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In Focus: ECED Central Asia Digest: February 05-12 2018

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


A myriad of notable political and economic meetings, discussions and decisions shaped Central Asia this past week. Tajikistan’s Parliament passed reforms to lower the minimal age for presidential contenders to 30 years while Nursultan Nazarbayev fired Kazakhstan’s Labor and Social Security Minister for continued failure to live up to expectations. Moreover, Uzbek media this week reported that President Shavkat Mirziyoyev had again sharply criticized the SNB whose former First Deputy Head is now serving a life sentence. In neighboring Kyrgyzstan, meanwhile, President Jeenbekov found harsh words for officials at a Security Council session and demanded to step up the fight against corruption in law enforcement. In the economic sphere, news broke this past week that Kyrgyzstan would build a gold concentrate refinery complex while Kazakhstan is planning to sign a $20bn investment agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Moscow meanwhile denied that it would resume buying gas from Turkmenistan.




Russia Announces Strengthening of Military Bases in Central Asia

Growing concerns over terrorist activities in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq has compelled Moscow to strengthen its military presence in Central Asia, Alexandr Sternik, the head of the Foreign Ministry’s department charged with the affairs of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), said. “We will step up border security and help modernize the security services of our partners in the region. Also, the 201st military base in Tajikistan will be better equipped to support the government in protecting the most dangerous parts of the border while we will boost the capacities of our air bases in Kyrgyzstan,” Sternik noted. (RIANovosti, February 08)



New Minister for Labor and Social Security Appointed

Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev has named Madina Abylkasymova the country’s new Labor and Social Security Minister, promoting her from Vice Minister of the National Economy. Her predecessor Tamara Duisenova was dismissed after Nazarbayev had singled her out for criticism for failing to live up to expectations in a project to introduce mandatory health insurance at an extended government meeting on February 09. Duisenova’s resignation came later the same day. (PressServiceofthePresidentofKazakhstan, February 10)

$20bn Investment Deal Planned Between Kazakhstan and UAE

The state company Kazakh Invest proposed a $20bn investment project surrounding 50 key projects to a visiting delegation from the UAE this past week. The purpose of the visit was from the beginning to discuss potential cooperation in logistics, tourism and agriculture. “We stand ready to invest in Agriculture and particularly the organic industry as well as Kazakhstan’s logistical projects,” the UAE’s ambassador announced. More detailed investment opportunities will be presented at the Annual Investment Meeting that is to be held in Dubai in April. (CA-News, February 08).

Parliament Speaker Criticizes Kazakh Representative to Eurasian Economic Commission

The Speaker of Kazakhstan’s lower parliamentary chamber, Nurlan Nigmatulin came out with criticism for Astana’s representative to the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) after Parliament had ratified an EEU agreement that will allow the EEC to hand out a number of special industrial subsidies. “I have to say, unfortunately, that our officials are not defending our legitimate economic interests in the EEU. They are simply of no help when it comes to absolutely vital issues like cartel legislation and other problems that limit healthy competition,” Nigmatulin said. (, February 07)


OPEC Projects Significant Growth in Kazakh Oil Output by 2040

Kazakhstan will produce 2,7 million barrels of oil per day in 2040 instead of today’s 1,8 million, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) projects. The analysts say that oil output will stay at today’s levels until 2022, but by 2025, Kazakhstan will produce 2 million barells and 2,3 million by 2030, 2,6 million by 2035 and 2,7 million barrels by 2040. OPEC furthermore said that the Kashagan and Tengiz oil fields will play a central role in bringing about this growth. (CA-News, February 05)


Former First Deputy Head Sentenced for Life – Uzbek Media

During a meeting with activists in Uzbekistan‘s SurxondaryoRegion on January 19, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev announced that the former First Deputy Head of the SNB, General Shuchrat Gulyamov had been sentenced to life in prison. “Gulyamov is another such deplorable and traitor in the SNB who has now been sentenced for life,” the President said. An audio recording of the speech in which Mirziyoyev harshly criticized the SNB and said that the service had thought itself completely unconstrained, was published on February 08. He continued to say that now, these old days were over. (Fergana News, February 08)

Russia to Import Two to Three Times More Uzbek Agricultural Products

Plans were announced for Moscow to increase its agricultural imports from Uzbekistan by two to three times during a meeting between representatives of Tashkent’s Ministry for Foreign Trade with a delegation from Moscow this past week. Particularly the implementation of the “Golden Corridor”, a joint project that simplifies the procedures of phytosanitary controls for agricultural products, made increased imports possible. According to data from Russia’s Agricultural Ministry, the first seven months of 2017 saw an increase of 27 percent in imports of Uzbek agricultural products to $75 million. (Fergana News, February 07)

Uzbek Gross Currency Reserves Grow 6 Percent in 2017

According to data published by Uzbekistan’s Central Bank, Tashkent’s foreign currency reserves grew 5,5 percent in 2017 to $26,6 bn. Gross overall reserves even increased by 6,2 percent last year. Furthermore, gold reserves grew by 14,5 percent and reached $14bn while assets held in foreign currencies decreased by 1,1 percent. The Central Bank said that it used the International Monetary Fund’s methodology to define the exact amount of the reserves which are counted by adding currency assets and the value of stacked gold bars. (Central Bank of Uzbekistan, February 05)


Jeenbekov Criticizes Officials’ Half-Hearted Anti-Corruption Measures

Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov unloaded criticism on the Prosecutor’s Office, the national security services and the country’s court system during a session of the Security Council last week. “These institutions are actually obligated to fight corruption head on. Unfortunately, though, they are themselves affected by corrupt practices and then cannot work efficiently for the people,” the President said. He went on to make clear that the state expected better result from the officials, having increased the financial resources available to them. (, February 08)

Gold Concentrate Processing Plant to be Built in Kyrgyzstan

Almaz Alimbekov, the head of the stock company “Kyrgyzaltyn”, announced this past week that a complex for processing gold concentrate would be built in the city of Kara-Balta, in Kyrgyzstan’s northern Chuy Province. He said that the technical groundworks of the $150mln plant were now being laid until April. From 2017, 1515 kilograms of gold were extracted from the “Altynken” field, mainly for export to Kazakhstan and China (1256 kg). So far, though, the gold concentrate exported to China was not returned back later. (, February 07)

Phone Call Held Betweetn Kyrgyz and Kazakh Presidents

Nursultan Nazarbayev spoke with his Kyrgyz counterpart Sooronbay Jeenbekov on the phone this past Wednesday to discuss the state and perspectives of the mutual relationship as well as cooperation within the EEU to advance joint interests. They furthermore prepared upcoming meetings and exchanged views on pressing regional and international issues. (PressServiceofthePresidentofKazakhstan, February 07)


Tajikistan’s Biggest Goldmine Resumes Work 

Nusratullo Davlatzoda, the head of the government’s Taxation Committee announced this past week that the biggest company extracting precious metals, the Tajik-Chinese „Zarafshon“ resumed work after the government had given its green light. “Work at the company has never completely stopped but has rather been temporarily discontinued since its license had expired and there were a number of outstanding obligations,” the official said. He stressed, though, that there are now no more open issues between the government and Zarafshon. (AsiaPlus, February 08)

Minimal Age for Presidential Contenders Lowered to 30 Years in Tajikistan

A reform of Tajikistan’s electoral laws that passed Parliament’s Lower Chamber last week will now allow citizens of 30 years or older to run for President or Parliament. The bill furthermore stipulates that registered presidential candidates can only be arrested with the approval of the Central Electoral Commission while foreign entities or states are now forbidden to provide funds to campaigns or the elections themselves. (CA-News, February 07)

Tajikistan to Designate More Land to Growing Cotton

2018 will see an increase in the total area used for cotton planting by 13.500 hectares to a total of 187.500 hectares, Tajikistan’s Agriculture Ministry has announced. Wheat and food crops will be cut back in favor of cotton upon a decision by the government to take account of “increased demand for cotton on the world markets. Cotton and raw materials for the light industry are among the most important exports of Tajikistan,” the Ministry said. (AsiaPlus, February 05)



Moscow Denies Resumption of Gas Imports from Turkmenistan

Russia is in no negotiations with Turkmenistan to resume gas deliveries, Anatoli Yanovski of the Ministry of Energy said this past week. “Deliveries are and continue to be suspended and there will be no negotiations until 2019,” he said. In January 2016, Turkmengaz announced that Gazprom was cancelling a delivery contract from January 01 after a serious treaty violation on the Turkmen side. Afterwards, Gazprom signed a five-year contract from 2016 for the deliveries of 4 billion cubic meters of gas from Uzbekistan. (SputnikUzbekistan, February 08)

Prices for Dairy Products Double in Turkmenistan

Local Turkmen media are reporting that the prices for dairy products in all shops of the capital have doubled over the past week. Shop owners say that the hike is connected with increased transport expenses due to recent increases in fuel prices – most dairy products are produced in the countryside and sold in the capital. (Azatlyk, February 07)