Media Highlights of the Week
Author:Caspian Policy Center
Jun 16, 2020
Energy and Economy
Turkey Opened a Tender to Supply Gas to Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan
Turkey opened a tender to construct a new gas pipeline that would supply gas to the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan. Turkey’s state gas grid operator Botaş plans to build a pipeline that can transport 71 billion cubic feet of gas across a 50-mile distance to the Nakhchivan border. Construction on the pipeline is slated to be complete by early 2022. The exclave currently relies on Iranian exports, and the planned pipeline would provide the exclave with an additional source of gas.
Trans Anatolian Pipeline Will Deliver 212 Billion Cubic Feet of Natural Gas to Turkey
The Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) is expected to deliver 212 billion cubic feet of natural gas to Turkey this month, signifying a breakthrough in construction on the pipeline. The section of the pipeline that will transport natural gas through Turkey is expected to be completed later this month.
Trans Adriatic Pipeline Finishes its Offshore Section Construction
As reported by the pipeline’s consortium press service, Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) that will transport natural gas from the Shah Deniz II field to Europe, has completed the construction of its offshore section. With the TAP project being more than 95 percent complete, Azerbaijan is expected to deliver its gas to Europe in 2020.
Azerbaijan Plans to Fully Comply with the New OPEC+ Commitments
During the webinar on “Energy Issues in the post-COVID-19 World,” Azerbaijani Minister Parviz Shahbazov stated that Azerbaijan is determined to comply with OPEC+ obligations and reduce their production by 2500 bpd in June. Minister also stressed the importance of the OPEC+ to navigate the current financially challenging situation and stabilize oil prices.
BP to Continue its Projects in Azerbaijan Despite COVID-19
As the company’s Vice President for external relations and strategy in Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey reassured, BP intends to continue implementing its projects in Azerbaijan, despite current health crisis and potential economic challenges in the aftermath of COVID-19. The production of the first oil within the Azeri Central East project is anticipated to start in 2023.
New Environmental Code to Be Implemented in Kazakhstan in 2025
To comply with the Paris Agreement and significantly reduce carbon emissions, Kazakhstan is drafting the Environmental Code that will come into effect in 2025. According to this code, around 50 largest entities that are responsible for 70 percent of all CO2 emissions will have to switch to the Best Available Technologies (BATs) by 2025. Adherence to the code will result in exemption from the environmental fees, while failure to comply will be followed with increased environmental fees.
Kyrgyzstan Receives $2.6 Million to Adapt to Climate Change
Kyrgyzstan received $2.6 million from The Green Climate Fund to better adapt to climate change. The additional funds will be used to implement long-term programs to better prepare the emergencies, health care, agriculture, and irrigation sectors for the effects of climate change.
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan Partner Up to Create Affordable Cars
Kazakh-Uzbek partnership in car production gave its first results with the SyryarkaAvtoProm automobile plant beginning its mass production and showcasing its first Chevrolet cars at car dealerships in Kazakhstan. Russia was another destination with Cobalt and Nexia passenger cars exported there in the first few weeks of June.
Turkmenistan Tightens Food Rationing
Turkmenistan imposed stricter food rationing of essential food items at subsidized prices. Food price hikes and food shortages spurred by the closure of border crossings and internal roadways have led to the government’s decision. According to the new rationing regulations, each family will receive a notebook with a certificate detailing the number of people in each household and their address. All food purchases will be logged into this notebook, and only individuals in possession of this notebook will be permitted to purchase essential food products.
Azerbaijan Restructured Debt Obligations for Credit Organizations
The Azerbaijani government restructured debt obligations for credit organizations by shifting this responsibility to the Entrepreneurship Development Fund. According to the new mechanisms, the state will subsidize loan payments for entrepreneurs with existing loan debts. The new mechanisms were designed to alleviate economic pressure on entrepreneurs following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Georgia and Japan Seek to Avoid Double Tax Payments
Georgian and Japanese officials are seeking to avoid people and businesses that work or operate in both countries from being subject to double tax payments. An agreement would allow for Georgian and Japanese individuals and companies to only be required to pay income and capital taxes in one country. Officials hope that a double tax avoidance agreement would boost economic cooperation between the two countries.
Georgia is Considering Options to Safely Welcome International Travelers
Georgia will begin welcoming international travelers on July 1 but has yet to reveal a plan to ensure the safety of Georgians and tourists. An initial plan to welcome visitors from countries that have handled their COVID-19 outbreaks well was squashed after infections increased in Israel, one of the countries initially included in the plan. The government is currently considering other alternatives to ensure the reopening of the tourism and hospitality industry, including requiring visitors to display proof of a negative coronavirus test administered 72 hours prior to entry.
Uzbekistan to Reopen Borders to Some Air Travelers
Uzbekistan will reopen its borders to some air travelers from June 15 with quarantine procedures depending on their country of origin. The procedures range from being quarantined, placed under observation at home, or simply let in depending on the traveler’s country of origin.
Miners on Strike in West Georgia Demand Increased Payments and Safer Conditions
About a thousand miners in the West Georgian mines of Mindeli and Dzidziguri went on strike following an incident that left 22 workers trapped in an elevator. The miners on strike are demanding that they receive income tax returns for work completed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, strikers are requesting that their salaries are increased, and a work tunnel is repaired.
Kazakhstan is Facing a 1.7 Percent Decline in GDP Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic
Kazakhstan is now undergoing a 1.7 percent drop in GDP since January compared to a remarkable 4 percent increase observed during the same period last year. While some critical areas like mining, refining, agriculture, and investments are experiencing positive dynamics and are on their way to recovery, decreasing patterns are still observable in transport, trade, and property operations services. To counteract adverse effects incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, a range of comprehensive measures and plans, including the Business Road Map 2025, will be set in motion.
EU and OECD Advise Kazakhstan on Post-COVID-19 Economic Measures
During the webinar held as part of the Central Asia Invest Program, the EU and OECD representatives made some recommendations to the Kazakhstani government regarding economic measures that will address post-pandemic challenges. Diversification of the economy away from oil dependency, decarbonizing the economy, strengthening the fiscal scheme, and boosting human capital development were the major topics of discussion.
Uzbekistan and EBRD Plan to Expand Cooperation
The President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, held a videoconference with the President of the European Bank during which both expressed their willingness to expand their cooperation even further. Transformation of state-owned enterprises, development of reforms in the oil and gas sectors, as well as expansion of business financing were the main focus of the conversation.
Security and Politics
Kyrgyzstan Approves Amendments to Russian Military Base Agreement
On June 12, Kyrgyz lawmakers approved a bill ratifying a Kyrgyz-Russian protocol amending an agreement on the usage of Russia's military base. The annual fee for renting the land will be increased.
16 Kazakhstani Military Officers, Defense Officials on Trial Over Deadly Explosion
Sixteen Kazakhstani military officers and Defense Ministry officials have gone on trial over a series of explosions at an ammunition warehouse that killed four people in June 2019. The trial started on June 11 in Shymkent, a year after a fire had started in Arys, which caused a series of blasts.
Kazakhstani Parliament Decriminalizes Slander, Penalties Still in Place
Lawmakers in Kazakhstan’s upper house voted in favor of revoking criminal liability for libel, downgrading it to a misdemeanor. The Senate approved this law on June 11, which awaits President Tokayev’s approval before it can enter into force.
United States and Turkmenistan Review Implementation of Signed Agreement
Vepa Hajiyev, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, and Jonathan Henick, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for South Asia Affairs, Public Diplomacy and Press held a meeting via video conference to discuss Turkmen-U.S. bilateral cooperation regarding the economy, humanitarian efforts, and post-pandemic socio-economic collaboration.
UN Supports Tajikistan in Modernizing Information Coordination
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Tajikistan is assisting the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Population of the Republic of Tajikistan (MHSPP) information coordination centers. These coordination centers are used to improve Tajikistan’s response to COVID-10. The UNDP supplied the MHSPP with over $75,000 of equipment.
European Union Sends Tajikistan Protective Medical Equipment
The European Union (EU) sent Tajikistan 24.7 tons of protective medical equipment in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This included protective medical-grade clothing, N95 masks, and thermometers. UNICEF Tajikistan and the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of Tajikistan are distributing these goods to 153 hospitals. The hospitals chosen for prioritization were determined by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection.
(Sources: 24.kg, AKIPress, Agenda.ge, Astana Times, Azernews, Caspian News, Eurasianet, RFE/RL, Trend News Agency, and UZ Daily.)