Tajikistan's economy grows 7.5 pct in 2012
DUSHANBE, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Tajikistan said its economy grew 7.5 percent last year, slightly faster than in 2011 and buoyed by remittances from migrant workers and growth in its mining industry despite a slump in key export, aluminium.
More than two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Tajikistan, which borders China and Afghanistan, is the poorest of the 15 post-Soviet republics and is a net importer of oil and gas.
It relies heavily on aluminium and cotton exports, as well as remittances from the approximately 1 million of its 7.5 million citizens who live and work abroad, mainly in Russia.
In nominal terms, Tajikistan's gross domestic product (GDP) rose to 36.161 billion somoni ($7.6 billion) last year, the state statistics agency said on Monday. In the previous year the economy grew 7.4 percent.
Industrial output growth accelerated to 10.4 percent in 2012 from 5.9 percent in 2011. It was driven by a 24 percent rise in the extraction of mostly oil, gas, coal, non-metal ores and edible salt, and by a 9.5 percent rise in manufacturing production.
Worker remittances rose 13.2 percent in January-September from a year earlier to $2.4 billion or 46 percent of gross domestic product, but full-year data is not yet available.
Easing inflation, which slowed to 6.4 percent by the end of 2012, from 9.3 percent a year earlier, helped the economy.
However, Tajikistan's foreign trade deficit widened to $2.4 billion last year from $1.9 billion in 2011, as exports of primary aluminium dropped by 18.9 percent to $556 million in 2012.
The country has implemented reforms to try and transform to a market economy and hopes to join the World Trade Organisation this year after getting the go ahead in December after 11 years of talks. It would be only the second Central Asian republic after Kyrgyzstan to join the trade body.
Russia extended its military presence in Tajikistan for 30 years in October to secure the southern fringes of its former Soviet empire after NATO troops leave Afghanistan.
As part of the deal to prolong its presence, Moscow provided a package of agreements that could bolster Tajikistan's economy, including better terms for Tajik migrant workers in Russia.
Other deals pledged cooperation building hydropower facilities and removing import duties on Russian light oil products used in Tajikistan.
Russian military and economic support is particularly important to Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon, whose rule has been challenged by chronic poverty, the growth of radical Islam and sporadic outbreaks of violence.
(Reporting by Roman Kozhevnikov; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Susan Fenton)