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Kazakh Politicians Propose Prison Terms for Supporters of LGBT Rights

Some Kazakh politicians are in favor of imprisoning people for supporting LGBT rights and freedoms. Members of parliament Yedil Zhanbyrshin and Samat Musabayev are proposing an amendment to Article 174 of Kazakhstan's Criminal Code, which ostensibly concerns the 'incitement of discord'. Their idea, reports, is to add the phrase: "including by propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations." The penalties for violating this article range from fines of between $16,200 and $57,500, to a prison term of up to seven years. Zhanbyrshin and Musabayev claim that in Kazakhstani society, a traditional family means a man and a woman, and their children -- including adopted children. In turn, however, members of the Majilis (lower house of parliament) have emphasized that the word family, according to the law "On Marriage (Matrimony) and Family," relates to a circle of persons bound by property and personal non-property rights, and obligations arising from marriage. Two other members of the Majilis, Askhat Aimagambetov and Zhanarbek Ashimzhanov, from the Amanat Party, have proposed a ban on the media mentioning LGBT people, and to close or suspend any outlet that did. This amendment was also included in the draft law "On Mass Media," which is currently under consideration.

20,000 Families in Kyrgyzstan to Receive $1,100 Each for Entrepreneurship

Low-income families who receive cash benefits from the state will now be able to sign a social contract with the state - as long as recipients have a real business plan, according to a report by the Ministry of Labor, Social Security and Migration of Kyrgyzstan. As part of the fight against poverty in 2024, 20,000 families will enter a social contract with the state. According to the Ministry of Labor, priority will be given to those with three or more children or people with disabilities. The ministry emphasized that the money can also be allocated to families for the development of existing businesses. Businesses will need to comply with the state program, "One Village - One Product." "It is supposed to produce from local resources, develop skills of producers in terms of business management, marketing and expanding opportunities for product sales, promoting products in local and international markets, creating local brands and increasing the value of products," the Ministry of Economy and Commerce stated in describing the program. The "One Village - One Product" project has been underway in the Issyk-Kul region for many years and is showing good results. New jobs are being created and the region is seeing increased profits, including from exporting products abroad. Previously, this project was supported by Japanese humanitarian organizations working in Kyrgyzstan. "The project helps domestic entrepreneurs to produce quality certified products exclusively from local resources. Over the last six years, thanks to the project, local producers have signed 167 export contracts totaling 238 million som," ($2,670,000) the Ministry of Economy emphasized. The Ministry of Labor, in turn, said that over the past few years it has allocated money to 13,000 low-income families who have opened their own businesses. The project produces honey, natural juices and jams from local fruits, felt products, as well as meat products. "Income from the realization of business projects in 2023 helped to improve the lives of 55,400 people, of which 33,500 are children. Eighty percent of these children previously received a need-based allowance... Now, thanks to the Social Contract program, all families earn their own income and do not need government support," the Minister of Labor, Social Development and Migration, Gulnara Baatyrova said. According to the ministry, the majority of successfully implemented projects were in the Jalal-Abad and Osh regions. According to the Ministry of Economy and Commerce, 280 products have been developed over five years that are successfully sold in domestic and foreign markets. Many of these entrepreneurs' products, although not yet produced in large volumes, are supplied to Japan, China, South Korea, the U.S. and Europe.

Turkmenistan Using Almost All Available Water Resources With No Additions in Sight

Meteojournal has reported that Turkmenistan's State Statistics Committee has published a voluntary national review of its progress in implementing the global agenda for sustainable development until 2023 on its website. According to MeteoJournal, in 2021, almost all water resources in the country – 92% – went to agricultural needs. Another 5% was used by industry, and only 3% went to household needs. At the same time, Turkmenistan used almost all available fresh water resources, and due to increasing consumption, the country has no additional water sources. In 2016, the utilization rate of water resources reached 97.5%; in 2018, it had dropped to 89.9%, then in 2020 it reached 85.2%, and in 2021 -- 87.1 percent. Meteojournal stated that the increase in demand for fresh water can be met only through its rational use. According to the review, 95% of the population has access to clean and safe water, whilst 99.9% of the population uses water supply services organized in compliance with safety requirements. The share of safely treated wastewater in 2022 was 57.4%. Meteojournal, which familiarized itself with the review, noted that Turkmenistan - which possesses huge potential for using renewable energy sources such as solar and wind energy - is currently not harnessing its potential. The review mentioned the construction of a 10-megawatt (MW) hybrid power plant using solar and wind energy in Kyzil-Arvat. The project was planned to be completed in January 2024, but has yet to open, and local media haven't reported any updates on the pace and status of the work.

Over One Million Kazakhs Work Under the Radar

According to data, of the 9 million Kazakh citizens employed in the country in 2023, 1.1 million were 'working under the radar'. Most of those employed without any formal contracts - 617,200 men and 544,200 women - held low-level jobs including 496,900 in factories, shops and ateliers; 365,900 on private farms; 172,600 on land plots and 34,300 on construction sites. A further 29,300 worked in private homes, 24,800 used their own transport as taxis etc. and 15,000 earned a living in open markets and street vendor stalls. The overwhelming majority of the unofficially employed - some 343,800 people- had graduated from vocational courses at colleges and trade schools, whilst 260,100 were educated to secondary level. Workers in the sector with technical and professional education numbered 238,000. The fact that the talents and skills of such a vast proportion of Kazakh citizens is not officially recognized has a significant impact on their potential contribution to both the country's economy and society. Furthermore, by having to resort to working in this way, these individuals are deprived of stability in the workplace as well as opportunities for advancement and learning new skills. Kazakhstan is now actively seeking to recruit foreign specialists in science, healthcare, industry and IT to compensate for the domestic shortage of skilled labour but whilst this demonstrates the country's desire for development, it also raises questions concerning the provision of stable and decent positions for its own citizens.

Kyrgyzstan Continues to Combat Drug Shortages

Health Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic, Alymkadyr Beishenaliyev has told local media that hospitals are 70-80% stocked with medicines, with hospitals in the Issyk-Kul region suffering the worst from short supplies. "There is a list of vital medicines, which we provide 100%. But doctors prescribe drugs which I, a medic, have never heard of; these are scarce drugs. Doctors used to get bonuses from private pharmacies [for prescribing them] - we are fighting this and it is impossible to change it in a short time," Beishenaliyev said. Kyrgyzstan's medical trade union reported that the country's hospitals lacked basic medicines and basic drugs. As of today, 290 medical organizations have applied for the necessary drugs, but are yet to receive them. Earlier this week, the Times of Central Asia reported about the difficult situation concerning the availability of drugs. Minister Beishenaliyev emphasized that the government is working to ensure hospitals have all the necessary drugs for the second quarter of 2024, promising that the problem would be resolved by 15 April. However, the head of Kyrgyzstan's medical trade union, Bermet Baryktabasova, criticized the statement made by the minister, saying that antibiotics, hormones, diuretics, anti-epileptic, psychotropic, cardiac and anti-asthma drugs are needed every day. It's medically advisable to have a three-month supply on hand, she said, adding that intensive care units need these drugs every minute, not next quarter. This year, to ensure timely and quality medical care, the Compulsory Medical Insurance Fund (CMIF) allocated 443.7 million sum ($5 million) for the purchase of medicines and medical devices.

Uzbekistan’s Average Life Expectancy Increased to 74.7 Years in 2023

The average life expectancy for the population in Uzbekistan is increasing, according to the Statistics Agency of Uzbekistan. The average life expectancy of permanent residents of the Republic of Uzbekistan in 2023 was 74.7 years, up almost a half a year from the previous annual reading. According to the agency's report, Uzbek women live 4 years longer than men. Average life expectancy as of January 1, 2024, for women was 76.9 years, and for men, 72.5 years. The average life expectancy at the beginning of 2023 was 74.3 years, and this indicator corresponded to 76.6 years for women and 72.1 years for men. As of January 1, 2022, the average life expectancy of the population was 73.8 years, and at the beginning of 2021, it was 73.4 years old.

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