* Reclusive Central Asian state closely guards data
* Has far-reaching investment/spending plans for next year
By Marat Gurt
ASHGABAT, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Turkmenistan’s parliament has approved a $1.2 billion budget deficit for next year to help fund plans to raise salaries and pensions in the gas-rich former Soviet republic, state media reported on Saturday.
The state budget for 2013 envisages outgoings of $31.5 billion versus income of $30.3 billion. The reclusive Central Asian state, which closely guards economic data, did not reveal the size of the deficit in relation to gross domestic product.
Economic growth in Turkmenistan, a country of 5.5 million people, hinges on the development and export of the world’s fourth-largest natural gas reserves. BP data shows the country consumed less than half the gas it produced in 2011.
Almost every aspect of life in Turkmenistan is controlled by President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, a trained dentist who goes by the unofficial nickname of “Arkadag”, or The Patron.
State newspaper Neutral Turkmenistan reported Berdymukhamedov as saying next year’s budget would include a 10 percent increase in salaries and a 15 percent rise in pensions, as well as investment in the water supply, housing and schools.
Turkmenistan’s GDP expanded by 11.1 percent in the first nine months of this year, largely on the back of an 8.5 percent increase in gas production. State media have not disclosed the actual size of GDP or natural gas production.
The country has the capacity to produce about 75 billion cubic metres of gas annually and plans to triple output by 2030 after developing large gas fields to supply China, Iran, southern Asia and Europe, as well as traditional market Russia.
A monitoring mission from the International Monetary Fund, which visited Turkmenistan in July, said it projected real GDP growth to remain strong in 2012 and 2013, at about 8 percent a year.
Tuvakmammed Japarov, governor of Turkmenistan’s central bank, said on Oct. 17 that inflation in the first nine months of the year was less than 4.7 percent on a year-on-year basis. (Writing by Robin Paxton; Editing by Andrew Osborn)