Media Highlights of the Week
Author:Caspian Policy Center
Apr 29, 2020
Energy and Economy
Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway’s Longest Freight Train Departs Turkey en Route to Central Asia
The longest freight train to have operated on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway departed from Turkey on April 18. The freight train held 82 containers and stretched for 3,083 feet. The train’s departure comes as countries look to increase their use of freight trains for transporting goods, as this method requires less human interaction.
Trans Adriatic Pipeline Gains Access to Prisma Platform
The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) gained access to utilize Europe’s Prisma gas capacity trading platform. TAP is at 94 percent completion and will link with the Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) at the Greek-Turkish border to transport gas reserves from Azerbaijan to Southern Italy. Access to Prisma’s trading platform will expand TAP’s trading capabilities in European markets.
Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan Coordinate to Build Seismic-Acoustic Stations
Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan signed a memorandum of understanding to construct several seismic-acoustic stations designed to monitor the onset of earthquakes and to warn of a possible earthquake. In addition, the project seeks to improve communication between the two countries in the event that a joint response is needed during an earthquake.
Huawei Increases its Presence in Uzbekistan
Huawei is coordinating with Uzbek communication services to quickly deploy its cloud video service platform in Uzbekistan. The platform will provide speedy service to remote areas of the country. This program is part of Uzbekistan’s mission to provide reliable internet connection to its population while they are asked to shelter in place to avoid transmitting COVID-19.
Local Chevrolet Car Sales Commence in Kazakhstan
UzAuto Motors JSC partnered with Kazakhstani SaryataAvtoProm LLP together launched the selling of Chevrolet cars in Kazakhstan through Keles Distribution LLP retail network. Manufacturers attribute this growth in the auto-industry to higher demand and improvement in small and medium-sized enterprises in Kazakhstan.
Azerbaijan’s SOCAR to Digitize Oil and Gas Productions
The State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) plans to digitize its oil and gas productions by combining production processes into one system. The program will standardize the company’s processes, display all working facilities and sites, and provide a model to guide in all future decision making.
Solar Power Plant Commissioned in Kazakhstan’s Turkestan Region
This solar power plant, with a capacity of 4.8 MW was built to provide clean energy to the Zhetysay region. The company KaDi financed the project itself, but this initiative is part of the greater plan to promote green energy development in Kazakhstan.
Several Azerbaijani Businesses Will Be Exempted from Tax Payments
The Azerbaijani Ministry of Economy announced possible tax exemptions for several Azerbaijani businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic on April 23. The tax exemptions will be catered towards businesses hardest hit by pandemic closures, including hotels, travel agencies, taxi companies, entertainment venues, and extracurricular school facilities. Tax exemptions for these businesses will be in effect until January 1, 2021.
Georgia Introduces Support Package to Mitigate Economic Decline Caused by COVID-19
The Georgian government rolled out a $1.1 billion economic stimulus package to mitigate the negative impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The money allocated from the package will be used to support businesses and the economy, provide welfare benefits, and distribute materials to support health care providers. The money from the package comes from the $3 billion of emergency funds collected by international financial institutions and donors.
Georgian Government Outlines Six-Step Plan to Reopen the Economy
The Georgian government has outlined a six-step procedure to gradually reopen the economy after many industries were forced to shut down due to COVID-19 fears. The procedure will begin with the first phase set to go into effect on April 27. The first phase includes overseeing the reopening of delivery services, open-air markets, e-commerce, and driving private vehicles. The last phase is expected to commence on July 5 and will include the reopening of entertainment venues, hotels, and casinos.
EU, Sweden, and Austria Allocate Funds to Georgia’s Agriculture Sector
The European Union, Sweden, and Austria have allocated $1.26 million to support organic agriculture development in Georgia. This falls under the Local Development Initiative (LDI). This initiative will primarily focus on the agriculture sectors of Georgian municipalities and through it, farmers and other agricultural actors will be able to apply for assistance. Investors in this initiative hope to develop Georgian small and medium enterprises, improve its business environment, and create new opportunities for organic agriculture and mountain tourism.
Azerbaijan’s SOCAR Resumes Production of Isopropyl to Meet Growing Demand
The State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) agreed to resume its production of isopropyl, a common household disinfectant, amid growing global demand for the product as COVID-19 continues to spread around the world. The production of isopropyl will allow Azerbaijan to benefit from profits earned by exporting isopropyl, while also minimizing its dependence on other countries for the product.
Uzbekistan Will Take Out Loans to Soften Economic Blow of COVID-19
Uzbekistan will receive $3.1 billion in soft and long-term loans from international financial institutions to mitigate the negative impacts that COVID-19 will have on the Central Asian nation. The loans will come from the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
Politics and Security
Kazakhstan Makes Deal with Turkish Defense Giant for Remote Weapon Platforms
Turkish defense contractor Aselsan will deliver its SARP advanced remote-controlled stabilized weapon station to Kazakhstan later this year through its subsidiary, Kazakhstan Aselsan Engineering, under a new agreement. SARP is designed for small and medium caliber machine guns and automatic grenade launchers, combining high-precision reconnaissance and engagement capabilities while keeping the operator under armor or in a safe area away from counter fire.
Azerbaijan Participates in OSCE PA Meeting
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly convened through video format on April 28 with the primary goal of discussing COVID-19-related issues. The head of the Azerbaijani delegation, Azay Guliyev delivered a speech urging to prevent global consequences of the virus to issues like racism, economic crises, illegal migration, refugee conditions. He also pointed out that the strategy to mitigate these issues lies in international cooperation.
Turkmenistan Elected to Several ECOSOC Bodies
Turkmenistan was elected to be a member of several Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) bodies, including the UN Commission for Social Development and the UN Commission for Science and Technology for Development. Both terms will begin in 2021. Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov hopes to use Turkmenistan’s position in these bodies to encourage innovation and research to support small and medium-sized enterprises.
Kazakhstan and Russia to Discuss Ural River Problem at Kokshetau Forum
The border forum between Russia and Kazakhstan will be held in 2020 in the city of Kokshetau. The Kazakhstani Minister of Ecology, Geology, and Natural Resources Magzum Mirzagaliev said that the forum will primarily focus on the Ural river and the current ecological situation in the region.
USAID to Allocate $64 Million To Georgia
On April 24, the Georgian parliament ratified amendments to the USAID Development Assistance Agreements with the government of Georgia which allows USAID/Georgia to move forward with more than $64 million in funding to strengthen Georgia's self-reliance and Euro-Atlantic aspirations.
Azerbaijan-EU Interparliamentary Cooperation Committee Composed
On April 27, the Committee, meant to increase cooperation between the parliaments of Azerbaijan and the European Union (EU), had gone through its final formation. The head of the Azerbaijani sector of this committee is MP Javanshir Feyziyev.
Legislative Chamber of Uzbekistani Parliament Approves Uzbekistan as an EAEU Observer
In March, after analyzing 16 different economic sectors, the Uzbekistani government endorsed the idea for Uzbekistan to become an official observer of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Now that this has been passed by the Legislative Chamber of the Parliament, this motion will be passed on to the Senate.
Uzbekistan and Russia Close to Signing Strategic Partnership Declaration
Uzbekistan and Russia are preparing to declare a comprehensive strategic partnership. The declaration is projected to be signed during a state visit by Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Russia in June 2020.
(Sources: Agenda.ge, AKI Press, Azernews, Caspian News, Daily Sabah, InBusizness.kz, Regnum, RFE/RL, Sputnik Kazakhstan, Trend News Agency, and UZ Daily.)