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Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan

Population 6.2 million
GDP 10,111 US$
D
Country risk assessment
E
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Synthesis

major macro economic indicators

  2020 2021 2022 2023 (e) 2024 (f)
GDP growth (%) 0.8 4.6 1.8 2.3 2.1
Inflation (yearly average, %) 6.1 19.5 11.5 7.0 10.5
Budget balance (% GDP) -0.1 0.4 1.0 0.3 -0.1
Current account balance (% GDP) 2.6 6.5 5.8 4.5 2.5
Public debt (% GDP) 13.1 10.1 5.5 4.5 4.5

(e): Estimate (f): Forecast

STRENGTHS

  • Fourth-largest natural gas reserves in the world (nearly 7% of the total)
  • Strategic position in Central Asia and between China on the one hand, and Russia and Europe, via the Caspian Sea, on the other
  • Healthy public accounts and a moderate level of debt
  • Observer status at the World Trade Organisation (WTO)

WEAKNESSES

  • High dependence on hydrocarbons (87% of exports, of which 77% derives from gas) and on China, which receives nearly 75% of gas exports
  • Small private sector, anticompetitive market structures, no access to external financing
  • Strict exchange control and parallel exchange
  • Poor infrastructure
  • Weak governance (corruption, authoritarianism, repression, politicised judiciary, opaque statistical system)
  • Porous border with Afghanistan and weak military resources

RISK ASSESSMENT

GDP growth driven by hydrocarbons

GDP growth has continued in 2023, driven by the hydrocarbons sector and, in particular, natural gas exports to China. In 2024, GDP growth will be similar to that of 2023 (~2%) and will be boosted by gas prices which are set to remain high overall despite durably weak global economic growth. Inflation has been falling since the beginning of 2023 due to favorable base effects and the normalisation of supply chains. However, inflation remains higher than income growth, which has a negative impact on household consumption, and is likely to increase significantly in 2024 (>10%). The main growth factor in 2023 and 2024 will continue to be fixed capital investment (50% of GDP). The country is launching new projects, mainly in the field of agriculture to diversify its economy and to avoid over-dependency on hydrocarbons. In addition, in April 2023, the Scientific Research Institute of Natural Gas of Turkmenistan announced that it was working on the creation of two gas treatment plants to increase the production of chemicals such as methanol, ammonia and urea. Two months later, the Türkmenenergo State Electric Power Corporation announced a plan to build solar power plants in rural areas. Several international institutions (AfDB, IMF) are currently carrying out investment projects in transport and energy infrastructure. For example, the Asian Development Bank has been financing an electricity network development project since the end of 2018 via a loan of USD 500 million, of which USD 395 million was disbursed at the end of 2022). Net exports (14% of GDP) will contribute positively to growth in 2023 and 2024, mainly thanks to natural gas exports.

Reduction of the current account surplus and balanced public accounts

According to IMF forecasts, the current account surplus should shrink in 2023, especially in 2024, mainly as a result of the reduction in the trade balance surplus, after an easing of import constraints and broadly lower gas prices than in 2021-2022. The end of the visa exemption for Turkmen citizens in Turkey, which came into force in September 2022, will have negative consequences on money transfers from expatriates to Turkmenistan; This in turn will negatively impact the balance of income and therefore the current account as Turkey is the prime destination of Turkmen migrants. The depreciation of the Turkish lira will also have a negative impact on the amounts transferred.
From a budgetary point of view, government revenues will remain largely driven by gas revenues. According to the 2023 budget published by the government, the budget balance must at least be balanced, with 75% earmarked for social spending. The government's objective is to increase the share of the private sector (excluding energy) to 71.3% of GDP in 2023 (70% in 2020). Part of the budget will, for this purpose, be devoted helping small and medium enterprises. However, state influence on the economy remains strong, including in the private sphere. In 2024, public finances should remain balanced and public debt will remain at a very low level (almost zero). Since the repayment of domestic sovereign debt in 2022, all public debt has been denominated in foreign currencies.

 

An autocratic and dynastic regime resolved to diversifying its economic partners

Turkmenistan's main trading partner is by far China (accounting for 69% of exports, ahead of Turkey and Uzbekistan with 7% each). Turkmenistan and China have maintained diplomatic relations since 1992, but cooperation between the two nations strengthened markedly in 2006 following the decision to build the first gas pipeline, which was inaugurated in 2009. Ashgabat has a policy of open neutrality vis-à-vis Beijing, which absorbs more than three quarters of its natural gas exports. In January 2023, several agreements were signed between the two countries, including one regarding the revival of the Silk Road. Cooperation between the two countries will continue in 2024.
Turkmenistan is integrated into several major trade routes, such as the Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Iran or Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan corridors. In February 2023, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Turkey signed a trade and economic cooperation agreement that will allow natural gas from the country to be processed and sold to both partners via a Trans-Caspian pipeline. This would make it possible to export gas to the European Union, through Turkey, and thus reduce dependence on China. In July 2023, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan confirmed in an official statement its willingness to continue this Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCP) project. The construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline has currently been suspended, which did not prevent Turkmenistan from starting exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Pakistan by truck through Afghanistan in April 2023. In June 2023, Turkmenistan and Pakistan signed an implementation plan for TAPI aimed at accelerating the completion of the feasibility study without, however, advancing a specific date for starting its construction. For more than a decade, Russia, towards which Turkmenistan also takes a neutral stance, has no longer been the country's main partner (19% of imports but only 1% of exports), but economic cooperation continues to be vast. As of January 2023, more than 50 deals have been signed between companies from both countries, worth a total of $2.2 billion.
Regarding domestic politics, an early presidential election was held in March 2022 following the resignation of Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, who had held power since 2006. The son of the outgoing president, Serdar Berdimuhamedow, was elected with 73% of the votes. International observers claimed the election to be unfair and undemocratic like the previous ones. In the March 2023 snap parliamentary elections, the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, the country's main party and supporter of the President, won 65 of the 125 seats in Parliament. The rest of the seats were allocated to two parties, the Agrarian Party of Turkmenistan (24 seats) and the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (18 seats), which are nominally opposition parties but also support government policy.

 

Last updated: October 2023

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