Media Highlights of the Week
Author:Caspian Policy Center
May 5, 2020
Energy and Economy
Japanese Energy Company Invests in a Georgian Hydropower Project
Japanese energy company TEPCO Renewable Power (TEPCO RP) has purchased 31.4% of the shares of Georgian hydropower company Dariali Energy. Dariali Hydropower plant opened in April 2017 and has a capacity of 108 MW.
Kazakhstan Opened a New Solar Plant in Turkestan
Kazakhstan inaugurated the 27-acre Zhetisay solar plant in the southernmost region of Turkestan. The power plant consists of 12,798 solar panels and has a capacity of 4.8 MW. The facility cost $4.3 million and will provide clean energy and jobs to Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan Negotiates 22 Percent Oil Output Cut in Compliance with OPEC+ Decision
Kazakhstan is in the process of negotiating a total oil output cut of 22 percent with the international oil companies operating in the country. To comply with the OPEC+ production cut agreement, Kazakhstan will reduce the oil output by 390,000 bpd to a total of 1.3 million bpd starting May.
Azerbaijan Increases Its Technical Support to the Agricultural Sector
Azerbaijan is allocating $16.5 million to the state-owned “Agroleasing” Open Joint Stock Company. The funds will be used to provide technical support to farmers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kyrgyzstan Will Receive $7.1 Million in Investments to Improve Water Infrastructure
Kyrgyzstan is slated to receive $7.1 million in investments from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Union, and Switzerland. The money will be used to further develop the city of Naryn’s water infrastructure. The project includes the extension of the main sewers and the creation of a new wastewater treatment facility.
Tbilisi Receives Over $80 Million in Sovereign Loan to Modernize Metro System
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will extend a $71 million loan, while the Green Climate Fund will extend an $11 million loan to Tbilisi for the purpose of modernizing their metro system. The money will be used to modernize the tunnels and purchase 40 modern subway cars. Proponents of the project hope that the modernized system will encourage residents to switch to public transit to ease congestion during rush hours.
EBRD and Baku Will Cooperate to Privatize Azerbaijani State-Owned Businesses
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Azerbaijani officials will begin discussing the necessary steps to privatize state-owned enterprises in the country. President Aliyev announced that the first step would be to identify the initial process for commercialization and partial privatization.
IMF Will Provide Georgia with $200 Million to Combat the Impacts of COVID-19
The International Monetary Fund approved Georgia’s request for $200 million in assistance to combat the impacts of COVID-19. The Deputy Managing Director and Chair of the IMF noted that COVID-19 has severely impacted the Georgian economy due to the drop in tourism and economic activity.
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan Are Slowly Reopening Businesses
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan initiated the process of reopening businesses after most were shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On May 4, non-essential grocery stores will be allowed to reopen for business under strict regulations to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Uzbekistan reported that 5,400 of Tashkent’s 14,000 companies could begin to gradually reopen.
Iran and Turkmenistan Emphasize Importance of Economic Cooperation
Iranian and Turkmen officials emphasized the importance of reviving the same level of economic cooperation seen before the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, representatives from both countries agreed that heightened economic cooperation would be needed to restore trade relations between Iran and Turkmenistan.
Politics and Security
First Cases of COVID-19 Confirmed in Tajikistan
After weeks of suspicion that the Tajik government was suppressing information about the spread of coronavirus, on April 30, the government task force charged with fighting the coronavirus confirmed the country’s first cases. As of May 4, Tajikistan has 230 registered cases.
Tokayev Appoints New Parliament Speaker and Dismisses Nazarbayeva
The former deputy chief of Kazakhstan’s presidential administration, Maulen Ashimbayev, has replaced Dariga Nazarbaeva as the Speaker of Parliament. This position is next in line to hold power if the president resigns or is incapable of performing their duties. Nazarbayeva served as the Speaker of Parliament since March 2019 when Tokayev replaced Nursultan Nazarbayev at the presidential post.
Tajik Lawmakers Approve Bill Banning Russified Surnames
Tajik lawmakers have approved a bill banning the issuance of new identification documents and birth certificates for ethnic Tajiks containing Russified surnames. According to the bill, Tajik children will receive Tajik suffixes for their surnames even if their parents have Russified surnames. The law does not apply to children who are not ethnically Tajik.
Thousands Fled After a Dam Bursts in Uzbekistan
On May 1, heavy rains and stormy winds caused the Sardoba dam in Uzbekistan’s Sirdaryo region to partially collapse, resulting in heavy flooding of the region. Emergency personnel has reportedly evacuated 70,000 people from affected areas in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, temporarily housing them in schools and universities while others made arrangements to stay with relatives. Over 50 people have been hospitalized, no one was reported to have died in the incident. Uzbek authorities launched criminal proceedings over the incident on May 3.
NATO Special Representative Outlines Steps for Increased Support for Georgia
NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia James Appathurai has outlined the alliance's upcoming steps to increase its support for Georgia including the prospects of a greater participation of Georgia in NATO’s "hybrid defense" doctrine - involving cybersecurity, the energy industry, and clandestine intelligence, among other measures.
Azerbaijan Amends Process for Issuing Electronic Tourist Visas
The Azerbaijani legislature amended the process for issuing electronic tourist visas. The new proposal states that the application for an electronic visa will be considered within three days, in case of an expedited application – within three hours, and when applying for a single-use electronic visa at the airport – in real time. The amended process will make it easier for foreigners to apply for electronic visas to enter Azerbaijan.
Turkmenistan Clears Out Quarantine Centers Ahead of WHO Visit
Authorities in Turkmenistan are moving over 400 people placed in quarantine areas on the outskirts of Turkmenabat to provincial hospitals in what could be construed as an attempt to hide suspected cases of coronavirus ahead of a visit by World Health Organization experts.
Albania Detains Tajik Terror Suspect Wanted in Germany
Albania stated that it has arrested a Tajik citizen sought by Germany for suspected membership in a cell of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group. The announcement on April 30 comes two weeks after German authorities announced the detention of five Tajik nationals suspected of forming an IS cell that plotted attacks on German soil.
(Sources: Agenda.ge, Astana Times, Azernews, Caspian News, EBRD, Eurasianet, Reuters, RFE/RL, and Trend News Agency.)