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In Focus: ECED Central Asia Digest: 11-17 December

Translated by Toni Michel (@villageescape) – check out his work at

A number of important political and economic events in Central Asia this past week were themselves symbolic for the general direction of the region as a whole as well as its individual countries: Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov embarked to Uzbekistan on his second official state visit. Speaking in Tashkent, he delivered remarks on the strategic partnership between the two countries which is – especially against the backdrop of the quite recent conflict with Astana - quite remarkable. In Kazakhstan this week, an elite shake up got underway which appears significant in the context of the coming transit of power. Furthermore, a miner strike in the Kazakh city of Temirtau was accompanied by all kinds of rumors that illustrate the degree of frustration in Kazakh society around social issues. Also of importance was the EBRD's decision to support the modernization of Tajikistan's railways and Turkmenistan's President wants his government to attract more investment to the country's oil and gas sector. 


Jeenbekov Congratulates Nazarbayev On Kazakhstan's Independence Day

Kyrgyzstan's President has sent his congratulations to his Kazakh counterpart and the Kazakh people on the occasion of the country's Independence Day. Jeenbekov said he was certain that Kyrgyz-Kazakh alliance and strategic partnership would grow stronger and serve the interests of the two countries. "I wish you good health, success in your country's endeavors, peace and prosperity to our brotherly Kazakh people", Jeenbekov said. (Press Service of the President of Kyrgyzstan, 16 December)

Shukeyev Named Agriculture Minister And Deputy Vice PM 

President Nusultan Nazarbayev signed a decree last week to name Umirzak Shukeyev Deputy Vice Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister. His predecessor in both offices, Askar Myrzakhmetov, was relieved of his duties. Shukeyev had since 2011 headed the State's Welfare Fund "Samruk-Kazyna." Before that, in August 2007, he had already been named Deputy PM. (Press Service of the President of Kazakhstan, 15 December)

Kairat Kozhamzharov Appointed General Prosecutor

Previously serving as head of the Agency of State Services and Anti-Corruption, Kairat Kozhamzharov was now named General Prosecutor, with Alik Shpekbayev, taking over Kozhamzharov's previous duties. Zhakip Asanov, General Prosecutor since April 2016, was named chairman of the Constitutional Court where he replaced Kairat Mami. (TengriNews, 11 December)

Strike Breaks Out In "Arcelor Mittal" Mines

Miners of four pits owned by the corporation "Arcelor Mittal" did not return to the surface after their shift on 11 December. They demanded higher wages and better working conditions. The city court at Shakhtinsk ruled the strike illegal and ordered the miners to come to the surface. "Arcelor Mittal” itself sued the striking workers as well but later withdrew the lawsuit. Later, on 15 December, local authorities and "ArcelorMittal" announced that the strike was over and that production was back to normal. (TengriNews, 11 December)


Mirziyoyev Orders Faster Development In Textile Sector

Uzbekistan's President signed a decree this past week that is provisionally allowing textile companies for the first time to buy cotton directly from farmers, starting with the next harvest. Furthermore, they can now also carry out the processing of the cotton themselves. Soon, consultations with foreign buyers of the processed good will follow to optimize their customs duties and market access. The decree also included a roadmap with more than 20 further measures, aiming to modernize technological processes and to improve the relevant infrastructure. (CA-News, 15 December)

Uzbekistan Abolishes Export Duties On Most Goods

In another Presidential decree, the Uzbek President ordered export duties regulations to be fundamentally altered for nearly all products. From now on, such customs duties will be levied only on some specific goods, as defined by Parliament. Apart from that, the decree also changes licensing rules for all exports, again with some exceptions. For the benefit of exporting businesses that moved their production abroad, permits will now allow them to open special trading centers outside Uzbekistan and open agencies for marketing research there. (Press Service of the President of Uzbekistan, 15 December)

Chinese Company Invests $500mln In Uzbek Agriculture

“Wanbang”, one of China’s biggest corporations, has signed a contract with Uzbekistan’s Ministry for Agriculture and Water Resources as well as “Ozik-Ovkat Holding” that provides for $500mln in investment into Uzbekistan’s agriculture. All in all, 15 joint projects will be realized. The cooperation also extends to sectors like manufacturing, processing and packaging of agricultural and cattle products, in particular import-export rules for raw materials and processed goods. Moreover, the accord envisions free economic zones of 10 thousand hectares in magnitude with logistical centers and processing plants for agricultural products. (, 15 December)

Asian Development Bank Awards Loan To Uzbekistan To Develop Fossil Fuel Station in Talimarjon

The governing board of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) last week approved a new loan of $450mln to Uzbekistan for a technical upgrade of the Fossil Fuel Power Station’s generators in Talimarjon. The project provides for two more steam-gas heating turbines that will enhance the plant’s capacity to 2600MW and raise the heat efficiency quota from 48% to 52%. Apart from that, ADB is providing an interest-free loan of $2mln to improve the financial stability of “UzbekEnergo.” (, 14 December)


Jeenbekov in Uzbekistan For Official Visit

Kyrgyzstan’s President this past week visited Tashkent for talks with President Shavkat Mirziyoyoev. The negotiations saw both sides agree on common efforts to advance the railroad construction program “China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan.” To advance the project, joint working groups are to hammer out more details on 25 December. Presidents Jeenbekov and Mirziyoyev furthermore concluded accords on economic, scientific and technical as well as humanitarian cooperation until 2021 and announced the creation of a corridor subject to simplified tariff procedures. Finally, a common commission on the use of water resources is soon to assemble to settle outstanding questions. (Press Service of the President of Uzbekistan, 15 December)

Uzbekistan To Stimulate Exports With $100mln Loan To Kyrgyzstan

Tashkent is going to provide $100mln in credits to Kyrgyz businesses which import Uzbek products, Kyrgyzstan’s Economy Minister Artyom Novikov said. “The entire credit line will be provided by private banks without governmental guarantees. All further details will be negotiated in separate agreements between the financial institutions of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan,” Novikov added. (CA-News, 15 December)

Kyrgyz President Announces Strategic Partnership With Uzbekistan

Arriving in Tashkent on his second official visit abroad after first flying to Moscow earlier this month, Kyrgyz leader Sooronbai Jeenbekov proclaimed a strategic partnership of his country with Uzbekistan. “While we always had friendly relations in the past, we are now moving forward as strategic partners,” the President of Kyrgyzstan said. His Uzbek counterpart expressed readiness to tear down existing barriers to cooperation between the citizens of both countries. “This is a historic and unprecedented day in Kyrgyz-Uzbek relations. Our trade volume this year stands at $250mln. Our goal is to reach a volume of $500mln,” President Mirziyoyev said. (Novosti Uzbekistana, 14 December)


EBRD Supports Tajik Rail Modernization

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is looking at investing $26mln into the modernization of Tajikistan’s railroad system. The final decision on the matter will be taken by the bank’s governing board in February 2018. The money is to be used for purchasing new wagons, diesel locomotives, maintenance equipment and spare parts as well as to hire a dynamic new generation of employees. Earlier, the Tajik government had approved a $109mln modernization program for the country’s railroad infrastructure that includes the procurement of 2 thousand new wagons and 40 diesel locomotives. (EBRD Press Service, 15 December)

Russian Central Bank Publishes Volume Of Remittances To Tajikistan

Cross-border remittances from Russia to Turkmenistan over the first three quarters of 2017 amounted to $1,663bn – an increase of $231mln when compared to the same period in 2016. Most transfers in this context were sent in the third quarter of this year, with a total $741mln. 71,4% of this money was transferred in Russian Rubles, 28,2% in US-Dollars and 0,2% in Euro. Financial flows in the other direction, from Tajikistan to Russia, amounted only to $107mln in the first three quarters of this year. (Russian Central Bank, 14 December)

Tajikistan Closes Parts Of Border With Afghanistan

Officials in Tajikistan’s South-Western Khatlon Region said this past week that parts of the region’s border with Afghanistan had been temporarily closed for security considerations: of primary concern were the districts from Shamsiddin Shohin to Kūhistoni Badakhshon Autonomous Region. Five bridges were closed along the river Panj as well as one border control point, officials said. The press service of the National Security Council’s Main Border Guards Directorate did not confirm this report, while the head of Afghanistan’s most Northern Badakhshan Province corroborated the closure of the border. (Tajik Telegraph Agency, 14 December)


Berdimuhamedow Prioritizes Attracting Investment Into Oil-Gas Sector

During a cabinet review of the 2030 strategy to develop Turkmenistan’s oil and gas sector, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow highlighted the technological modernization of the energy sector as a top priority. This concerns in particular a scheduled upgrade of Turkmenistan’s oil refineries where the President sees the need for considerable investment. Earlier, the law firm “CIS Debt Recovery” had spotlighted outstanding debts of the state company “TukrmenNeft” to one of the corporation’s suppliers. (Chronika Turkmenistana, 15 December)

Turkmen-American Trade Council Meets In Ashgabat

This past week, representatives of a number of American companies came together with Turkmen government officials and the governor of Ashgabat for the Turkmen-American Trade Council. On the US-side, firms like “Westport Trading Europe”, “Oxbow Sulphur”, “General Electric”, “Case New Holland”, “John Deere”, “Niclaus Desing”, “Boeing” were among those represented during the forum in Turkmenistan’s capital. “The trade council discussed a variety of issues, including investment protection for foreign investors and companies with overseas capital”, a press release read. (Turkmen State News Agency, 14 December)