroleum gas totaled 231,000 tonnes.
Oil is processed at two refineries, the Turkmenbashy and Seydi oil refining complexes. The Turkmenbashy oil refinery had a refining capacity of more than 10 million tons of oil per year as of May 2016. The refinery produces a range of products, including unleaded gasoline, petroleum coke, asphalt, laundry detergent, hydro-treated diesel, and lubricating oil. The Turkmenbashy oil refinery is Turkmenistan's largest producer of liquid petroleum gas, accounting for two-thirds of total production with annual output of about 300 thousand tonnes.
The Seydi refinery processed about 135,500 tonnes of oil in the first quarter of 2020, and 441,200 tonnes January-November, implying capacity of about half a million tonnes of oil in 2020. The Seydi plant produces gasoline, asphalt, and Diesel fuel, among other products. The Seydi refinery was built during the Soviet period to process oil from Siberia. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, the Seydi refinery has been supplied with hydrocarbons from Turkmenistan, including the Gokdumalak, Yashyldepe, Yoloten, and Kerwen fields.
Natural gas and oil exports
Based on Chinese and Turkmen official trade data, China is the major importer of Turkmenistan's natural gas, with historical volumes between 32 and 35 billion cubic meters per annum (bcma). Thirty-five bcma is Turkmenistan's quota on the Central Asia–China gas pipeline. Smaller volumes of pipeline gas are also bought by Russia's Gazprom, with 4 bcm in 2019, 4.7 bcm in 2020, and 2.2 bcm in the first quarter of 2021. Some of this gas is sold onward to Uzbekistan. According to BP's Statistical Review of World Energy 2021, Turkmenistan's natural gas exports in 2020, by destination, in billion cubic meters were:
In June 2021 Turkmenistan and China announced award of a tender to CNPC Chuanging Drilling Engineering Company, Ltd. for drilling gas wells in the Galkynysh gas field in return for payment in kind of 17 bcm of natural gas delivered over a period of three years.
|Turkmenistan Hydrocarbon Exports|
|natural gas, billion cubic meters||40.3||8406.7||37.9||4327.8||38.2||5031.7||37.8||6428.0||37.6||6942.1|
|petroleum products, million tonnes||2.8||1038.3||2.6||796.2||2.6||1000.7||2.9||1430.1||3.1||1297.1|
|crude oil, million tonnes||4.1||1466.8||4.9||1210.8||1.9||612.8||6.4||2634.4||3.8||1671.5|
|Electrical Power Generation, million kilowatt-hours|
As of 2013, Turkmenistan had 10 electrical power plants equipped with 32 turbines, including 14 steam-driven, 15 gas powered, and 3 hydroelectric. Power output in 2011 was 18.27 billion kWh, of which 2.5 billion kWh was exported. The Asian Development Bank reported in October 2018,
Turkmenenergo, the State Energy Corporation is the vertically integrated power utility in the country. In 2017, it produced more than 23 TWh of electricity, exporting 15% of that to neighboring countries.
New power plants have been constructed in Mary, Ahal province, and in Çärjew District of Lebap province. The Mary-3 combined cycle power plant, built by Çalık Holding with GE turbines, commissioned in 2018, produces 1.574 gigawatts of electrical power and is specifically intended to support expanded exports of electricity to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Zerger power plant built by Sumitomo, Mitsubishi, Hitachi, and Rönesans Holding in Çärjew District has a design capacity of 432 megawatts from three 144-megawatt gas turbines and was commissioned in September 2021. It is also primarily intended for export of electricity. The Zerger plant uses natural gas from the Üçajy Gas Field (Russian: Учаджинского газодобывающего месторождения), delivered via a 125-km high-pressure pipeline. The Ahal power plant, with capacity of 650 megawatts, was constructed to power the city of Ashgabat and in particular the Olympic Village. The Derweze State Electrical Power Station (Turkmen: Derweze Döwlet Elektrik Stansiýasy), a 504.4 megawatt power plant built by Çalık Enerji in 2015, is located near Ovadandepe.
A "national grid strengthening project" with support from the Asian Development Bank is underway, which will build four new power substations and add direct high-voltage lines, a 500-kilovolt line between Balkan province and Dashoguz, and a 200-kilovolt line between Buzmeyin and Balkanabat. The intention is to create an "interconnected national transmission grid to improve reliability and energy efficiency..."
The following table is from Mineral Industry of Turkmenistan published by the United States Geological Survey, an agency of the U.S. government, and is thus in the public domain.
|TURKMENISTAN: PRODUCTION OF MINERAL COMMODITIES1|
|(Metric tons, gross weight, unless otherwise specified)|
|Iron and steel, products, rolled e||135,000||140,000||140,000||144,000||144,000|
|Cement, hydraulic e||thousand metric tons||2,900||3,300||3,500||3,600||3,800|
|Other, unspecified||7,387 r||8,000 e||8,000 e||8,400 e||9,000 e|
|Gypsum, mine e||107,000||110,000||110,000||110,000||110,000|
|Nitrogen, N content:|
|Ammonia||293,000||309,000 e||309,000 e||320,000 e||340,000 e|
|Urea||344,000||360,000 e||360,000 e||380,000 e||400,000 e|
|Potash, K2O content||--||--||--||25,000 e||24,000|
|Sodium, compounds, sodium sulfate e||68,000||70,000||52,000 r||26,000||26,000|
|Sulfur, S content e||506,000||600,000||400,000 r||200,000||200,000|
|MINERAL FUELS AND RELATED MATERIALS|
|Natural gas||million cubic meters||67,000||69,600||66,800||62,000||62,000 e|
|Crude, including condensate||thousand 42-gallon barrels||87,200||91,400||96,960||90,000||85,000|
|e Estimated. r Revised. do. Ditto. NA Not available. -- Zero.|
|1Table includes data available through May 20, 2019. All data are reported unless otherwise noted. Estimated data are rounded to no more than three significant digits; may not add to totals shown.|
|2In addition to the commodities listed, barite, bench gravel, coal, dolomite, epsomite, and kaolin may have been produced, but available information was inadequate to make reliable estimates of output.|
|Source: U.S. Geological Survey|
Four cement plants operate in Turkmenistan, and plans have been announced to construct three more. The four cement plants currently in operation, each designed to produce one million tons per year, are:
In 2019, President Berdimuhamedov noted that the Kelete plant was operating at 8.1%, the Lebap plant at 88%, the Baherden plant at 64%, and the Balkan plant at just over 40% of design capacity.
|Cement Production in Turkmenistan|
in thousand tonnes
In 2019, Turkmenistan produced 5.1 million standard square meters (4mm thickness) of sheet glass. A $375 million float glass and glass container plant built by Tepe Inşaat of Turkey was opened February 14, 2018, in Ovadandepe north of Ashgabat. It replaced a Soviet-era glass factory located in central Ashgabat. In 2019, the value of Turkmenistan's glass exports as reported by trading partners was $9.5 million.
A steel smelter, Türkmen Demir Önümleri Döwlet Kärhanasy (English: Turkmen Iron Products State Enterprise) operating on scrap metal is located at kilometer 22 on the Ashgabat-Dashoguz Automobile Highway near Ovadandepe. It produces mainly rebar and channel iron.
As of 2019, Turkmenistan had "nine chemical plants that produce nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers (700,000 tons per year), sulfuric and nitric acids, iodine, bromine, and mineral salts."
Three plants in Turkmenistan produce urea (carbamide), primarily intended for export, one each in Tejen, Mary,and Garabogaz. The $1.3 billion Garabogaz plant, built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and GAP İnşaat (a subsidiary of Çalık Holding), was inaugurated on September 18, 2018, with a design capacity of 1.16 million tonnes of urea per year. The $650 million Mary ammonia and urea plant, commissioned on October 17, 2014, was built by Rönesans Holding, Kawasaki, and Sojitz with design capacity of 400 thousand tonnes of ammonia and 640 thousand tonnes of urea. The $240 million Tejen plant, inaugurated on March 18, 2005, has a design capacity of 350,000 tonnes of urea per year. Reportedly, none of these plants currently produces at full capacity, however. Between January and October 2019, the Garabogaz plant produced approximately 392,000 tonnes of urea, of which 261,000 tonnes was exported. Production of nitrogenous fertilizers in Turkmenistan totaled 550,500 tonnes (active ingredient basis) in 2019.
The Kiyanly Polymer Factory (Turkmen: Gyýanly Polimer Zawody), inaugurated October 17, 2018, features design capacity to produce 381 thousand tonnes of polyethylene and 81 thousand tonnes of polypropylene per year. Built at a cost of $3.4 billion by LG International, Hyundai Engineering, Toyo Engineering, and Gap Inşaat, the plant cracks methane and ethane for production of polymers. In the first ten months of 2019, however, the factory produced only 67,900 tonnes of polyethylene and 12,700 tonnes of polypropylene.
In March 2017 the Garlyk Mining and Enrichment Combinate for production of potash fertilizer was inaugurated. Built by Belarus's Belgorkhimprom at a cost of $1.1 billion, the factory is designed to produce 1.4 million tonnes of fertilizer per year, primarily for export to China and India. It reportedly operates at from 2 to 7 percent of rated capacity, however.
Three factories produce iodine in Turkmenistan, one each in Balkanabat, Hazar, and Bereket. The Bereket plant is designed to produce 150 tonnes per year of iodine. Following planned renovations and upgrades, the Balkanabat and Hazar plants will have design capacities of 250 tonnes and 300 tonnes of iodine, respectively, plus 2400 tonnes and 4500 tonnes of bromine, respectively, per year. Total production of iodine in 2019 was 681.4 tonnes.
Textiles and Garments
As a cotton producer, from its conquest by the Russian Empire in the 1880s until independence in 1991 Turkmenistan mainly exported raw cotton to Russia for spinning. Since independence, Turkmenistan has invested roughly $2 billion in 70 plants and factories for production of cotton yarn, textiles, and garments made from other materials, including shoes. Of these, 13 are large ginning, spinning, or textile mills. In 2019, Turkmenistan exported cotton textiles worth $123.6 million. In 2019, Turkmenistan produced 118,600 tonnes of cotton yarn, and 209.4 million square meters of fabric, of which 192.9 million was cotton, 14.9 million was terrycloth, and 1.4 million was silk. In addition, Turkmenistan produced in 2019 40.9 million pairs of stockings, 5.5 million knit items, 1.5 million pairs of shoes, and 3,400 tonnes of knitted fabric.
The Turkmenistan government centrally funds and controls major construction projects. As of January 2021, the government acknowledged over 2,500 large-scale projects under construction at a cost of $37 billion. In 2020, about two million square meters of new residential housing was built at government expense, as well as 45 "important government" structures.
Three current major projects include $1.5 billion for construction of the new capital of Ahal province, $1.5 billion for construction of five major facilities in Ashgabat (a new State Tribune, the Arkadag Hotel, two bank headquarters, and a new Congress Center, all by Bouygues), and $2.3 billion for construction of the Ashgabat-Turkmenabat motorway by a consortium of four Turkmen construction firms.
As a crossroads for centuries and part of the Silk Road, Turkmenistan serves as a transit point for cargoes shipped by air, sea, and land. Under normal conditions, Ashgabat International Airport is a stopover and transfer point for air passengers between India (Amritsar and New Delhi) and England (London and Birmingham), as well as between Frankfurt-am-Main and Bangkok.
Turkmenistan's major seaport is the Turkmenbashy International Seaport on the Caspian. Expanded at a cost of $2 billion between 2013 and 2018 by Gap Inşaat, the seaport has capacity to handle annually 25 million tonnes of dry cargo (17 million in the newly expanded port, 8 million in the old port), 300,000 passengers, 75,000 freight trucks, and 400,000 containers. The port features regular ferry service to Baku. This seaport also manages three oil loading terminals, Kenar, Alaja, and Ekerem. Turkmenistan's only other seaports are the loading terminals for factories at Kiyanly (Gyýanly) and Garabogaz and a loading terminal at Hazar.
Five major airports in Turkmenistan feature regular domestic passenger service: Ashgabat, Dashoguz, Mary, Turkmenabat, and Turkmenbashy. A sixth airport, Balkanabat, is in operation for special flights. Only Ashgabat International Airport offers regular international passenger service. Turkmenbashy International Airport is used for international cargo, chiefly by Cargolux. The only domestic air carrier is state-owned Türkmen Howa Ýollary (Turkmenistan Airlines). In 2019, Turkmenistan Airlines hauled 12 thousand tonnes of cargo. It also flew 2.5 million passengers and 2.98 billion passenger-kilometers.
Minor airports are found in some district administrative centers, including Balkanabat, Etrek, Garabogaz, Hazar, and Jebel in Balkan Province; and Kerki in Lebap Province. A former military airfield at Galaýmor in Mary Province is slated for conversion to civil aviation. There are also small landing strips at Aeroport village and Gäwers in Ahal Province.
The domestic rail system is operated by state-owned Türkmendemirýollary (Turkmen Railways). No scheduled international passenger service exists, but domestic passenger service connects major Turkmen cities. Freight service is available to both domestic and international destinations. In 2019, 23.8 million tonnes of freight was transported by rail in Turkmenistan. In the same year, Turkmen Railways handled 5.44 million passengers and counted 2.53 billion passenger-kilometers.
As of 2011, Turkmenistan featured 13.7 thousand kilometers of roads, of which 12.3 thousand were paved. In 2019, road transport accounted for 27.1 billion passenger-kilometers, or 83% of passenger traffic in Turkmenistan. Motor vehicles transported 448.9 million tonnes of cargo in 2019, 85.5% of the total, and accounted for 14.2 billion tonne-kilometers. Major highways in Turkmenistan include the M37 connecting the seaport at Turkmenbashy to the border with Uzbekistan at Farap, the Ashgabat-Dashoguz Highway connecting Ashgabat and Dashoguz, and the P-7 highway connecting the M37 at Tejen to the border with Iran at Sarahs.
The financial system is under full state control. The banking system, which was reduced substantially after the 1998 financial crisis, includes 9 national banks. These include a nominally private bank owned by the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, Rysgal Bank, and Turkmen-Turkish Bank, a joint venture between Dayhan Bank and Turkish state-owned Ziraat Bankası. These institutions have the same basic division of responsibility as in the Soviet era, overseen by the Central Bank of Turkmenistan. Lending operations and household savings have not been important functions of this system. In 2005 an estimated 95 percent of loans went to state enterprises. Two branches of foreign banks, National Bank of Pakistan and Iran Saderat Bank, are located in Ashgabat, where they offer retail banking services. Two German banks, Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank, offer institutional services through offices in Ashgabat.
As of January 1, 2021, total assets of all banks in Turkmenistan amounted to 135.8 billion manat. Deposits by individuals totaled 3.3 billion manat, including 2.8 billion in demand deposits and 437 million manat in time deposits. Business deposits totaled 39.1 billion manat, of which 14.6 billion in demand deposits and 53.7 billion in time deposits. Total business deposits were broken out into state-owned firms (32.5 billion manat), privately owned firms (21.1 billion manat), and individual unincorporated entrepreneurs (7.9 billion manat).
In 2019, 84.1 billion manat worth of credit was extended to individuals, firms, and organizations, up from 76.3 billion in 2018 and 69.2 billion in 2017. Of these figures, 60.9 billion, 52.1 billion, and 46.7 billion were in Turkmen manat, respectively.
Turkmengosstrakh, the state insurance firm, has a complete monopoly of the very small insurance industry.
In 2019, Turkmenistan produced:
- 1.5 million tons of wheat;
- 582 thousand tons of cotton;
- 356 thousand tons of tomato;
- 315 thousand tons of potato;
- 263 thousand tons of watermelon;
- 246 thousand tons of grape;
- 245 thousand tons of sugar beet, which is used to produce sugar and ethanol;
- 130 thousand tons of rice;
- 74 thousand tons of onion;
- 71 thousand tons of carrot;
- 66 thousand tons of apple;
- 34 thousand tons of apricot;
in addition to other agricultural products.
In the early 2000s, the contribution of Turkmenistan’s state-run agriculture sector to gross domestic product increased under close state supervision. The top crop in terms of area planted is wheat (761 thousand hectares in 2019), followed by cotton (551 thousand hectares in 2019). In recent years state policy makers have increased the range of crops with the aim of making Turkmenistan self-sufficient in food. In the post-Soviet era, the area planted to grains (mainly wheat) has nearly tripled. However, most agricultural land is of poor quality and requires irrigation. Turkmenistan’s irrigation infrastructure and water-use policies have not responded efficiently to this need. Irrigation in areas distant from natural rivers depends mainly on the decrepit Karakum Canal, which carries water across Turkmenistan from the Amu Darya to near Bereket. The Dostluk Dam, opened at Sarahs on the border with Iran in 2005, has increased available irrigation water and improved efficiency. Plans call for a similar dam on the Atrek River.
During the 2020 season, Turkmenistan reportedly produced roughly 1.5 million tons of raw cotton. Prior to imposition of a ban on export of raw cotton in October 2018, Turkmenistan exported raw cotton to Russia, Iran, South Korea, United Kingdom, China, Indonesia, Turkey, Ukraine, Singapore and the Baltic states. Beginning in 2019, the Turkmenistan government shifted focus to export of cotton yarn and finished textiles and garments.
Private farmers grow most of Turkmenistan’s fruits and vegetables (chiefly tomatoes, watermelons, grapes, and onions), but all production phases of the main cash crops—grain and cotton—remain under state control. In 2006 grain crop failures led to steadily increasing bread lines and reinstatement of a rationing system in most regions. At the root of those failures was a culture of falsifying output figures together with poor administration of the sector.
Since 2018, independent media have reported food shortages in the country, with hundreds of people queuing for hours to buy bread and flour. Despite official government figures indicating good harvests, independent media report low output due to drought and mismanagement, and that shortages of flour and bread have reappeared.
Mechanization of agriculture
Since independence, the Turkmenistan government has spent considerable sums on imported agricultural tractors, harvesters, and implements. In 2012, around 7,000 tractors, 5,000 cotton cultivators, 2,200 seeders, and other machines, mainly procured from Belarus and the United States, were used.
John Deere and Case IH each began selling farm machinery in Turkmenistan in 1994. Claas combines were first used for grain harvesting in Turkmenistan in 2011. Belarus tractors, in use since Soviet times, continue to be popular due to competitive pricing and deep familiarity with the product line. Turkmenistan also buys cotton harvesters from Uzbekistan.
Between 2017 and 2020 Claas delivered 1,000 Tucano 420 grain combines, 800 Axion 850 plowing tractors, and 1,550 Axos 340 tractors. In the 2017 and 2018 crop years John Deere delivered 440 Model 9970 cotton harvesters, and between 2019 and 2020 another 600.
The following table presents the value of Turkmenistan's exports and imports in million U.S. dollars, by year, from 2015 through 2019.
Turkmenistan's most important export commodity is natural gas, delivered by pipelines to China and in lesser quantities to Russia. According to Chinese Customs data, the value of Chinese imports of natural gas from Turkmenistan fell from $8,686,022,768 in 2019 to $6,071,165,273 in 2020 due to a combination of reduced Chinese import volumes and falling hydrocarbon prices. Crude oil and refined petroleum products accounted for another $3 billion of exports in 2019, followed by $123.6 million for cotton textiles. Among imports, major categories in 2019 were machinery ($1.5 billion), base metals ($968.3 million), chemicals ($682.3 million), vehicles ($453.5 million), and plastic and rubber and products thereof ($342.9 million).
In 2019, Turkmenistan counted 666,500 employees of large- and medium enterprises, and 103,900 employees of non-state (private, mixed public-private, or foreign) enterprises. The structure of employment was 25.3% in the state sector, 50.3% in the private sector, 22.0% mixed public-private enterprises, 0.2% in public associations, 0.4% in cooperatives, and 1.8% in foreign-owned enterprises, including joint ventures. According to official statistics, in 2019 77,474 individuals were employed by individual entrepreneurs, including self employment.
Major sectors for employment were:
43.5% in agriculture
9.8% in manufacturing
8.4% in education
7.4% in trade and vehicle repair
5.8% in construction
4.3% in transport and storage
3.6% in health and social work
2.9% in arts, entertainment
In 2004 the labor force was estimated to include more than 2.3 million workers, 48.2 percent of whom worked in agriculture, 37.8 percent in services, and 14 percent in industry and construction. Because the state dominates the economy, an estimated 90 percent of workers are in reality effectively state employees. It is believed that downsizing the government workforce, which began in 2003, increased unemployment in subsequent years. Unemployment in 2014 was estimated at 11%. In recent years, due to the economic downturn linked to falling hydrocarbon prices, unemployment is estimated to be as high as 60 percent, despite official figures of less than four percent.
The breakout by type of enterprise privatized was:
- 845 wholesale and retail trade, vehicle repair
- 143 manufacturing
- 108 real estate operations
- 95 agriculture, forestry, fisheries
- 51 transportation and storage
- 27 construction
- 18 hospitality industry
- 1,341 other services
In March 2021, President Berdimuhamedow ordered conversion of Derýaýollary Production Association, a subordinate unit of the State Service of Maritime and River Transportation of Turkmenistan (Türkmendeňizderýaýollary) state agency responsible for river and canal transport, into an open joint-stock company.
All land remains property of the government, as during the Soviet era.
The following table shows the main official economic indicators in 1993–2020 as provided by the Turkmenistan government to the International Monetary Fund.
|GDP in $
|10.90 Bln.||8.90 Bln.||11.56 Bln.||27.48 Bln.||31.44 Bln.||35.84 Bln.||41.93 Bln.||44.84 Bln.||49.55 Bln.||58.01 Bln.||65.61 Bln.||73.45 Bln.||82.50 Bln.||88.78 Bln.||95.48 Bln.||81.79 Bln.||88.91 Bln.||96.23 Bln.||99.32 Bln.|
|GDP per capita in $
|−10.0 %||−7.2 %||18.6 %||13.0 %||11.0 %||11.1 %||14.7 %||6.1 %||9.2 %||14.7 %||11.0 %||10.2 %||10.3 %||6.4 %||6.2 %||6.5 %||6.2 %||6.3 %||1.8 %|
|3,102.4 %||1,005.2 %||23.6 %||10.7 %||8.2 %||6.3 %||14.5 %||−2.7 %||4.4 %||5.3 %||5.3 %||6.8 %||6.0 %||7.4 %||3.6 %||8.0 %||13.3 %||5.1 %||8.0 %|
(Pct. of GDP)
|...||...||44 %||5 %||3 %||2 %||3 %||2 %||4 %||10 %||18 %||20 %||17 %||22 %||24 %||31 %||31 %||33 %||31 %|
The accuracy of GDP figures has been called into doubt by the Asian Development Bank, which in 2006 noted, "According to official statistics, the economy continued to grow rapidly in 2005, but actual growth was likely much lower than the official estimate. Government has overstated growth in the past." The UK government's Overseas Business Risk report for 2021 notes, "No reliable economic data are published in Turkmenistan. Most sources cite figures which the government releases to the international financial institutions. These do not always square with observation on the ground." Outside observers have also expressed skepticism about the official figures for the rate of inflation. In the June 2021 Global Economic Prospects report, the World Bank excluded Turkmenistan "[d]ue to lack of reliable data of adequate quality".
At a session of the Cabinet of Ministers on March 11, 2021, government officials revealed that in "recent years" Turkmenistan had borrowed over $14 billion in foreign exchange loans from foreign creditors, of which $5 billion remained outstanding as of March 8, 2021. However, a chart shown on television indicated debt in 2021 of $1.3524 billion. Opposition media seized on this figure to estimate GDP of $12.3 billion based on a statement by Central Bank Chairman Rahimberdi Jepbarov that external debt equals 11% of GDP.
Exchange rates prior to 2009
During the early years of independence, the official exchange rate of Turkmen manat to the U.S. dollar grew dramatically. At the same time, the black-market exchange rate grew even faster, eventually hovering around 24,000 to 25,000 manat to the dollar.
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- "Turkmenistan: Chinese debt trap unlocked". Eurasianet. 15 June 2021.
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