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In Focus: ECED Central Asia Digest: March 05-11 2018

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

Last week was one of the most eventful in Central Asia’s political and economic life for quite some time. Most importantly, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev went to Tajikistan on his first official visit there to sign 27 agreements. President Emomali Rahmon, on his part, said that he would like to see Tashkent taking on a bigger role in promoting regional cooperation. In Kazakhstan, President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s address to both houses of Parliament marked the most important political event of the week; the Kazakh leader laid out a 5-point-program of key social and economic initiatives. Meanwhile, news broke that the Parliament in Astana has ratified an agreement with the United States to allow goods en route to Afghanistan to pass the Kazakh ports of Aktau and Kuryk. In neighboring Kyrgyzstan, the President’s chief of staff managed to have his resignation letter accepted on his third attempt while Tajikistan’s debt ratio grew over 50 percent of GDP for the first time. Turkmenistan, finally, welcomed a delegation from the IMF and began preparations for President Berdimuhamedov’s visit to Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.




Businessman on the Run Arrested in Kazakhstan

Muratchan Tokmadi, a businessman found guilty of murdering the CEO of BTA Bank, Erzhan Tatishev, in a hit allegedly ordered by dissident Mukhtar Ablyazov, was arrested last week after fleeing from a hospital in the city of Taraz, where he was to undergo medical treatment. The next day, March 09, Tokmadi was arrested. He called his escape a mistake and refused to say why he decided to run. Tokmadi was taken into detention in July 2017 and was sentenced to three years in prison for a number of offences. (, March 09)

Kazakh Parliament Allows US to Transit Goods to Afghanistan Through Caspian Ports

The United States will be able to transit specialized non-military goods through the Kazakh ports of Aktau and Kuryk and onwards per rail to Afghanistan, Kazakhstan’s lower parliamentary chamber has decided. Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said that the broader strategic relationship with Washington after Nazarbayev’s visit to the US serves Kazakh interests and has real-life benefits for Astana. (, March 07)

Nazarbayev Presents Economic and Social Initiatives to Parliament

Kazakhstan’s President addressed both houses of Parliament last week to advance five central social and economic initiatives that aim to incentivize growth and widen citizens’ access to social services. The measures include launching subsidized loans, lowering taxes for the working class, better access to higher education and to micro credits as well as the gasification of northern Kazakhstan and of Astana from the west of the country. (, March 05)

Kazakh National Bank Lowers Interest Rates
Daniyar Akishev, the governor of the National Bank in Astana said this past week that the institution would reduce interest rates to 9,5 percent. “We are already lowering the rate for the second time this year due to a positive development in inflation since December and our projections that see the inflation rate falling in the mid-term,” Akishev said. Currently, Kazakhstan’s inflation rate stands at 6,5 percent. (EA Daily, March 06)





Mirziyoyev in Tajikistan for Official Two-Day Visit

27 accords were signed during an official visit by Uzbeksitan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Dushanbe on March 09-10. A number of issues, including border demarcations, were concerned. Mirziyoyev said that “Tashkent would develop ties with Tajikistan on all levels” and regards the relationship as a strategic partnership. Tajik President Emomali Rahmon called the visit “fateful and important” and added that Dushanbe is equally looking towards strengthening ties with Tashkent and to cooperate on regional matters. (CA-News, March 10)

New Uzbek Ambassador to Kazakhstan Appointed

Sadidikram Niyazkhodjayev is Tashkent’s new representative in Astana, Uzbekistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a press release. Previously, Niyazkhodjayev worked in the Presidential Administration and was a Deputy State Advisor and a Deputy Economy Minister. (Press Service of the Foreign Ministry of Uzbekistan, March 10)

Tashkent Discusses Afghanistan Conference with Beijing

Ismatulla Igrashev, Uzbekistan’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan held talks with China’s ambassador to the Republic, Tsyan Yan, on March 06 to discuss the upcoming high-profile conference on Afghanistan that will be held on March 26-27 in Tashkent. Afghan President Ashraf Gani, UN General Secretary Antonio Gutteres and foreign ministers from European and Asian countries are invited to attend. (, March 07)

Mirziyoyev Meets Russian Finance Minister Siluanov 

Uzbekistan’s President received Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov this past week for consultations on lessons learned from Russia’s experiences with modernization projects in finance, tax and customs bodies, budgetary planning and financial control. Besides that, the two officials looked into financing of joint projects as well as having Uzbek experts trained in Russian universities. (Press Service of the President of Uzbekistan, March 06)




President’s Chief of Staff Resigns

After two vain attempts to resign over the past few weeks, Kyrgyzstan’s President has finally given in to the wish of his Chief of Staff Farid Niyazov and signed a document detailing the latter’s resignation. Niyazov was advising both Presidents Atambayev and Jeenbekov before his appointment as Chief of Staff in December of 2017. He also headed Jeenbekov’s electoral campaign during last year’s presidential elections. (Sputnik Kyrgyzstan, March 07)

Kyrgyzstan Appoints New Anti-Corruption Tsar

Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov signed a decree last week, appointing Sagynbek Ismailov as the National Security Council’s anti-corruption director. Previously, Ismailov worked as Deputy Director of the Narcotics Service and Deputy Director of the Bureau for the Coordination of Fighting Organized Crime and in other law enforcement functions in other CIS member states. (, March 06)




Tajikistan and Uzbekistan Agree on Visa-Free Regime and Resumption of Civilian Air Traffic 

During mutual negotiations in the course of Uzbek President Mirziyoyev’s visit to Dushanbe last week, the two leaders agreed on a 30-day visa-free-regime for citizens of both countries, the re-opening of border crossings and the resumption of regular civilian traffic flights between the two capitals. Furthermore, rail and automobile tracks are to be restored to full functionality faster than planned while both sides plan to lower tariffs for transiting goods. (CA-News, March 10)

First Uzbek-Tajik Business Forum Held in Dushanbe

The first session of the Tajik-Uzbek Business Council was opened last week in Tashkent to discuss small business development and progress made in 2017, sign accords worth $20,5 million and adopt a roadmap for 2018, according to the head of the Uzbek trade mission, Adkham Ikramov. More than one hundred business representatives are participating in the Business Council and ministries and other government agencies have shown interest in the Council’s work. (Uzbekistan 24, March 10)


Tajik Debt Rises Above 50% of GDP

Tajikistan’s national debt stood at $3,67 billion – or 51,4 percent of GDP – at the beginning of this year. $2,9 billion of debt is held by foreign entities while the Tajik state owes $770 million to its own citizens. The growth of the debt rate in 2017 is mainly connected with Chinese credits for state investment projects and the placement of state bonds at internal and international financial markets to support energy projects. (AsiaPlus, March 05)




IMF Delegation Visits Ashgabat

Officials of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) held talks in Ashgabat this past week. A communique of the visit is to be published soon on the IMF website; the Turkmen side did not immediately comment on the outcomes of the meetings and will first present a run-down of the talks to a governmental cabinet meeting. (Turkmen State News Agency, March 10)

Berdimuhamedov to Visit Kuwait and UAE

Turkmenistan’s Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov was tasked with preparing a visit by President Berdimuhamedov to Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates that was announced during a government meeting on Friday. According to state media, the visit to the Gulf countries is connected with the “interest of Arab investors in cooperating in the completion of the TAPI pipeline project.” (Turkmen State News Agency, March 09)

Mass Lay-Offs Ahead in Turkmen State Sector – Media Reports

Radio Free Europe’s Turkmen Service Azatlyk reported last week that some Turkmen regions are set to see mass firings of government officials that work in the education and cultural field, particularly in museums, libraries and cultural institutions of Ashgabat. At least 1000 jobs are in danger, among them hundreds of school teachers. (Azatlyk, March 09)