ASHGABAT (Reuters) - The economy of Turkmenistan, Central Asia's largest producer of natural gas, grew 9.4 percent in the first six months of 2013 compared to an 11.1 percent rise in the year-ago period, state media quoted the nation's president as saying on Saturday.
President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who enjoys vast power in the Muslim nation of 5.5 million, was shown on television telling a government meeting that the country's rapid growth was backed by prudent state spending and massive foreign investment.
The country is forecast to increase its gross domestic product by 8 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund, citing the growing gas exports in the country, which holds the world's fourth-largest natural gas reserves.
A total of 1,865 investment projects estimated to be worth over $41 billion are currently being implemented in the country, said Berdymukhamedov, who remains the main source of economic information in the reclusive nation. He did not elaborate.
In September the country will launch production at Galkynsh, the world's second-largest natural gas deposit. That will allow Turkmenistan to sharply ramp up gas exports to China, which has fast supplanted the nation's former imperial master Russia as the main importer of Turkmen natural gas.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit Turkmenistan for the launch, Turkmen officials told Reuters last month.
Berdymukhamedov, officially titled Arkadag (The Patron), was also quoted by state media as saying that Turkmenistan could start exporting grain after boosting its wheat crop to 1.6 million tons this year from 1.2 million tons in 2012.
Turkmenistan, one of the world's most arid nations, produced just around 70,000 tons of wheat in Soviet times.
It first started exporting grain after gathering 1.4 million tons of wheat in 2010. The country's internal consumption is estimated at 1.2 million tons.
(Reporting by Marat Gurt; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Sophie Walker)