The service sector in Turkmenistan accounted for roughly 32 percent of GDP in 1999 and employed an estimated 37 percent of the workforce in 1996. Transportation, energy, and health care are particularly important. Tourism is relatively small, although in 1997 more than 250,000 tourists traveled to Turkmenistan, an increase of more than 400 percent from 1993.
Financial services are strictly controlled by the government, particularly currency exchanges and lending. Loans are provided to finance projects in the republic, with particular emphasize given to agriculture. The retail sector is rather primitive, with few major retail centers, as most citizens buy products at local bazaars and through state-run stores.
Health care in Turkmenistan continues to be free to all citizens, although the system lacks modern technology. Basic medicines are in critically short supply and treatment is crude at best. Medical training has also deteriorated since 1991. According to one study, in Dash-howez Province half of the patients treated died because physicians lacked proper training and surgical supplies. Moreover, most facilities do not have running water and central heating. In addition, pharmaceuticals must be purchased with hard currency , which is scarce and costly. In rural areas, many Turkmens must rely solely upon traditional healers, who use prayer and herbs.