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In Focus: ECED Central Asia Digest 08 to 14 January



By Alexander Vorobiov (@AlexandVorobiov) - translated by Toni Michel (@villageescape)


This past week saw a number of interesting political and economic track changes with significant impact for the region. Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a border demarcation treaty with Turkmenistan into law and addressed his people in his yearly speech. Data published this week also indicated that the country had extracted a record amount of oil in 2017. In neighboring Uzbekistan, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a new defense doctrine and attempted to bring back domestic capital into the country by promising legal protections. Moreover, the world learned that he would soon embark on a visit to Tajikistan. Over in Kyrgyzstan, President Sooronbay Jeenbekov decided to dedicate 2018 to the development of the country’s regions and pledged to iron out their different stages of progress. Furthermore, an announcement on Kyrgyzstan increasing its exports to EEU countries by 25 percent made headlines. Dushanbe this past week reached an agreement with Tashkent on the demarcations around the Farkhad Dam while Turkmenistan took steps to strengthen its energy partnership with Pakistan and the UAE.


KAZAKHSTAN


Kazakh President Signs Border Demarcation With Turkmenistan

Nursultan Nazarbayev has signed the ratification act on a border agreement with Ashgabat that clarifies 458,3 kilometers of demarcations through 330 border signs. Nazarbayev simultaneously signed an accord on strategic partnership between the two countries. (Press Service of the President of Kazakhstan, 12 January)


Nazarbayev Meets Trump On 16 January

Kazakhstan’s President will be in the United States on an official visit from 16-18 January which includes meetings with US President Donald Trump and business representatives. Nazarbayev will furthermore participate in a session of the United Nations National Security Council. In light of pending regional security issues, Trump will also discuss a deeper strategic partnership as well as more economic cooperation with his Kazakh counterpart. “The two leaders will furthermore look at Kazakhstan’s leadership in solving international issues, in particular concerning Afghanistan, in the course of Astana’s chairmanship of the UN Security Council. (Press Service of the President of Kazakhstan, 10 January)


Kazakhstan Exports Record Amount Of Oil In 2017

Kazakhstan’s Energy Minister Timur Suleimanov announced this past week that the country’s oil exports in 2017 had amounted to 86,2 million tons, surpassing 2016 by a grand total of 78 million tons. This year, Astana plans to reach an equal output or to even surpass last year’s record. “We can all be proud and should say thanks to our oil workers: 86,2 million tons is an absolute record in the entire history of our country”, Suleimanov said, adding that the additional revenue helped Kazakhstan achieve 4 percent GDP growth in 2017. The previous year, growth had only stood at 1 percent. (CA-News, 12 January)


Nazarbayev Addresses Kazakhs In Yearly Speech

The fourth industrial revolution, modernization and innovation were the main themes of the yearly address of Kazakhstan’s President on 10 January. Nazarbayev also pointed to 10 main tasks that lay before Kazakhstan. He stressed industrialization through new technologies, the development of the country’s resource potential and the use of “smart technologies” as a chance for Kazakhstan to dash forward in agriculture. Moreover, Nazarbayev underlined the need to reset the financial sector. (Press Service of the President of Kazakhstan, 10 January)


UZBEKISTAN


Economy Ministry Estimates Shadow Economy At 50% Of GDP

A first step to pull Uzbeksitan's substantial shadow economy that Mubin Mirzayev, First Deputy Economic Minister of Uzbekistan, estimated at 50 percent of GDP this past week, was the liberalization of currency exchanges in 2017. This year, the government wants to focus on reforming the tax code; a review of the current system is to be completed by 01 July. Mirzayev further added that income taxes will be lowered through payment simplifications. (Gazeta.uz, 11 January)


Mirziyoyev Signs Defense Doctrine

Uzbekistan’s President has put into effect Uzbekistan’s new Defense Doctrine that is to affirm Tashkent’s readiness to cooperate with the outside world and its neighbors. The document that has so far not been published allegedly also calls for more transparency in the defense sector and its finances. Furthermore, the document is to emphasize the need for an objective assessment of the development dynamics in Central Asia and the wider world. (Press Service of the President of Uzbekistan, 09 January)


Uzbek President Announces Visit To Tajikistan

Shavkat Mirziyoyev is preparing for an official visit to neighboring Tajikistan. “We will sign lots of agreements, open rail links, revive the Single Energy System in Central Asia and discuss a number of other issues”, the President told local councilors in Tashkent Region. He added that Uzbekistan will initiate good neighborly relations with Tajikistan even though “breaking the ice after 20 years is not so easy”. Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov has been charged with laying the groundwork for the visit that has so far no fixed date. (Sputnik.uz, 08 January)


Mirziyoyev Calls For Return Of Uzbek Money From Abroad

This past week, Uzbekistan’s President called upon entrepreneurs who keep their money in foreign bank accounts to transfer their assets back home, promising that money kept in Uzbek banks will be exempt from any investigations. “I want to say this loud and clear so that everyone can hear it: I will not allow audits into people who keep their money here at home. Bring your assets back, build factories, industrial parks and make as much profits as you want. This is a new time and what lays in the past is over and done”, the head of state said. (Gazeta.uz, 10 January)


KYRGYZSTAN


Kyrgyz Exports To EEU Grow 25%

The first 11 months of 2017 saw the mutual exchange of goods between Kyrgyzstan and the member state of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) rise to $2bn, a 14,3% plus over 2016. Kyrgyz exports grew by 25,7 percent while imports rose by 11,2 percent, according to data presented by Akylbek Sultanov of the National Statistics Committee. Russia was Kyrgyzstan’s biggest trading partner among EEU members with 59,4 percent in mutual trade, Kazakhstan occupied the second place with 36,6 percent. “We exported more knitted textiles, dried fruits, butter, pommels and garlic to Russia while Kazakhstan equally bought more textiles, polished glass, ore and precious metal concentrates”, Sultanov said. (Kabar, 12 January)


Uzbekistan To Open 9 Enterprises in Kyrgyzstan

Uzbekistan is opening nine new firms in neighboring Kyrgyzstan in the fields of, among others, car maintenance and the assembly of agricultural machinery as well as plastic components. Shumkarbek Adilbek, the director of Kyrgyzstan’s Agency to Promote and Protect Investments said that seven companies will be registered as joint Uzbek-Kyrgyz enterprises. Uzbekistan’s “UzAvtoSanoat” and “AvtoOndooZavod” will open two companies to assemble and maintain cars and agricultural machinery while other firms will work in the assembly of busses and the broader transport business. (CA-News, 11 January)


Jeenbekov Proclaims 2018 As Year Of Regional Development

Kyrgyzstan’s President signed an order on 09 January to officially name 2018 the year of regional development. “This year, we have to lay the groundwork for systemic changes in the development of the regions. We will work out concrete recommendations for Parliament and the government to immediately develop our regions while we are simultaneously preparing a complex long-term program for each and every individual region”, the head of state stressed. (Akipress, 10 January)


TAJIKISTAN


Tajikistan Exporting 70% Of CASA-1000 Electricity, Kyrgyzstan 30%

70 percent of electricity generated at the Central-Asia-South-Asia 1000 (CASA-1000) complex is exported by Tajikistan, while Kyrgyzstan’s share is 30 percent. The project is providing 5 bn kilowatt-hours from the two countries to Pakistan. “Under current conditions, Tajikistan is able to export more electricity than initially agreed upon during the summer months, should consumption in Pakistan demand it. With the initial launch of the Rogun Dam expected this year, our export opportunities will increase”, Tajikistan’s Energy Minister said. A kilowatt from the project is sold at 9,35 cents (Press Service of the Energy Ministry of Tajikistan, 12 January)


Tajikistan And Uzbekistan Reach Accord On Farkhad Dam Shares

A joint session of the governments in Dushanbe and Tashkent this past week produced an agreement on mutual visa freedom for citizens from both countries within a 30-day-period. The two parties furthermore found common ground on issues surrounding the Farkhad Dam: the territory of the complex will be recognized as Tajik while the object itself will be Uzbek property. Tajikistan will ensure the security of the dam while Tashkent will shoulder maintenance tasks. (Asia-Plus, 10 January)


Coal Production In Tajikistan At Record High In 2017

A historic amount of 1,7 million tons of coal was extracted from Tajikistan’s mines last year, greatly surpassing the production of 2016 which only stood at 1,3 million tons. Compared with the year 2000, the output even grew 62 times. Plans for 2018 aim for the extraction of 2 million tons. In all, Tajik primary coal reserves are estimated at up to 4,5 billion tons that are mined at 14 locations by about 20 Tajik and foreign companies. (Avesta, 10 January)


TURKMENISTAN


Berdimuhamedow Prioritizes Relations With Pakistan

President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow has elevated the deepening of Ashgabat’s partnerships with Asian countries as key priorities and particularly stressed relations with Pakistan as a particularly important vector of Turkmenistan’s traditionally neutral foreign policy. This presidential declaration came right before a delegation from Turkmenistan’s Foreign Ministry was expected in Islamabad for an official visit on Monday for policy consultations. A particular focus of the talks will be the realization of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Pipeline (TAPI) and a number of other joint projects in the fields of electricity, transport and communications. (Vestnik Kavkaza, 13 January)


Turkmen Deputy Foreign Minister Meets UAE Diplomacy Chief

This past week, Turkmenistan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Berdyniyaz Myatiev held talks with the UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan on a number of regional and international issues and potential cooperation in different spheres. Turkmenistan’s state news agency TDCh reported that Arab investors are interested in realizing the pipeline project Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India. (TradeArabia, 12 January)


Chinese Cargo Train Completes Test Run To Iran Through Turkmenistan

A cargo train that had begun its journey on 28 December in the southern Chinese city Changsha has completed a test run on the China-Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran route this past week in order to collect more precise data on the time of travel and a number of other important parameters. The train pulled 41 container wagons with all kinds of consumer goods. Regular cargo deliveries along this route are expected in the future. The test train had entered Turkmenistan on 07 January. Two more test runs have embarked on the same route on 29 and 30 December. (Neutral Turkmenistan, 09 January)