Today, sovereign and neutral Turkmenistan is celebrating the 31st anniversary of independence. During a short, by historical standards, glorious chronicle of this period, the country has transformed into a powerful state with its own specific, firm and well-deserved place in the world community. The worldwide recognition and achievements did not materialize out of scratch; all these great factors were preceded by a mega-efficient, thoroughly thought-out development model, integrated with high government leadership.
In his new analytical review, an economic observer of CentralAsia.news for Turkmenistan Valentin Trapeznikov comments on the formation of the “backbone” of the state, an impressive and effective economic development strategy.
Steady growth in a time of global crisis
Over the past 31 years, the country has made tremendous progress in all areas of state building. 2022 marks the starting year of the fourth decade of independence of Turkmenistan.
First of all, the years of independence are characterized by impressive economic development, as illustrated by the high values of the key macroeconomic indicators.
In 1992–2022, the growth rate of gross domestic product (GDP) ranged from 6% to 14.7%. These figures are among the highest in the world. Turkmenistan ranks among the middle income countries of the world in terms of GDP per capita.
Return on investment
Economic achievements are largely associated with an effective investment policy. For example, over 30 years of independence, more than $200 billion have been invested in Turkmen economy, of which about 15% come from foreign capital.
Turkmenistan continues to build up investment. A significant share of them is directed to the industrial sector that has had rapid growth. In 2021, industrial output rose almost 22 times compared with 2000.
In 2022, the dynamics of industrial development remains high: the growth rate of gross value added industry has reached about 6.6% compared with a year ago.
Oil and gas sector
The sector-specific indicators of the industry demonstrated steady growth. In the oil and gas sector, oil production has reached 10-12 million tonnes per year. The highest gas production indicator over the years of independence was recorded in 2021 – more than 83.77 billion cubic metres, which rose 20% compared with 2020.
Turkmenistan is the biggest natural gas exporter in the Central Asian region. Turkmenistan has significantly expanded its gas pipeline infrastructure by building the gas pipelines to China and Iran and the East-West gas pipelines during the years of independence, operates the Central Asia-Centre gas pipeline and is implementing the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project.
Oil and gas processing is steadily growing. The Turkmenbashi complex of oil refineries produces more than 40 types of petrochemical products, including polyethylene and polypropylene. The Kiyanly gas chemical complex and the GTG plant in Ahal velayat that have been put into operation in recent years contributed to the diversification of natural gas processing.
Electric power industry
Natural gas is the key resource in electricity generation. Over the years of independence, the unique power plants, including combined cycle power plants, have been built in each region of Turkmenistan.
Our country has built a power grid. At present, the total capacity of Turkmenistan’s electric power system exceeds 6,943 MW. In 2021, electricity generation exceeded 30.15 billion kWh, which is over 3 times higher than that in 2000.
In 2022, the electricity growth rate is 10.5% compared with 2021. Turkmenistan is implementing the solar and wind energy projects. Our country is the top country by electricity exports in Central Asia.
Natural resources of Turkmenistan contributed to the intensive development of the chemical industry that has significantly expanded its production infrastructure over the years of independence.
Currently, the modernized and newly built high-tech carbamide plants in Mary, Tejen and Garabogaz are the largest producers of nitrogen fertilizers in the country.
Phosphorus and potash fertilizers are produced in Lebap region. The plants that produce iodine bromine and sulphate chloride are located in Balkan region. The production range of Turkmenistan’s chemical industry includes polymer products, plastic products, caustic soda, water treatment coagulants and household chemicals.
The light industry is developing rapidly, the core of which is the newly created textile industry that comprises more than 80 large textile enterprises, cotton spinning mills, cotton weaving factories, clothing factories, silk factories, shoe factories, tanneries and wool factories.
Turkmenistan exports about 80% of textile goods worth hundreds of millions of US dollars annually.
Digital transformation of the national economy has contributed to the development of the electronics industry that has been set up in recent years. Currently, Turkmenistan manufactures smart TVs, Wi-Fi routers, laptops, tablets, monoblocks, computers, check printers, smartphones, scanners and other electronic devices.
In the future, it is planned to manufacture industrial and automotive electronics, medical equipment and other electronic goods.
Building materials industry
The building materials industry that comprises enterprises of different forms of ownership has a huge import-substituting impact and a growing export potential. Currently, the industry produces all the necessary building materials, including plumbing products, electrical cables, various types of building glass and double-glazed windows, paints and varnishes and much more.
In recent years, the production of cement has risen 4.6-8.5 times, prefabricated reinforced concrete products – 2-2.2 times, wall materials – 1.5-1.8 times, non-metallic building materials – 4.2-7.7 times and sheet glass – 3.4-3.9 times compared with 2000.
The food, pharmaceutical and metallurgical industries demonstrated steady growth as well.
Agriculture is characterised by the high dynamics of development as well. In 2021, agricultural output rose almost 17 times compared with 2000, and in 2022, gross value added has increased by about 2.1% compared with a year ago.
In recent years, Turkmenistan’s agricultural industry has been developing on a science-based and digital platform using modern innovative foreign equipment and crop and livestock farming technologies.
The indisputable achievements of the industry over the years of independence include food independence.
An illustrative example is wheat production, which has amounted to about 1.5 million tonnes in 2022 and exceeded this figure in 2021 – 1.4 million tonnes.
Transport and logistics
All the sectors of the transport industry are undergoing large-scale modernization. Turkmenistan has built railways to Iran (via Serakhs and Etrek), Afghanistan (via Kerki, Ymamnazar), as well as to Dashoguz, Kerki and Serakhs.
Large-scale construction of roads and bus terminals is underway. Ashgabat-Turkmenabat and Ashgabat-Turkmenbashi highways and a highway to Kazakhstan with a highway bridge across the Karabogazgol Bay are under construction.
The international airports were put into operation in the capital city, the administrative centres of the regions and the cities of Turkmenbashi and Kerki. Construction work on an airport in Jebel has been launched.
The largest Caspian Sea port – the Turkmenbashi international sea port that comprises the Balkan shipbuilding plant was built anew.
Stable progress in internal and external economic processes
The macroeconomic indicators include household income growth of almost 12 times compared with 2000, retail trade turnover – more than 6,100 times and paid services – more than 190 times.
Turkmenistan is dynamically developing external trade: external trade turnover and exports have risen 3.5-8.5 times and 3.5-8.0 times, respectively, compared with 2000. This year, the growth rate of foreign trade turnover and exports is 39% and 49%, respectively compared with 2021.