Media Highlights of the Week
Author:Caspian Policy Center
Jun 2, 2020
Energy and Economy
Chevron Plans the Biggest Cut to its Workforce
Chevron is planning to carry out the biggest job cut to its global workforce, leaving almost 6,000 workers unemployed. Energy corporations like Chevron are among the first entities affected by the global health crisis and subsequent crash in oil prices. To deal with an unprecedented financial burden, Chevron is “streamlining organizational structures” by reducing the number of their employees all over the world by around 10-15%.
Kazakhstan Designs a Plan to Construct a Gas Processing Plant at the Kashagan Oil Field
Kazakhstan is designing a plan to construct a gas processing plant at the country’s largest oil field, Kashagan. Construction on the new plant is slated to be complete by the end of 2021. The plant is projected to increase oil production by 12 million tons and provide thousands of jobs.
IFC Advises Uzbekistan on Public-Private Partnerships to Build Photovoltaic Parks
International Finance Corporation (IFC) is assisting the government of Uzbekistan in structuring public-private partnerships (PPPs) that will attract investors for developing two 200 MW capacity photovoltaic power plants to be located in Samarkand and Jizzakh regions. IFC also held a workshop on structuring a PPP project that would build solar photovoltaic parks with battery energy-storage systems.
Azerbaijan Establishes a New Free Economic Zone on the Caspian Shore
Azerbaijan established the Alat Free Economic Zone at the Alat settlement on the Caspian Sea coast. The new free economic zone will allow for companies operating within the zone to be exempted from paying value-added tax and customs fees on imported goods, works, and services. The new economic zone hosts the Baku International Sea Trade Port, which is currently under construction, and may contain a new airport in the future.
Kazakhstan Purchased Hundreds of Eco-Friendly Buses from China
Kazakhstan purchased 760 eco-friendly buses from Chinese commercial vehicle manufacturer, Yutong. The buses will be operational in the cities of Shymkent and Atyrau by the beginning of June. This purchase is part of a trend in Kazakhstan to shift away from traditional vehicles that rely on diesel to reduce the country’s carbon emissions.
Uzbekistan Will Produce Agricultural Equipment in Kazakhstan
Uzagrotechsanoathholding will begin producing agricultural equipment in Kazakhstan, according to the investment agreement signed on May 28. About 100 jobs will be created in Kazakhstan’s Turkistan industrial zone. In return, Uzbekistan will further train Kazakhstani agricultural specialists. The investment totals about $12 million.
British Investors Show Interest in the Caspian Digital Hub Project
British investors seek to get involved in the Caspian Digital Hub project outlined by the governments of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan that will allow for an expansion of data transmission capabilities within Kazakhstan as well as between Europe and Asia.
FAO Supports Agricultural Projects in Azerbaijan
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations is designing and supporting several projects in Azerbaijan to alleviate the burden placed on farmers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The head of the FAO Partnership and Liaison Office in Azerbaijan, Melek Chakmak, emphasized the importance of supporting food production and supply chains during the pandemic.
Asian Development Bank Approves a $100 Million Loan for Georgia
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved a $100 million loan to support Georgia in mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses. The funds from the loan will be allocated towards further containing the spread of the coronavirus, supporting small and medium-sized tourism enterprises, and protecting the most vulnerable populations.
Georgia’s Fourth Anti-Crisis Plan Focuses on Supporting Construction
Georgia’s fourth anti-crisis plan, valued at $136 million, will be focused on providing support for the country’s construction and development sector. This sector accounted for 9 percent of the country’s GDP prior to the pandemic. According to the plan, the government will subsidize the interest rate of mortgage loans, issue loan guarantees on mortgage loans, buy more apartments than planned for internally displaced families, and ensure the completion of ongoing construction.
Development Bank of Kazakhstan Unfolds its Anti-Crisis Plan to maintain tax revenues
Development Bank of Kazakhstan (DBK) is planning on implementing anti-crisis measures that will go into effect in 2Q2020 and 3Q2020. Projects receiving DBK lending are the major targets of the anti-crisis strategy. Loan restructuring with a possibility of extending the loan term while also keeping the interest rate at the current level is one of the measures outlined in the plan. It is expected that proper and timely implementation of the anti-crisis policy will help maintain tax revenues at $504.6 million.
Leading Azerbaijani Bank Supports Entrepreneurs Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic
Kapital Bank, a leading Azerbaijani bank, is supporting entrepreneurs amidst the COVID-19 pandemic by reducing expenses for banking services and introducing reductions for POS-terminal fees. The bank announced that its decision is intended to support small and medium-sized enterprises struggling during the pandemic.
Georgia Initiates Process to Lift COVID-19 Restrictions
Public transportation in Georgia was resumed on May 27, followed by the removal of several other restrictions imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the country. Restaurants and stores with outdoor spaces are allowed to operate beginning this week and travel between Georgian towns and cities will be permitted starting next week.
German Development Bank Provides Georgia with a $100 Million Loan
Georgia received a $100 million loan from the government-owned German development bank, KfW. The loan will be allocated toward supporting Georgian reforms in the energy sector.
Kyrgyzstan Provides Alternative for Loan Payments Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic
The president of Kyrgyzstan Sooronabi Jeenbekov proposed an alternative solution for loan payments during a meeting convened by the United Nations. The president requested that the $4.6 billion liabilities owed by Kyrgyzstan could be waived if the government promised to reinvest that amount into supporting the country’s healthcare, social support services, food security initiatives, and environmental protection projects.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Causes Essential Medicines to Skyrocket in Tajikistan
The coronavirus pandemic is placing an additional strain on Tajikistan’s healthcare system. Due to the pandemic resulting in the grounding of most planes, cargo must be transported by rail and truck, which can take several days to reach Tajikistan. Many Tajik families requiring essential medicine to treat chronic illnesses unrelated to COVID-19 are unable to afford the higher prices due to the lack of supply within the country.
Politics and Economy
United States Participates in Three-Way Dialogue with Afghanistan and Uzbekistan
On May 27, the United States, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan participated in a three-way teleconference call. It is suspected that the United States will use this as a paradigm for conferences with Tajikistan and Turkmenistan to promote U.S. objectives in the region. The meeting was co-chaired by U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammed Haneef Atmar, and Uzbekistan Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov.
Dozens Injured as Fresh Clashes Erupt Along Kyrgyz-Uzbek Border
Dozens of people have been injured in the latest clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbek citizens in a disputed border region. The Kyrgyz Health Ministry said on June 1 that 25 Kyrgyz nationals had been injured in the clashes that erupted the day before near Uzbekistan's Sokh exclave in Kyrgyzstan's southern Batken region.
Kazakhstani Parliament’s Upper Chamber Approves Bill on ‘Parliamentary Opposition’
The upper chamber of Kazakhstan’s parliament, the Senate, has approved a draft law introducing the concept of opposition. This draft law was approved by the Senate on May 28. This bill is expected to be endorsed by Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev soon.
Armenian Prime Minister Tests Positive for COVID-19
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Monday said he had tested positive for COVID-19 speaking during a Facebook live video. He said that he decided to take a test prior to visiting the line of contact and that his family had also been infected.
U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State of Reaffirms Support for Georgian Sovereignty
U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State of European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker congratulated Georgia on its Independence Day and said that “the United States will always support Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.” He expressed support for Georgia’s democratic reforms and ongoing U.S.-Georgian economic ties.
Russia demands access to Georgia’s U.S.-built biomedical lab in Tbilisi
The Russian Foreign Ministry states they are waiting for a response from Tbilisi to allow Russian experts to enter the US-built Tbilisi Lugar Centre, which is currently under the full control of the Georgian government. While Russia claims that the center is being used by a foreign power for “military-biological activities,” the Georgian foreign ministry calls the allegations “groundless and false.”
Uzbekistan Detains Hizb ut-Tahrir Members and Affiliates
Uzbek law enforcement bodies detained Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) members and affiliates in the Ferghana Valley on May 28. The Ferghana Valley has functioned as fertile ground for the growth of various Islamist groups in Uzbekistan after gaining independence from the Soviet Union. HT is a terrorist organization and has been banned in many countries, so close monitoring of this organization is not without reason. However, there are also human rights concerns in the region, of religious Muslims being arrested on baseless charges of extremism.
Iranian and Turkmen Governments Reopen Borders on June 10th
On May 31, Iranian Ambassador to Ashgabat, Gholamreza Bagheri Moghaddam, stated Iran and Turkmenistan will open their borders on June 10. This is in response to the COVID-19 border closures. Moghaddam did not state if the border was opening to passengers or limited to the transaction of goods across borders.
(Sources: Agenda.ge, Azernews, Caspian News, Eurasianet, Reuters, RFE/RL, Times of Central Asia, U.S. Department of State and UZ Daily.)