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In Focus: ECED Central Asia Digest: January 22 to 29 2018

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

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Last week again saw a flurry of activity in Central Asia’s political and economic life. For Kazakhstan, a decision by a court in Amsterdam was highly important as it unfroze $22bn of the country’s National Welfare Fund that was parked in the Bank of New York Mellon. Apart from that, President Nazarbayev discussed Eurasian integration and his recent trip to the United States with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. In neighboring Uzbekistan, the authorities affirmed the government’s working program for 2018, instituted a number of safety measures for labor migrants and introduced a two-year moratorium on business inspections. Tajikistan this week suspended inspections in a similar way. Kyrgyzstan had to stop electricity exports to neighboring countries because of the crippling frost in the country and President Sooronbay Jeenbekov ratified an accord on measures to build trust at the border with Uzbekistan. Turkmenistan this past week saw a number of significant cadre reshuffles of six ministers and three deputy-ministers. Turkmen media were moreover sounding the alarm on an immediate price hike for US dollars on the black market.




EEU to Deepen Information Exchange to Fight Terrorism

The Eurasian Economic Commission has approved a joint project to exchange information in the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism that often takes place by moving cash across the customs border of the Union, the EEU’s press service said. “The new treaty foresees each EEU member state to designate an institution responsible for collecting data on the movement of cash”, the release continued. It is now up to the EEU’s member states to implement the resolution of the Eurasian Commission into national law. (, January 27)




Kazakh Net Wages Decline in 2017

Despite the overall economic growth in Kazakhstan, real wages have fallen for the third year in a row in 2017. According to data by the investment bank Halyk Finance, the first three quarters of 2017 saw an average wage decline of 2 percent. For 2018, the same analysts foresee wages shrinking again by up to 0,5 percent. “Low oil prices, the difficult situation on the financial markets, the gradual cut back of cash infusions into the economy by the state and the struggling private sector have all made a recovery of real wages more difficult”, the bank’s report said. (, December 28)


Amsterdam Court Unfreezes $22bn of Kazakh National Fund

A Dutch court overturned an order to freeze assets valued at $22bn of Kazakhstan’s National Fund that were being held by the Bank of New York Mellon, a press release of the Kazakh Justice Ministry read. The District Court in Amsterdam sided with Kazakhstan’s National Bank and Justice Ministry, decided that the National Fund’s assets were not to be touched and ordered the legal costs of the Kazakh side to be compensated. (Sputnik Kazakhstan, January 24)


Stockholm Court Freezes Kazakh Assets

Kazakhstan’s Justice Ministry has further reported that a court order to temporarily freeze $100 mln. of the country’s National Fund in Sweden has been put into effect without altering the decision that Stockholm’s District Court had taken on January 25. Kazakhstan’s National Bank and Justice Ministry will challenge the asset freeze in a Swedish appeals court. The District Court had previously instituted a temporary restriction on captial of the National Fund in form of Kazakh stock holdings in Swedish companies totaling $100 mln as well as assets of Kazakhstan’s embassy in Sweden. (CA-News, January 24)


Nazarbayev Discusses Eurasian Integration and Visit to US with Putin

Kazakhstan’s President spoke with his Russian counterpart on the phone last week to discuss the state and perspective of the mutual relationship and the two countries’ cooperation in the EEU framework. They furthermore touched upon other pressing international issues, including Afghanistan, Syria, North Korea and Ukraine. During the call, Nazarbayev also summarized his recent visit to the United States and the negotiations with Donald Trump. (Press Service of the President of Kazakhstan, January 22)




Tashkent Institutes Safety Measures for Labor Migrants

In order to improve the general safety of labor migrants, Uzbekistan’s government has adopted an overall strategy that provides for more stringent safety controls of busses, issuing more subsidized plane and rail tickets for labor migrants as well as attracting cheap foreign transport companies to the country. The decision was taken against the background of a tragedy earlier in January when 52 Uzbek labor migrants died in a bus fire in Kazakhstan. According to Russian authorities, 1,5 million Uzbeks were residing in Russia, as of January 01. (CA-News, January 25)


Uzbekistan Cuts Transit Fees for Afghan Goods by 50%

In the course of a visit of Uzbekistan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Djamshid Kuchkarov to Kabul, a 50 percent reduction of transit fees for Afghan goods was announced – each container will now only be charged $1250 instead of $2500. Afghanistan’s Finance Minister Eklil Ahmad Hakimi said that this would allow his country to import a broader spectrum of goods from Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, as well as Uzbekistan itself, which is the only country that is meaningfully connected to Afghanistan by rail. (Fergana News, January 24)


Tashkent Adopts State Working Program for 2018

Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev published that government’s working program for 2018 last week – this year the state wants to focus on the development of active entrepreneurship, innovative ideas and new technologies. The document also foresees five priorities for the period from 2017 to 2021: improving governance, reforming the court system, developing the economy/ supporting entrepreneurship, instituting social policies and enhancing inter-ethnic and inter-religious understanding. The government moreover wants to focus on security and foreign policy issues. (National News Agency of Uzbekistan, January 23)


Uzbekistan Announces Two-Year Moratorium on Business Inspections

In another decree, President Mirziyoyev has mandated a two-year moratorium on business inspections regarding a company’s finances and property. At the same time, criminal investigations and legal processes around business liquidations will continue unchanged. Already in October of 2016, Mirziyoyev ordered all unannounced inspections of businesses to be suspended from January 01, 2017 – with the same outlined exceptions. (Uzbekistan 24, January 22)




Kyrgyzstan Stops Electricity Exports due to Cold

High energy demand within Kyrgyzstan due to a cold front has prompted the government in Bishkek to announce an export stop of electricity to Uzbekistan. The deliveries had only begund in December of 2017. “We have discussed the export stop going into effect on January 25 with our neighbors”, Aibek Kaliyev, chairman of Kyrgyzstan’s National Energy Holding, said. The treaty with Uzbekistan foresees deliveries of kWh 550 mln during the winter. (Tazarbek, January 26)


Talks Held in Bishkek on Economic Cooperation with Pakistan

Kyrgyzstan’s Deputy Economy Minister Almaz Sazbakov met Pakistan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Etzaz Achmed this past week to discuss economic relations and cooperation. The Pakistanis said they were interested in a free trade agreement with the EEU as well as other Asian countries. Both sides affirmed the important role of the joint inter-governmental commission that held its third session in Islamabad on January 11-12, 2017 after a ten-year pause. The commission is charged with increasing mutual cooperation in trade and economic matters as well as in science and technology. (Kabar, January 25)


Jeenbekov Ratifies Border Agreement with Uzbekistan

A border treaty between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan that is to build trust and put contested issues around the mutual border to rest, hast been ratified through the signature of President Sooronbay Jeenbekov. The document also pledges cooperation in improving regional security, the fight against terrorism and drug smuggling, countering new challenges and threats as well as illegal cross-border migration between the two states. The accord had originally been signed in Tashkent last October. (Press Service of the President of Kyrgyzstan, January 22)



Dushanbe Raises Quota for Chinese Workers in Tajikistan

Tajikistan’s government on January 25 raised its workers’ quota by 2400 slots for Chinese specialists and laborers who will work on the Tajik parcel of a pipeline running from Turkmenistan to China, the head of the Ministry of Labor’s Department for Migration, Moyonsho Machmadbekov said. The pipeline run 400km through Tajikistan and will be finished by the end of this year. (Radio Ozodi, January 26)


Tajik President Institutes Two-Year Moratorium on Industry Inspections

Preventing harassment and improving the investment climate in Tajikistan was behind an order by President Emomali Rahmon this past week to introduce a two-year memorandum on inspections of the manufacturing industry, a press release read. Only queries by the tax police, the Prosecutor’s Office, the Court of Auditors, the National Bank and the Anti-Corruption and Financial Audit Agency will be exempted. (AsiaPlus, January 23)




Turkmen Government Appoints Six New Ministers and Three Deputy-Ministers

A Presidential Decree by the head of state in Turkmenistan this past week made headlines in Turkmenistan: Geldinyyazov Mammetmyrat was named Minister of Education, Gulgeldiev Dayanch became Sports and Youth Minister, Sylapov Muchammetseit was appointed as Minister of Labor and Social Security, Selimov Soienchnazar became Construction and Architecture Minister, Enermyradov Ovezmyrat was appointed Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources while Kerim Durdymyradov, Purli Agamyradov and Abdyyeva Bachargul were appointed as Deputy Ministers. (Press Service of the President of Turkmenistan, January 26)

TurkmenistansGDPGrows 6,5% in 2017

During an extended session of Turkmenistan’s government, GDP growth figures were announced. While growth overall amounted to 6,5 percent, manufacturing grew by 5,5 percent, construction by 1,3 percent, transport and communication by 11,1 percent, trade by 9,4 percent, agriculture by 5 percent and the service sector by 9 percent. Compared to 2016 when overall growth amounted to 6,2 percent, the retail industry alone displayed growth of 19 percent. (Turkmen State News Agency, January 27)


Black Market Dollar Course Rises Sharply – Turkmen Media

The dollar rate on Turkmenistan’s black markets rose sharply last week and reached a new record high, Azatlyk reported on January 23. In the beginning of the week, one dollar could be bought on the illegal exchanges of Ashgabat at 11 Turkmen Manats and sold at 11,5 Manats. Shortly afterwards, the currency was traded at 12 Manats. Officially, currency exchanges in cash are forbidden from the beginning of 2016. The official exchange rate set by Turkmenistan’s Central Bank stands at 3,5 Manats for the dollar and has remained unchanged over the last three years. (Azatlyk, January 23)

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