Media Highlights of the Week
Author:Caspian Policy Center
Jun 23, 2020
Energy and Economy
China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Railway Construction Project to Begin Soon
Kyrgyzstan’s state enterprise “Kyrgyz Temir Zholy” is planning to launch the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway construction project. As the head of the enterprise, Vasilii Dashkov, stated, the parties have reached an agreement. Russia and Uzbekistan offered to provide financial support to Kyrgyzstan. The project is estimated to amount to $4.5 billion.
Tajikistan to Accept World Bank Funds to Improve the Energy Sector
Tajikistan voted to approve the Power Utility Financial Recovery Project agreement between the country and the World Bank. The World Bank allocated a $134 million grant to improve Tajikistan’s power sector. The work related to the project will begin this year and is slated to be complete by 2026.
Azerbaijan Signs a Gas Supply System Agreement with McKinsey & Company
Under the agreement signed between Azerbaijan’s Energy Ministry and McKinsey & Company, the latter will review the country's gas supply system and provide recommendations to ensure the effectiveness and reliability of the system. In addition, McKinsey & Company will provide suggestions on the modernization of the network and ways to attract investments.
Service Sector in Uzbekistan will Receive $100 million in Credit
As Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev noted during a recent videoconference on the development of services and domestic tourism, with the service sector constituting 35 percent of the country's GDP, it is important to continuously develop this area. To support the service sector, the nation’s Fund for Reconstruction and Development will provide more than $100 million of credit resources. One of the first steps in the development of the sector will be the creation of new jobs.
Azerbaijan and India Collaborate to Develop a Digital Platform for Entrepreneurs
Azerbaijan and India are collaborating to create a digital platform that will be designed to facilitate business dealings between the two countries. The platform will list cooperation between the countries in agricultural, pharmaceutical, consulting, IT, and other services. The Azerbaijani National Confederation of Entrepreneurs says that this digital platform is critical for advancing cooperation in a post-COVID-19 pandemic world.
EEC Council Forms a Working Group to Remove Barriers to Domestic Trade
The Council of the Eurasian Economic Commission has decided to form a high-level working group to eliminate obstacles in domestic trade. Improving information exchange in the tax and customs areas, ensuring accelerated application of traceability systems, and reducing illegal movement of goods across the external border and inside the EAEU, will be the main priority tasks of the group.
Chinese President Calls for Joint Effort with Tajikistan
Chinese President Xi Jinping urged Tajikistan to utilize their bilateral relations to implement lucrative Belt and Road Initiative projects. Furthermore, President Xi suggested that the two countries collaborate on their COVID-19 related efforts. Tajik President Rahmon responded with gratitude towards Chinese assistance during the pandemic and assured President Xi that he would work to more closely align Tajikistan’s development strategy to become more amenable to the Belt and Road Initiative.
Asian Development Bank Will Boost Kyrgyzstan’s Health Sector
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved a $20 million package to bolster Kyrgyzstan’s health sector amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The package includes a $10 million emergency loan and a $10 million grant. The funds provided by the package will be allocated towards improving health facilities, increasing ICU capacities, and purchasing personal protective equipment.
Digitization on the Rise in Kazakhstan
According to the Kazakhstani Minister of Digital Development, Innovations and Aerospace Development, Askar Zhumagaliyev, a massive switch to digitization resulted in $1.97 billion in revenues while also creating 120,000 jobs. Deep integration and cooperation amongst governmental bodies allowed for a more effective transition, with around 82 percent of all public services being already automated. Digitization efforts will also be directed at promoting “proactive governance,” wherein citizens will be offered relevant services according to their living situation directly by the government, instead of seeking these services on their own.
Austria’s Second Biggest Bank is Looking to Work with Azerbaijan
Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI), Austria’s second largest bank, is looking to work with the National Depository Center of the Republic of Azerbaijan (NDC). RBI is offering to provide Azerbaijani banks with financial solutions while also fostering a bilateral relationship within the country. The expected bilateral relationship should allow foreign investors to easily access Azerbaijan’s securities markets.
Kazakhstan to Develop Ecotourism
As the head of Kazakhstan’s ecology, geology, and natural resources agency, Magzum Mirzagaliyev emphasized, development of ecotourism in the country has the potential of attracting up to 12.5 million tourists and generating up to 20,000 additional jobs. Kazakhstan also needs to draw on the experience of the United States and allocate resources into designing high-quality accommodation and promoting appropriate infrastructures such as equipped trails, information centers, and viewing platforms.
Turkish Airlines Opens Flights to Central Asia
Turkish Airlines announced it would open its flights to the Central Asian states by the end of June. Each country announced its own restrictions. Kazakhstan and Georgia are only allowing citizens entry and require negative PCR test results before entry. The government of Uzbekistan promises tourists $3000 in compensation if they get infected with COVID-19 while in the country.
Uzbekistan Introduces an “Open Skies” Mode in All Regional Airports
While Uzbekistan introduced the “Open Skies” regime at the international airports in four cities, - Bukhara, Nukus, Qarshi and Termez, - it is also planning to establish the “Open Skies” regime with a fifth degree of freedom in all ten regional airports of the country starting from August 1, 2020. This regime will be in effect for two years until 2022/2023, with a possibility for extension. According to the Ministry of Transport, foreign airlines can also carry out cargo flights up to the seventh degree of freedom at the airports of Navoi and Termez.
Georgia’s National Bank Sold $20 Million
In response to the depreciation of the Georgian lari, the National Bank of Georgia sold $20 million in an attempt to stabilize the currency. The bank attempted to auction $40 million at a foreign exchange auction earlier this month but was only successful in selling $29.65 million.
Azerbaijan Launched a New App for Farmers
Azerbaijan launched a new mobile app, “Agropolis” to provide consulting services to farmers. The app compiles services and information from agricultural consulting companies, research institutes, and individuals for farmers.
Security and Politics
Georgian Defence Forces Sign Deal to Update Transportation Fleet
The Georgian Defence Forces (GDF) will replace their aging transportation with trucks produced by leading European and American brands. Over 500 trucks will be delivered to the GDF by German-based MAN, Italian-based IVECO, and United States-based Ford – three companies that equip armed forces of NATO member states.
Turkmenistan and Russia Discuss Improvements to Bilateral Cooperation
Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed improvements in their countries’ bilateral cooperation in a phone call. The two presidents discussed improving trade and economic relations and emphasized the need to cooperate in the industrial, technological, cultural, and energy fields.
Kazakhstan’s Former President Nursultan Nazarbayev Tests Positive for COVID-19
Kazakhstan’s First President Nursultan Nazarbayev tested positive for COVID-19 as of June 18. He is in self-isolation and is working remotely. Cases in infections have been rising in Kazakhstan, and the government is reintroducing strict measures and lockdowns. All shops will be closed except for pharmacies and grocery stores.
Kyrgyzstan’s PM Mukhammedkaliy Abylgaziev replaced by Kubatbek Boronov
On June 17, the Kyrgyz Parliament (Jogorku Kengesh) ratified a new government, and Kubatbek Boronov became the new Prime Minister. This was after the former Prime Minister, Mukhammedkaliy Abylgaziev, resigned from office on June 15.
Kyrgyzstan Discusses Internet Bill on Information Manipulation
Kyrgyzstan’s new internet bill was discussed on June 19 and passed on June 17. It was initially introduced to the Jogorku Kengesh on May 14. The bill would allow Kyrgyz authorities to censor and shut down websites accused of spreading misinformation.
Berdimuhamedov Unable to Attend Russia’s Victory Day Parade
Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov is unable to attend Russia’s Victory Day Parade in Moscow as it coincides with his birthday. Berdimuhamedov informed Russian President Vladimir Putin of this on June 19, adding that Turkmen servicemen, under the leadership of Turkmen Defense Minister, Major General Begench Gundogdiyev, will take part in the parade in Moscow.
European Lawmakers Call For Eastern Partners' Greater Integration
On June 19, European lawmakers called for the creation of a "common economic space" between the EU and the six former Soviet republics of its Eastern Partnership program as part of a process of "gradual integration" into the bloc. They also called to "embark on a process to create a common economic space," which would focus on telecommunications and creating roaming-free-fees between the EU and the Eastern Partnership countries.
US Embassy Stands with Georgian People's Call to End Russian Aggression
One year after the June 20 protest, triggered by the presence of Russian MP Sergey Gavrilov in the Georgian parliament, the United States Embassy to Georgia said “we stand with the Georgian people and their calls to end Russian aggression and strengthen Georgia’s democracy” and added that further democratization would remain one of its best defenses against Russian aggression.
Georgian Health Official Says Epidemiological Situation Will Allow Elections to be Held
Head of the Georgian National Centre for Disease Control Amiran Gamkrelidze says that the current epidemiological situation in Georgia will allow for elections to be held, studies to begin, and other activities to be expanded. He urged the public to continue to follow recommendations such as social distancing and wearing masks.
International Organization for Migration Helps Repatriate Tajiks In Kazakhstan
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has organized the repatriation of 635 Tajik citizens abroad in Kazakhstan. The repatriation was arranged with the help of the governments of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan. The United States and Norway have provided the funding for the service, along with UNICEF, IOM stated.
Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan Re-imposed Coronavirus Restriction
In anticipation of the second wave of COVID-19 transmissions, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan re-imposed coronavirus restrictions. Kyrgyzstan shut down public transportation in the capital city of Bishkek and is preventing travel between provinces. Kazakhstan closed down shopping malls and markets that were just recently allowed to reopen.
Azerbaijan Extends Lockdown against Coronavirus
According to the Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Leyla Abdullayeva, Azerbaijan will extend lockdown measures until August 1 as the number of COVID-19 cases is increasing significantly. The government is also reapplying its SMS permission system, where people can leave the house only after sending their ID card numbers and the purpose of leaving to a certain phone number.
(Sources: 24.kg, Agenda.ge, AKIPress, Asia-Plus, Asian Development Bank, Astana Times, Azernews, Caspian News, Elbasy.kz, EurasiaNet, Fergana.news, Kenesh.kg, RFE/RL, RIA News, Sputnik Kyrgyzstan,Times of Central Asia, Trend News Agency, and UZ Daily.)