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Reproductive health important for youth in Kazakhstan, new UNFPA report says

  • Written by TCA

ASTANA (TCA) — The global trend towards smaller families is a reflection of people making reproductive choices to have as few or as many children as they want and when they want. When people lack choice, it can have a long-term impact on fertility rates, often making them higher or lower than what most people desire, according to The State of World Population 2018, published last week by UNFPA, the United Nations reproductive health agency.

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Kazakhstan ranks first in three parameters of World Economic Forum rating

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ASTANA (TCA) — The World Economic Forum has officially published the annual ranking of the Global Competitiveness Index 2018–2019. Among 140 countries, Kazakhstan occupies 59th place, which corresponds to the position of 2017, Kazakh Minister of National Economy Timur Suleimenov said at a press conference in Astana last week, the official website of the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan reported.

Read more: Kazakhstan ranks first in three parameters of World Economic Forum rating

Belarus suggests joint milk-processing project to Kyrgyzstan

  • Written by TCA

BISHKEK (TCA) — Belarus has suggested implementing a joint project to set up a milk-processing enterprise in Kyrgyzstan, Belarusian BelTA news agency reported with reference to Aleksei Bogdanov, head of the Central Office for Foreign Economic Activities of the Belarusian Agriculture and Food Ministry, after the eighth session of the Belarus-Kyrgyzstan intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation held in Bishkek on October 19.

Read more: Belarus suggests joint milk-processing project to Kyrgyzstan

In Kyrgyzstan, remembering the past can help mitigate disaster risks in the future

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BISHKEK (TCA) — International donors have been supporting the government of Kyrgyzstan in strengthening the country’s resilience to climate and natural disaster risks. We are republishing this article on the issue, originally published on the World Bank website:

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Weekly Digest of Central Asia

  • Written by TCA

BISHKEK (TCA) — The Publisher’s note: Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Central Asia was the scene of intense geopolitical struggle and the Great Game between the British and Russian Empires, and later between the Soviet Union and the West, over Afghanistan and neighboring territories. Into the 21st century, Central Asia has become the area of a renewed geopolitical interest, dubbed the New Great Game, largely based on the region’s hydrocarbon and mineral wealth. On top of that, the region now is perhaps the most important node in the implementation of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative through which Beijing aims to get direct access to Western markets. Every week thousands of news appears in the world’s printed and online media and many of them may escape the attention of busy readers. At The Times of Central Asia, we strongly believe that more information can better contribute to peaceful development and better knowledge of this unique region. So we are presenting this Weekly Digest which compiles what other media have reported on Central Asia over the past week.

KAZAKHSTAN

A Tough September for Kazakhstan's Banks

Banks in Kazakhstan continue experiencing problems with liquidity and non-performing loans

Oct 15 — “In mid-September, KASE, Kazakhstan’s Stock Exchange, halted trades for shares of Astana Banki, a mid-sized lender. The following week, on September 18, the Central Bank stripped Astana Banki’s license. The decision echoed actions taken against Eximbankand Qazaq Banki, which had their licenses revoked at the end of August.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2018/10/a-tough-september-for-kazakhstans-banks/

Kazakhstan’s uranium giant to list in London

The Kazakh government has for years been talking about undertaking a broad privatization program aimed at reducing the state’s overwhelming involvement in the economy and encouraging local investors to buy into national companies

Oct 15 — “Kazakhstan’s wholly state-owned uranium mining giant is capitalizing on high prices for its wares by announcing plans to list on the London Stock Exchange. The Financial Times reported on October 15 that Kazatomprom will sell off a 25 percent stake through an instrument called depository receipts. Rather than selling stock to investors directly, Kazatomprom will rely on a depositary bank that will hold the asset while selling certificates.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kazakhstans-uranium-giant-to-list-in-london

Kazakhstan laborers head to South Korea for a better life

Despite the government’s reports on economic growth in Kazakhstan, many Kazakh citizens that failed to find good job opportunities at home have moved abroad to earn their living

Oct 17 — “Labor migration in Central Asia is most typically associated with the region’s economically weaker nations — Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. But as Kazakhstan has struggled in recent years amid a slump in global oil prices, its nationals too have looked overseas for employment prospects in low-skilled sectors. South Korea has been a particularly strong draw.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/20381-kazakhstan-laborers-head-to-south-korea-for-a-better-life

Kazakhstan building the Great Financial Silk Road: hub by hub

Kazakhstan’s Astana International Financial Center (AIFC) has the potential to become an essential pillar on the new Silk Road and a financial bridge between China and Europe

Oct 19 — “During the Astana Financial Days event in July 2018, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan announced and personally endorsed the opening of the Astana International Financial Center (AIFC). He envisions that the AIFC will provide financial services “not only for Kazakhstan, but also for the whole world.” If successful, the AIFC can contribute to diversifying the financial resources for Kazakhstan’s national and international projects.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/20391-kazakhstan-building-the-great-financial-silk-road-hub-by-hub

KYRGYZSTAN

Energy challenges in Kyrgyzstan: debt repayment and management optimization

Kyrgyzstan has huge hydro power resources but lacks money to build new hydro power plants

Oct 14 — “The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague will consider Russia’s RusHydro Public JSC claim against Kyrgyzstan’s Government to return $37 million spent for the construction of the Upper Naryn hydropower plants cascade in the Central Asian country.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/20368-energy-challenges-in-kyrgyzstan-debt-repayment-and-management-optimization

Kyrgyzstan: State textbooks embrace post-truth, post-grammar ethos

Kyrgyzstan’s degrading secondary-school system is now facing a new problem — this time with the provision of quality textbooks

Oct 16 — “Misspellings galore, out-of-date facts and stolen pictures. This and more awaits children in Kyrgyzstan receiving the latest batch of state school textbooks. The books, which are rented out to pupils by government schools, have been created for the 11-to-13 age range and were partly financed with aid provided by the World Bank.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kyrgyzstan-state-textbooks-embrace-post-truth-post-grammar-ethos

Billions stolen from state. Financial police tell about main corruption schemes

Corruption and the shadow economy are among the most serious problems facing the Kyrgyz economy

Oct 17 — “The Chief of Staff of the State Service for Combating Economic Crimes (SSCEC), Azamat Mambetov, in an interview with 24.kg news agency told which agencies had most of all corruption violations and why businessmen pay off debts to the state directly to the budget, and not through a special account.” READ MORE: https://24.kg/english/99055_Billions_stolen_from_state_Financial_police_tell_about_main_corruption_schemes/

Blackpool FC, a Kyrgyzstan money-laundering conviction and a non-takeover

In 2007, Latvian banker Valeri Belokon operated a bank in Kyrgyzstan, named Manas, and had a business partnership with Maxim Bakiyev, the son of the then President, Kurmanbek Bakiyev

Oct 18 — “When the Latvian bank mogul Valeri Belokon won his landmark high court case against the Blackpool owner, Owen Oyston, last November, it seemed finally to deliver the means of ending Oyston’s long, toxic tenure at Bloomfield Road. Yet nearly a year on Oyston remains in charge despite the ruling that he “illegitimately stripped” the club of £26.77m after its one jackpot season in the Premier League, and must pay that huge sum to Belokon, plus the Latvian’s original £4.5m investment and costs.” READ MORE: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/oct/18/blackpool-takeover-valeri-belokon-owen-oyston

TAJIKISTAN

Putting An End To 20 Years Of Death Along The Tajik-Uzbek Border

Under agreements reached during Uzbek President Mirziyoev's visit to Tajikistan in March, the Tajik-Uzbek border area should be cleared of land mines by the end of 2019

Oct 13 — “There was more good news in Tajik-Uzbek relations on October 6, when the head of the Tajik president's Center for Strategic Research, Hudoyberdy Holiqnazar, announced demining work had started along the border with Uzbekistan.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/putting-an-end-to-20-years-of-death-along-the-tajik-uzbek-border/29541805.html

Submission on Tajikistan to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

Violence against women remains pervasive in Tajik society today, Human Rights Watch says

Oct 15 — “This submission summarizes Human Rights Watch’s concerns regarding the government of Tajikistan’s compliance with its obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.” READ MORE: https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/10/15/submission-tajikistan-united-nations-committee-elimination-discrimination-against

Tajikistan attracted $ 5 billion for five years in economy

China remains the main creditor and investor in the Tajik economy

Oct 17 — “Over $ 5 billion foreign investment has entered the Tajik economy over the past five years. As many as $ 2 billion came from foreign direct investment. Such statistics was given by President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon at the International Business Forum opened in Dushanbe.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/139191.html

TURKMENISTAN

Turkmenistan: Back in the Gazprom groove?

In its ‘Akhal-Teke: A Turkmenistan Bulletin’, Eurasianet reviews the main news and events in the Central Asian country for the previous week

Oct 16 — “The head of Russian natural gas behemoth Gazprom traveled to Turkmenistan this week and indicated that Moscow would resume buying fuel from Ashgabat from next January. No details were provided about the volumes under discussion, but Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller said he expected that "agreements [regarding such sales] will be achieved very soon.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/turkmenistan-back-in-the-gazprom-groove

Due to a shortage of basic groceries residents from provinces flee Turkmenistan

As Turkmenistan is experiencing an economic crisis, some residents have departed for Russia, Turkey and even Cyprus

Oct 17 — “Correspondents of “Chronicles of Turkmenistan” report that due to growing problems with flour and bread supply, residents form the provinces are fleeing the country. An increasing number of abandoned privately-owned houses can be identified in Tazabazar etrap of Mary velayat, as well as in Bairamali, Ioleten, Turkmengal and Murgab etraps.” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2018/10/due-to-a-shortage-of-basic-groceries-residents-from-provinces-flee-turkmenistan/

Iran-Turkmenistan Gas Dispute in Arbitration: Official

Since Turkmenistan stopped natural gas supplies to Iran, China is now the only buyer of Turkmen fuel

Oct 17 — “An Iranian deputy minister said the dispute between Iran and Turkmenistan over natural gas trade has gone to arbitration, noting that both sides have filed lawsuits against each other. In an interview with Tasnim, deputy oil minister and managing director of the National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC) Hamid Reza Araqi said Tehran and Ashgabat have brought lawsuits against each other, saying the international arbitration court is hearing the two cases.” READ MORE: https://www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2018/10/17/1854963/iran-turkmenistan-gas-dispute-in-arbitration-official

UZBEKISTAN

On the reform path: Uzbekistan opens up after years of isolation

Uzbekistan was until recently one of the world's most isolated countries, with institutionalised forced labour on its cotton fields, an appalling torture record, and restricted individual freedoms. But the country is opening up now

Oct 14 — “On September 25, friendly staff at Uzbekistan's Supreme Court warmly greeted dozens of guests, among them journalists, foreign diplomats and members of the international community, allowing the visitors to take photographs of the building's impressive interior. The atmosphere was festive and open, and yet surreal. Until recently, the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan was a heavily guarded place whose name invoked little more than fear.” READ MORE: https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/reform-path-uzbekistan-opens-years-isolation-181014092246543.html

Uzbekistan and Russia: Chilly weather, warm relations

Tashkent is now changing its attitude to Russia, which was rather cold and distant under late President Islam Karimov. The question is how far Uzbekistan will go in its improving relationship with Moscow

Oct 18 — “The capital of Uzbekistan has gone Russian for the week – even the weather has turned cold and snowy. Tashkent is decked out in red-blue-and-white flags. Roads in the center are lined with billboards carrying the words: “Welcome Russian friends!” Even buses have been emblazoned with the flags of Russia and Uzbekistan – an unprecedented sight.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/20386-uzbekistan-and-russia-chilly-weather-warm-relations

Russia and Uzbekistan launch work on nuclear power plant

Nuclear power will free up natural gas for more lucrative usage in Uzbekistan — such as chemicals production and export

Oct 19 — “Russia and Uzbekistan began preliminary work on Friday on the first Uzbek nuclear power plant, a project Moscow estimates will cost $11 billion. The plant, to be largely financed by a soft loan from Russia, will allow Uzbekistan to use more of its natural gas for other purposes such as chemicals production or export.” READ MORE: https://www.reuters.com/article/uzbekistan-russia-putin-nuclear/update-2-russia-and-uzbekistan-launch-work-on-nuclear-power-plant-idUSL8N1WZ3LI

PRESIDENTS ATTENDED UZBEKISTAN – RUSSIA FIRST INTERREGIONAL COOPERATION FORUM

Economic cooperation between Russian and Uzbekistani regions has received a strong impetus during Putin’s visit to Tashkent

Oct 19 — “More than a thousand representatives of Russia, heads of regions, managers of leading companies and industrial enterprises, and other business structures, are taking part in the forum that has been opened at Uzexpocentre. The President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev and the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin attended this forum.” READ MORE: http://www.jahonnews.uz/en/politika/312/49296/

AFGHANISTAN

For Afghanistan, Parliamentary Elections Are Another Step on the Rocky Road to Democracy

The disagreements arising from this year's parliamentary elections will complicate Afghanistan's presidential election in 2019 and hinder the deepening of democracy in the country, Stratfor believes

Oct 17 — “For Afghanistan, the upcoming parliamentary elections will be a key test on its war-ravaged path to democracy. On Oct. 20, the South Asian country will elect members for most of the seats in the lower house of parliament. The polls were originally scheduled for 2015 but have been repeatedly delayed due to the inability of the National Unity Government between President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah to implement key electoral reforms. READ MORE: https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/afghanistan-parliamentary-elections-are-another-step-rocky-road-democracy?id=87179e919a&e=600669d279&uuid=d7e46ebd-6a8f-42b6-a332-2a3de84ea59c&utm_source=Daily+Brief&utm_campaign=f3c9283023-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_10_17_12_20&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_87179e919a-f3c9283023-53490981&mc_cid=f3c9283023&mc_eid=[UNIQID]

Why Won’t the US Leave Afghanistan?

Analyst believes that President Trump seems to have accepted that the risks of withdrawal outweigh the costs of perpetuating a military commitment to a conflict without a coherent plan to end it

Oct 17 — “During the past few months, many foreign policy analysts have overlooked a series of troubling reports from America’s war in Afghanistan. In late July, the New York Times reported that the Trump administration has been pushing Afghan security forces to withdraw from “vast stretches of the country.” Moreover, in the last few weeks, the Afghan government sustained significant losses defending territory in four districts from the Taliban, and Kabul has stopped reporting the number of deaths of its soldiers because the losses in many districts have become unsustainable.” READ MORE: http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/why-wont-us-leave-afghanistan

Why and How Russia is poised to strengthen its Afghan Role

Russia’s policy aims at containing the American penetration into the Central Asia region and preventing the Central Asian countries from radical Islamic influences and drugs generating from Afghanistan

Oct 17 — “After the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and the USSR’s subsequent disintegration, Russia seemed neither interested in nor capable of securing a pro-Moscow regime in Kabul as was seen during the Cold War. In a move aimed at safeguarding its strategic back yard (Central Asia) from the rising menaces of drug trafficking and Islamic fundamentalism (non-conventional threats) emerging from Afghanistan, Russia accepted the American presence (a conventional threat) in the region post-9/11.” READ MORE: https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2018/10/17/why-and-how-russia-is-poised-to-strengthen-its-afghan-role/

There’s No Path to Victory in Afghanistan

The main problem was that the U.S. officers and officials running Afghan policy didn’t know much about Afghanistan — analyst says

Oct 18 — “This month, for the first time, the U.S. armed forces are recruiting young men and women who weren’t yet born when the invasion of Afghanistan took place. The war has been going on for 17 years now (17-year-olds can enlist with parental consent), making it the longest war in American history. Yet we are no closer than we have ever been to accomplishing our objectives, in part because those objectives have been so sketchily, inconsistently, and unrealistically defined.” READ MORE: https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/10/afghanistan-war-end-negotiation-taliban-isis-al-qaida.html

WORLD

Opinion: What does China want from its partners in Central Asia?

What China wants in Central Asia is regional peace and prosperity rather than expansion and confrontation in the region

Oct 14 — “Chinese Primer Li Keqiang concluded his visit to Tajikistan by calling for more solidarity and cooperation in various fields between China and its Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) partners in order to oppose any form of unilateralism and protectionism. This was also the strong consensus of the SCO Heads of Government Council meeting held in Dushanbe. The SCO has developed to become a comprehensive regional organization with the biggest population and territory in the world.” READ MORE: https://news.cgtn.com/news/3d3d514f3055444f7a457a6333566d54/share_p.html

Russia Claims Threat of US ‘Biological Weapons Program’ in Several Former Soviet Republics

Since the late 1990s, when the United States first established partnerships in biological studies with several former Soviet republics, Moscow has repeatedly suggested that such cooperation represented a threat to Russia

Oct 18 — “Major General Igor Kirillov, the commander of Russia’s Radiological, Chemical and Biological Defense Troops, stated, on October 4, that renewed construction is occurring at a series of alleged biological laboratories in Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, purportedly being financed by the United States. Most likely, Kirillov claimed, “under the guise of peaceful research, [the US] is building up its military-biological potential” (RIA Novosti, October 4).” READ MORE: https://jamestown.org/program/russia-claims-threat-of-us-biological-weapons-program-in-several-former-soviet-republics/

New York hosts exhibition of Kazakhstan art group

  • Written by TCA

ASTANA (TCA) — A retrospective exhibition “Collection of Thoughts: Creating Stories” of the Kazakh art group Kyzyl Tractor, which is part of the Focus Kazakhstan project and the special program of Asia Contemporary Art Week, is taking place in New York between October 14 and November 30, the official website of the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan reports.

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Uzbekistan: Putin and Mirziyoev launch construction of nuclear power plant

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TASHKENT (TCA) — Russian President Vladimir Putin and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev have launched the construction of a nuclear power plant in Uzbekistan's western region of Navoi, which Moscow estimates will cost $11 billion, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported.

The two presidents pressed a symbolic button together at a ceremony in a conference hall in Tashkent on October 19 to mark the start of a geological survey to decide a location for what would be Uzbekistan's first nuclear power plant.

Putin said earlier in the day after holding talks with Mirziyoev that the construction of the facility, the first concrete of which Uzbekistan plans to pour by 2020, will create "a new industry in Uzbekistan."

"Two reactors with a capacity of 2.4-megawatts will produce cheap and clean electricity for customers in Uzbekistan and Central Asian countries, which will ensure energetic stability not only for Uzbekistan but for the whole region," Putin said.

The plant is the first of its kind in Central Asia, where attitudes toward nuclear power were influenced by the dramatic consequences of the Soviet-era Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in Kazakhstan's northeast and the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant accident in Ukraine.

The trip is Putin's first state visit to Uzbekistan since Mirziyoev took power following the death of his predecessor, Islam Karimov, in 2016.

Mirziyoev said that he and Putin discussed bilateral military technical cooperation and regional security.

"A detailed exchange of opinions has taken place on countering terrorism, extremism, and especially the radicalization of youth," Mirziyoev said.

Putin said that Russia supports Uzbekistan's "active participation" in talks on Afghanistan.

"We consider it important [for Uzbekistan to take part in peace talks in Afghanistan] to curb threats posed by that country linked to the spread of terrorism, drug trafficking, and organized crime," Putin said.

Several documents, including a plan of Russian-Uzbek cooperation for 2019-2024, a memorandum on cooperation in oil and gas sectors, a program on cultural and humanitarian cooperation, and other agreements were signed during Putin's visit.

Kyrgyzstan: Former President Atambayev's associate added to wanted list on corruption charges

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BISHKEK (TCA) — An associate of former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev, Ikramjan Ilmiyanov, has been charged in absentia with corruption and added to a list of wanted persons in Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported.

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EBRD to finance new solar power plant construction in Kazakhstan

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ASTANA (TCA) — The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is supporting a new solar plant with up to 28 MW capacity in southern Kazakhstan, a country which leads in the field of solar power generation in Central Asia. The respective loan and project support agreements were signed on October 18, the Bank said.

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First EIB loans to Uzbekistan support water infrastructure, energy efficiency

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TASHKENT (TCA) — The Republic of Uzbekistan and the European Investment Bank (EIB) have opened a new chapter in their relationship by signing two landmark loans that will be beneficial to both the country and the environment, the Delegation of the European Union to Uzbekistan said on October 17.

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Finland to invest in Kazakhstan

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ASTANA (TCA) — President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, during his visit to Finland on October 16, met with representatives of leading Finnish companies, such as Nokia, Wartsila, Vaisala, Metso, Koja, and Nurminen Logistics. Following the visit, more than 20 commercial and non-commercial documents were signed for a total amount of $545 million, Kazakh Invest national investment support and promotion company reported.

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Uzbekistan and Russia: Chilly weather, warm relations

  • Written by EurasiaNet

TASHKENT (TCA) — Tashkent is now changing its attitude to Russia, which was rather cold and distant under late President Islam Karimov. The question is how far Uzbekistan will go in its improving relationship with Moscow. We are republishing this article on the issue, originally published by Eurasianet:

The capital of Uzbekistan has gone Russian for the week – even the weather has turned cold and snowy.

Tashkent is decked out in red-blue-and-white flags. Roads in the center are lined with billboards carrying the words: “Welcome Russian friends!” Even buses have been emblazoned with the flags of Russia and Uzbekistan – an unprecedented sight.

This outpouring of Russophilia is in anticipation of President Vladimir Putin’s two-day visit, which begins on October 18. The expected headline takeaway from his stay will be the signing of $20 billion worth of commercial contracts.

The late Uzbek leader, Islam Karimov, who died in September 2016, was never an enthusiastic comrade for Moscow, so the bonhomie is being interpreted by some observers as a historic turn by Tashkent. A more sanguine reading is that President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is cultivating equally warm ties with all and sundry in his ongoing mission to pull his nation out of its long-standing isolation.

One area of notable cooperation is defense. Ahead of Putin’s visit, his defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, was accompanied to Tashkent last week by a large military delegation. He came away with an agreement on the mutual access to one another’s airspace by military aircraft. Shoigu said this was needed “to jointly confront challenges and threats, especially the spread of international terrorism in the region.”

This fits an established pattern.

Last April, an agreement was signed between Russia and Uzbekistan on expanding military-technical cooperation, which envisions the mutual supply of military wares, the maintenance and repair of weapons and military equipment, and assistance in research and development.

Uzbekistan has also recently resumed sending military personnel to be trained at army colleges in Russia – an arrangement that was ended in 2012. This year, 340 Uzbek officers enrolled at the colleges.

And Russia has been supplying weapons to Uzbekistan at reduced prices since 2016. Uzbekistan is the only non-member of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization, or CSTO, to enjoy that privilege.

This has some suspecting that Uzbekistan may break from form and begin to show interest in Moscow-led bodies.

“I would not rule out the possibility of efforts being made to draw Uzbekistan into the CSTO and the Eurasian Economic Union. It seems that Mirziyoyev is shifting from the position occupied by Karimov, who distanced his country from these organizations,” political analyst Alisher Ilkhamov told Eurasianet.

Perhaps the most significant development to occur this week will be the start of a project to build an $11 billion atomic power plant. Putin and Mirziyoyev will travel to the construction site near Tudakul lake, just east of Bukhara, on October 19.

The deal underpinning the project, which is being jointly executed with Russian state-run nuclear power company Rosatom, was signed in Moscow in September. The 2.4-gigawatt power station is slated to come online in 2028.

That is a colossal amount of electricity, but not everybody is happy.

“Does Uzbekistan even need an atomic power plant? I can still remember the Chernobyl accident. Maybe it is better to invest in alternative power, [the resources for] which we have enough of. Karimov would not have allowed this,” 63-year-old retiree Nuriddin Khamrayev told Eurasianet.

Shukhrat Ganiyev, a political analyst from Bukhara, likewise said that his fellow Bukharans are concerned and unhappy about the prospect of living so close to a nuclear power plant. An unscientific poll conducted by Ganiyev among local residents revealed widespread anxiety.

“Our city gets freshwater from Tudakul, so what is the sense of building an atomic plant so close to this ancient city? This issue needs to be discussed in society, in the media and on social media. Why are Uzbekistan’s environmental activists silent?” Ganiyev said.

Another large Russian project will entail resuming the construction of an astronomical observatory on the Suffa plateau, a high-altitude spot around four hours’ drive south of Tashkent. It is believed the observatory, begun in late-Soviet times and then discontinued, will house the world’s largest radio telescope. The signing of a roadmap on this undertaking is on the agenda during Putin’s visit.

Even though Karimov adopted a cool stance toward Russia, it was not the same for many of his countrymen, millions of whom were forced by necessity to travel there for work. With bureaucracy complicated for those migrant laborers, large numbers risked legal trouble by working without the proper authorization. Under Karimov, authorities turned a blind eye to all this.

Mirziyoyev has taken a radically different tack and focused much of his diplomacy with Russia on easing work-registration requirements for Uzbeks. His government is coordinating more closely with Russia’s Federal Migration Service and has opened several new consulates to better assist expatriates.

The payoff has been impressive. In 2017, labor migrants from Uzbekistan transferred $3.9 billion from Russia to their homeland. That was 42 percent more than the year before.

Mirziyoyev wants to see other areas of the economy benefit from this cordiality too. The goal is for trade turnover to hit $5 billion this year. Already in the first seven months of 2018, trade turnover increased by 32 percent compared with the same period in 2017. Russia's share of foreign trade with Uzbekistan stands at 18 percent.

That is a lot, but Russia is nonetheless second to China, and that’s an important distinction.

Indeed, analyst Rafael Sattarov believes it is unlikely Uzbekistan will join the Eurasian Economic Union, not least as the government has made no changes to its foreign policy concept since August 2012.

“[The document] clearly states that the country will not join military blocs and integration associations that hinder sovereignty, or integration projects in the post-Soviet space that hinder relations with third countries,” Sattarov explained.

So even if Russia is courting Uzbekistan eagerly, the likelihood for the time being is that Tashkent will avoid forging any exclusive relationships. Mirziyoyev earlier this month traveled to Paris, his first official trip to a member of the European Union, and he was in India a few days before that. In May, he met with Donald Trump at the White House. His first state visit outside the former Soviet space was to China, in May 2017.

Nigara Khidoyatova, an independent politician who has lived for several years in the United States, said that despite the positive dynamic in Russian-Uzbek ties, the broader trend is toward maintaining relations among all the country’s major partners on an equal footing.

“For now, Shavkat Mirziyoyev is […] trying to keep a balance between the three strong players – China, the United States and Russia. That much was demonstrated by the president’s visits to the West,” Khidoyatova said.

Turkmenistan launches major gas chemical plant in Kiyanly

  • Written by TCA

ASHGABAT (TCA) — President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov on October 17 attended the opening ceremony of the Kiyanly Gas Chemical Complex for production of polyethylene and polypropylene. He pressed the button that launched the production process at the facility, the State News Agency of Turkmenistan reported.

This major investment project worth over 3.4 billion US dollars was implemented by Turkmengas State Concern together with foreign partners, Korea’s LG International Corp and Hyundai Engineering, and Japan’s TOYO Engineering Corporation. The trilateral contract was signed during the official visit by President Berdymuhamedov to Japan in 2013.

The production capacity of the new complex was designed to process 5 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year, thus allowing for the production of 381 thousand tons of high-density polyethylene, 81 thousand tons of polypropylene and other valuable products, as well as for the obtaining of up to 4.5 billion cubic meters of marketable gas that will be distributed to gas pipeline systems and used as a fuel.

The plant was provided with the modern equipment purchased in Japan, the Republic of Korea, the USA, the UK, Belgium, Germany, and Denmark. It has four main technological facilities: for gas separation, for ethane processing and for polyethylene and polypropylene production. All technological processes are automated and function under centralized control.

The plant will launch the production of high-density polyethylene, a new product for Turkmenistan.

The project for the construction of the Kiyanly Gas Chemical Complex received the TXF Award (UK) as one of the best ECA-backed projects in Europe and Eurasia in 2014.

The total value of loan agreements signed by the State Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs of Turkmenistan with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, the Export-Import Bank of Korea and the syndicate of participating financial institutions of Japan, Germany, France, Korea, China, Italy, Austria and Switzerland to finance the project exceeds 2.5 billion US dollars.

Kazakhstan to increase rail cargo transit between China and Finland

  • Written by TCA

ASTANA (TCA) — On October 16, during the visit of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev to Finland, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ) national railways company and Finland’s Koulova Innovation Oy (Kouvola city) and Nurminen Logistics Services signed an agreement on the development of container traffic, the press office of KTZ said.

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Kazakhstan holds Kostanay Invest-2018 Regional Investment Forum

  • Written by TCA

ASTANA (TCA) — Kostanay Invest-2018 Regional Investment Forum was held on October 12 in Kostanay in northern Kazakhstan. The forum was attended by Saparbek Tuyakbayev, Chairman of the Board of Kazakh Invest national investment support and promotion agency, who informed the participants on measures taken to attract investment and state support, Kazakh Invest reported on its website.

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OSCE office in Tajikistan supports economic connectivity in Central Asia

  • Written by TCA

DUSHANBE (TCA) — The OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe contributed to the development of regional economic connectivity by supporting the annual International Economic Forum “Sughd-2018” which took place on 11 October 2018 in Khujand, northern Tajikistan. This year, the forum was dedicated to the achievements and tenth anniversary of the Free Economic Zones (FEZs) in Tajikistan.

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Kazakhstan laborers head to South Korea for a better life

  • Written by Almaz Kumenov

ASTANA (TCA) — Despite the government’s reports on economic growth in Kazakhstan, many Kazakh citizens that failed to find good job opportunities at home have moved abroad to earn their living. We are republishing this article on the issue, written by Almaz Kumenov, originally published by Eurasianet:

Labor migration in Central Asia is most typically associated with the region’s economically weaker nations — Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

But as Kazakhstan has struggled in recent years amid a slump in global oil prices, its nationals too have looked overseas for employment prospects in low-skilled sectors. South Korea has been a particularly strong draw.

Edil Soranbayev, 34, is one of thousands breaking the stereotype of the Kazakh abroad as big-spending property-buyer or a leisure tourist. Last year he left Almaty, Kazakhstan’s business capital, to settle in Boryeong, a city of around 100,000 people on Korea’s Yellow Sea. He lives and works illegally on a building site, ever-vigilant for the migration officials in search of foreigners without papers.

When Soranbayev was back in Almaty, he worked as a cook in a restaurant. A decade ago, he took out a large loan to buy a plot of land outside Almaty on which to build a home.

Since then, the Kazakh tenge has taken several deep tumbles against the dollar, heavily exposing those who took out foreign currency-denominated credit.

On his salary, Soranbayev found himself unable to pay back the loan. In Korea, he makes no less than $100 a day.

“When oil cost more than $100 [a barrel], Kazakhstan’s economy was growing stably and we had good salaries, which made it possible to make big purchases and travel often. Now we have tightened our belts,” Soranbayev told Eurasianet in a telephone interview.

Kazakhstan’s good times dried up in 2015, when global oil prices fell. But a slim lifeline had appeared around the same time for those willing to work abroad. In the summer of 2014, Kazakhstan and South Korea reached an agreement to mutually scrap visa requirements for short-term visitors.

As Rashida Shaikenova, head of the Kazakhstan Tourism Association, explained to Eurasianet, South Koreans had hoped to tap into demand for medical tourism. Korea is among the most favored destinations for people in Kazakhstan seeking good-quality health treatment overseas.

Seoul received another kind of visitor, however. Many Kazakhs would travel to Korea pretending to be visitors, and then look for work and overstay the 30-day limit.

Over the past couple of years, the number of Kazakh citizens caught violating Korean migration laws increased 15-fold, according to officials in Seoul. The Foreign Ministry in Astana estimates that almost 12,000 Kazakhs are working in South Korea illegally.

The Koreans have in response tightened rules for visiting Kazakhs. It is now obligatory for tourists from Kazakhstan to clearly document their reason for traveling and to provide additional paperwork, such as return tickets and invitations from medical clinics or tourist agencies. And even then, privately owned visa-assistance services warn that migration officials in Seoul still reserve the right to deny entry.

Shaikenova, who visited South Korea in December, says working-age men making the trip draw suspicion on arrival.

“Around me on the plane I saw many smartly dressed men, and there were Uzbeks among them too,” she said. “This was a result of the widely circulating rumor that you need to impress with your external appearance if you stand a chance of being allowed in.”

The Foreign Ministry in Astana has said that more than 5,000 Kazakh nationals were denied entry into South Korea last year alone.

For those that get in, life is hard. Without proper documentation, laborers are forced to live in crude accommodation — in basements and on building sites.

And then there is constant fear of being caught. Soranbayev said that migration inspectors usually execute raids at job centers, in train stations and on building sites in large cities. Boryeong is relatively less stressful as police there are not in the habit of checking documents, he said.

“I send money home every month to my two daughters and I pay my bank loans. For that, it is worth enduring this hardship,” he said.

The most recent indicators coming out of Kazakhstan suggest a corner has been turned on the economic front, but a series of slumps has established a trend that may be hard to halt or reverse. Official data show how, since 2012, more people are leaving Kazakhstan than entering. Those figures document permanent migration and likely do not capture the phenomenon of labor migration, but the underlying causes are related.

Authorities insist there is enough work to go around, pointing out that unemployment in 2017 was no more than 5 percent. But independent observers are unconvinced by this rosy picture.

Economist Denis Krivosheyev told Eurasianet that the effectiveness and competitiveness of Kazakh companies is “so low that only top managers are getting decent salaries.” Average monthly salaries in Kazakhstan are around $500.

Most jobs only exist because of direct or indirect support from the government, Krivosheyev said.

“Two-thirds of jobs are somehow or other affiliated with the government. This means private companies are either servicing government structures or in turn servicing those that service the state system,” said Krivosheyev, citing research from the Talap Center for Applied Research, itself affiliated with the government.

The socio-economic situation is perhaps best illustrated by the level of indebtedness among the population. According to National Bank figures from August, Kazakhs owed banks a total of 3.1 trillion tenge ($8.4 billion) – a startling figure for a nation of 18 million people. Moreover, according to research from 2017, every tenth person was unable to make repayments on their loans.

Kazakh laborers in South Korea bemoan their inability to get good jobs closer to home. This plaintive message was explicitly voiced in a much-watched video created earlier this year by a worker in a factory in the city of Ansan, just outside Seoul.

In the footage, which was uploaded to YouTube by the Life KZ blogging platform, the young man is seen walking around his place of employment at nighttime as colleagues busily work around him. The man explains that while Korean nationals sit in offices, Central Asians and laborers from other countries, like Nepal, Thailand and Myanmar, are doing all the hard work.

“I want to show you this factory so that even in Kazakhstan they might also create similar workplaces. If we had work in our country, do you think we would leave behind our wives, children and parents?” asks the man.

Kazakhstan’s economic diplomacy to attract investment, FM says

  • Written by TCA

ASTANA (TCA) — Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov has announced that the tools of economic diplomacy will be used to attract investment, develop the non-primary sector of the economy, ensure export-oriented industrialization and implement the transport, logistics, tourism and agro-industrial potential of the country. This was stated on October 16 at the meeting on the implementation of the President's State of the Nation Address “Growing Welfare of Kazakh Citizens: Increase in Income and Quality of Life” at the Kazakh Foreign Ministry, the ministry reported.

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EBRD commits €333 million to support infrastructure upgrades in Uzbekistan

  • Written by TCA

TASHKENT (TCA) — Following the adoption of a new country strategy for Uzbekistan, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is providing funds for the development of sustainable solutions for the municipal and power infrastructure sectors in the country, the Bank said on October 16.

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EBRD appoints the Bank’s new managing director for Central Asia

  • Written by TCA

ASTANA (TCA) — Bruno Balvanera has been appointed new European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Managing Director, Central Asia. In this position he will be responsible for one of the most geographically diverse regions of the Bank’s operations, with current commitments close to US$ 13.5 billion (€11.6 billion), the Bank said on October 16.

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US musical group Humming House tours Turkmenistan

  • Written by TCA

ASHGABAT (TCA) — The U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat has announced that the American musical group Humming House will be visiting Turkmenistan between October 24 and 31 for a series of workshops and concerts throughout the Central Asian country.

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Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation interested in Kazakhstan infrastructure projects

  • Written by TCA

ASTANA (TCA) — A project to create a multimodal hub on the basis of the International Airport in Astana was presented to Mitsubishi Corporation during a meeting in Astana last week between Toru Yasuda, director of Mitsubishi Corporation branch in Kazakhstan, and Alzhan Braliyev, director of Kazakh Invest office in Astana. The meeting was also attended by representatives of Astana Invest city center for development of investment and Astana Technopolis special economic zone management company, Kazakh Invest national investment support and promotion company reported on its website.

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