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Georgia's economy gathers pace, grows 4.5 pct in H1

TBILISI, July 31 (Reuters) - Georgia's economy expanded 4.5 percent in the first half of this year, official data showed on Monday, up from 2.9 percent in the same period in 2016, after a rise in exports and remittances from abroad.

In June alone, growth was 4.6 percent, up from 2.9 percent in June 2016, but down from 5.3 percent in May 2017.

The former Soviet republic, through which pipelines carry Caspian oil and gas to Europe, is recovering from a fall in exports and plunge in the currencies of its main trading partners which have depressed economic growth in recent years.

Georgia's economy expanded by 2.2 percent last year, down from 2.9 percent in 2015. The government in Tbilisi expects the economy to grow by 4 percent in 2017.

The country's economy minister Giorgi Gakharia told Reuters last month that Georgia's economy had a good chance of exceeding an official 4 percent growth projection in 2017 thanks to private sector developments and the government spending on infrastructure projects. (Reporting by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Ed Osmond)