Weekly Digest of Central Asia


BISHKEK (TCA) — The Publisher’s note: Central Asia is an important geopolitical area between Europe, Russia and China. It is in Central Asia that world powers have confronted each other for centuries; it is here that China needs to succeed with its new Silk Road Belt for direct access to the Western markets; and it is here that a large wealth of raw materials has its origin. Every week thousands of news appears all over the world in printed and online media and it is quite understandable that 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 the region, and for this reason we are presenting this Weekly Digest of Central Asia which compiles what other media have reported during the past week.


Copper and the Making of Kazakhstan’s New Metal Moguls

Copper, one of the major export items of Kazakhstan along with crude oil, has outperformed other major commodities and this has had a decisive effect in reshuffling Kazakhstan’s richest people

July 10 — “What seemed to be a widespread disease impacting commodity prices turned out to be a selective virus, against which some commodities proved immune, at least in the long run. The performance of copper prices over the last few months has contributed to the changing landscape of Kazakhstan’s richest people.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/07/copper-and-the-making-of-kazakhstans-new-metal-moguls/

Astana Expo 2017 a solid platform to boost Malaysia-Kazakhstan trade ties

Kazakhstan regards Malaysia as an important trade and economic partner in Southeast Asia, as Malaysia is ready to cooperate with Kazakhstan in the renewable energy sector

July 10 — “The Astana Expo 2017 is an excellent platform to develop a stronger trade relationship and potential cooperation in the field of green energy between Malaysia and the Republic of Kazakhstan as well as other 114 participating countries in the international event.” READ MORE: https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2017/07/256219/astana-expo-2017-solid-platform-boost-malaysia-kazakhstan-trade-ties

Kazakhstan Set to Drift Away from OPEC Deal

As oil production at Kazakhstan’s giant Kashagan field grows, the country has no choice but gradually increase oil production in spite of its OPEC production-cut commitments

July 10 — “Kazakhstan is, as expected, bracing to drift away from its role in the OPEC oil production cap in the coming two months. Energy Minister Kanat Bozumbayev said at an industry conference in Istanbul over the weekend that Kazakhstan’s withdrawal from its pledge to the cap will take place gradually, Russian news agency TASS reported.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/84296

Does Kazakhstan’s New Law on Revoking Citizenship Matter?

The new Kazakh law obviously targets opposition figures in exile, such as tycoon Mukhtar Ablyazov, but it can also be used to help supress dissent inside the country

July 12 — “As expected, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed into law a bill that allows the government to strip Kazakhs convicted of a range of crimes — mostly terrorism and security-related — of their citizenship.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/07/does-kazakhstans-new-law-on-revoking-citizenship-matter/

Kazakhstan’s biggest banks merge in effort to stabilise system

After the takeover, Halyk Bank will control almost 37 percent of Kazakhstan’s banking market, as Kazakh banks still struggle with non-performing loans since the 2008 financial crisis

July 13 — “Kazakhstan’s largest bank has swallowed up its biggest rival in a $560m deal that policymakers hope will stabilise the country’s fragile banking sector. Halyk Bank, owned by Timur Kulibayev and his wife Dinara, daughter of the country’s strongman president Nursultan Nazarbayev, announced on Wednesday it had paid 185bn tenge ($560m) for 96.8 per cent of the shares in Kazkommertsbank, the country’s second-largest lender.” READ MORE: https://www.ft.com/content/70d63142-50f2-37cf-b195-0b58f9fc2044

Germany holds its National Day at EXPO 2017 in Astana in Kazakhstan

The Kazakh leader says Kazakhstan and Germany can join efforts for on-ground transit of goods from China to Germany via Central Asia

July 13 — “Germany is aware of how important this EXPO is for Kazakhstan. It is the first time ever that the EXPO has been hosted by a Central Asian country – and that’s a great success, German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at the opening of Germany’s National Day at EXPO 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan, on July 12.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18332-germany-holds-its-national-day-at-expo-2017-in-astana-in-kazakhstan


Czech company to build Upper Naryn hydropower plants cascade in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan has found a new foreign investor for its major hydro power project, after Russia abandoned the project due to financial crisis

July 10 — “On July 10, in Bishkek, in the presence of Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev, the Government of Kyrgyzstan and the Czech company Liglass Trading CZ, SRO signed agreements on the construction, commissioning and maintenance of Akbulun and Naryn-1 hydropower plants (HPPs) of the Upper Naryn HPPs Cascade, as well as on the implementation of a project to build small hydro power plants in Kyrgyzstan” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18319-czech-company-to-build-upper-naryn-hydropower-plants-cascade-in-kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan Bars Entry to Respected Russian Rights Activist

Bishkek’s move might have been sparked by the Russian activist’s criticism of Kyrgyz law enforcers, amid the tightening of the freedom of expression by Kyrgyz authorities in recent months as the country heads for a presidential election

July 11 — “In a sign of the growing political chill descending over Kyrgyzstan, authorities there have barred celebrated Russian rights activist Vitaliy Ponomarev from entering the country. The door was shut in Ponomarev’s face in what is now becoming a standard farcical manner.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/84321

Half of year results. Economy revives, prices rise

In Kyrgyzstan, when it comes to economy, official statistics and the real life are often two different things

July 12 — “According to the results of the first half of 2017, the economic situation is positive. However, in fact, last year low base effect has its impact. Compared to the data of 2015, when growth was more significant, the picture is less optimistic.” READ MORE: https://24.kg/english/57286_Half_of_year_results_Economy_revives_prices_rise/

Foreign investment in Kyrgyzstan reduce by half in 2016

Investments in Kyrgyzstan reduced even from Russia and China, the largest foreign investors in the country

July 12 — “Foreign investment in Kyrgyzstan fell by a half from $ 1, 573.2 billion in 2015 to $ 814,000 in 2016. Such data was presented by the National Statistics Committee. It is noted manufacturing industries accounted for a third of direct investments.” READ MORE: https://24.kg/english/57285_Foreign_investment_in_Kyrgyzstan_reduce_by_half_in_2016/


Tajikistan: so close, no matter how far

The author analyzes political motivations for the European Union’s aid to Tajikistan, which vary from preventing a post-conflict humanitarian catastrophe to guaranteeing security in a state that neighbours Afghanistan

July 7 — “My country is a small, mountainous place on the southern fringe of Central Asia, sharing a 1,400 km long border with restive Afghanistan. Europeans generally know little about where I come from, although it’s regularly received financial and technical assistance from the European Union over 25 years of independence.” READ MORE: https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/bakhtiyor-sobiri/tajikistan-so-close-no-matter-how-far

Tajikistan: Stepping Away From Iran, To Saudi Arabia

While Dushanbe’s relations with Iran have chilled apparently due to Tehran’s benevolent attitude to Tajikistan’s banned Islamic party, Tajikistan has been pursuing good relations with Saudi Arabia in the hope for financial support

July 8 — “Last week, an Iranian trade and culture center in Tajikistan’s northern Sughd province closed its doors. By all appearances, the shuttering came at the request of the Tajik authorities. In another oddly timed development, the works of the Ayatollah Khomeini and other famous Iranian clerics have been forbidden.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/84276

Virginity Test: Tajik Bride Takes Own Life, Groom Faces Jail

As premarital sex is taboo in conservative Tajik society, authorities have instituted mandatory medical check-ups for both bride and groom primarily to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and other sexually transmitted diseases. But such check-ups are often expanded to include virginity tests for women, which sometimes results in tragedies

July 12 — “Rajabbi Khurshed had no say in most of the misfortunes that befell her. Her parents arranged the 18-year-old woman’s marriage, in her native village of Chorbogh in May, to a man she’d never met. The Tajik state obliged Khurshed to undergo a prenuptial medical exam, which in her case included a virginity test that while technically optional is routinely demanded of young women by either or both families.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/tajik-bride-virginity-suicide-groom-jail-/28612536.html


Residents of Turkmenistan do not use bank cards and do not trust banks

Salaries transferred to accounts of Turkmen citizens are immediately withdrawn as they fear that, due to the economic crisis, all or part of their money might be “deducted” for the benefit of the state or for the upcoming Asian Games in Ashgabat

July 6 — “On 22 June President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov held a meeting with representatives of the financial and economic sectors, who were authorized to undertake measures to increase the volume of bank deposits by residents as well as to restrict the cash element.” READ MORE: http://en.chrono-tm.org/2017/07/residents-of-turkmenistan-do-not-use-bank-cards-and-do-not-trust-banks/

Turkmenistan Abolishes Oil and Gas Construction Company to Save Cash

The Turkmen government regularly reports impressive figures of economic growth, while taking one measure after another to economize on many aspects of the state administration and governance

July 10 — “Turkmenistan has in an attempt to slash its expenditures scrapped the state company responsible for building oil and gas-related infrastructure. State newspaper Neutral Turkmenistan reported on July 8 that President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov stated in a decree that the move was taken to “further optimize the activities of the oil and gas sector.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/84301

Turkmenistan Gas Pipeline To Reach Afghanistan Borders Soon

With the completion of TAPI pipeline project, Turkmenistan will have a new export market for its natural gas and Afghanistan will get a reliable source of fuel plus revenues from gas transit to Pakistan and India

July 12 — “President Ashraf Ghani’s advisor on Central Asian countries’ affairs, Mohammad Shakir Kargar, on Wednesday said Turkmenistan’s natural gas pipeline will arrive at Torghundi border town in Herat province in the near future.” READ MORE: http://www.tolonews.com/business/turkmenistan-gas-pipeline-reach-afghanistan-borders-soon


Russia and Uzbekistan’s Renewed Security Partnership

Under President Mirziyoyev, Uzbekistan is increasing its military cooperation with Moscow, though the issue of Uzbekistan’s rejoining the Russia-led security bloc, CSTO, is out of the question as yet

July 11 — “On July 3, 2017, Colonel Yaroslav Roshchupkin, a spokesman for Russia’s central military district, announced that the Russian military plans to hold joint military exercises with Uzbekistan’s military in October. These joint drills will take place at Uzbekistan’s Forish training facility, and are aimed at strengthening Moscow-Tashkent cooperation on a host of regional security issues.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/07/russia-and-uzbekistans-renewed-security-partnership/

Uzbekistan interested in cargo transportation via Kazakh port

Through the Kazakh port of Kuryk, Uzbek cargoes could be further transported to the Caspian ports in Azerbaijan, Russia and Iran, and on to Europe and the Middle East

July 13 — “Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan discussed organization of Uzbek cargo transportation through Kazakh port of Kuryk on the Caspian Sea. This issue was discussed at the meeting of head of Kazakh railway company Kazakhstan Temir Zholy Kanat Alpysbayev and Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan – Chairman of the Board of Uzbek railway company Uzbekiston Temir Yullari Achilbay Ramatov in Tashkent.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/116129.html

Uzbekistan: Unusually Frank Poll Highlights Unhappiness

In a new poll, many ordinary Uzbeks complained about the problems they encounter in their everyday life. Such expression of discontent would hardly be possible under the rule of the late President Islam Karimov

July 13 — “Uzbekistan’s government-loyal polling company Izhtimoy Fikr has long been a channel for suspiciously on-message feedback about public sentiment, so it was a surprise this week to see it producing a survey appearing to document deep unhappiness about people’s basic everyday needs.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/84351

Uzbekistan revitalizes GTL plant construction project

Uzbekistan’s GTL plant project will enable the country to produce more technological oil and gas products with higher added value which can go for export

July 14 — “A unique project on the construction of a gas-to-liquid (GTL) plant in Uzbekistan’s Kashkadarya region had been pendent for a long time, but it has found a second wind in the last six months, by the decision of the head of state, the country’s official Jahon information agency reports.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18342-uzbekistan-revitalizes-gtl-plant-construction-project


Trump Aides Recruited Businessmen to Devise Options for Afghanistan

There are proposals to use more contractors and fewer American troops in Afghanistan, as America’s longest war has come to a stalemate

July 10 — “President Trump’s advisers recruited two businessmen who profited from military contracting to devise alternatives to the Pentagon’s plan to send thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan, reflecting the Trump administration’s struggle to define its strategy for dealing with a war now 16 years old.” READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/10/world/asia/trump-afghanistan-policy-erik-prince-stephen-feinberg.html

With More Troops in Afghanistan, Focus on Reintegration, Not Reconciliation

As long as the Taliban aims at full control and power in Afghanistan, the Afghan reconciliation process and power-sharing schemes have poor prospects

July 12 — “As the United States searches for a strategy in Afghanistan, a near consensus exists that military power alone cannot defeat the Taliban, making a political resolution of the conflict both necessary and inevitable. It is important to deploy more troops to the country, not because that action will force the Taliban to eventually reconcile in a power-sharing arrangement, but because it buys time for the reintegration process to yield threads of success.” READ MORE: http://nationalinterest.org/feature/more-troops-afghanistan-focus-reintegration-not-21517

American, Afghan Forces Intensify Anti-IS Fight in Afghanistan

As US and Afghan forces fight against Islamic State militants, it is the Taliban that is the main force capable of preventing IS’s spread on the Afghan soil

July 13 — “As the Islamic State terror group loses ground in Iraq and Syria, U.S. and Afghan forces are stepping up their attacks on the group’s offshoot in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.” READ MORE: https://www.voanews.com/a/american-afghan-forces-intensify-anti-is-fight-in-afghanistan/3943339.html

Afghanistan and World Bank sign $482 million new financing

Afghanistan continues receiving international donor aid aimed at the reconstruction of the war-torn country, as investment in its economy may do more than just sending more foreign troops there

July 13 — “Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance on July 12 signed a financing package of $482.3 million in grants with the World Bank to help the country through a difficult phase in its struggle to end poverty.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18335-afghanistan-and-world-bank-sign-482-million-new-financing


The Disconnect Between the EU’s Central Asia Strategy and Reality

The goals the European Union pursues in Central Asia often contradict to what is really happening in the region which is still far from being a truly democratic society

July 7 — “In June, the European Council adopted conclusions on the EU strategy for Central Asia a decade after the European Union adopted its first regional strategy. The conclusions noted that “the depth of relations is linked to the ambitions and needs of individual Central Asian countries to take forward our bilateral relationships” followed by “their commitment to undertake reforms to strengthen democracy, fundamental freedoms, the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, and to modernize and diversify the economy.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/07/the-disconnect-between-the-eus-central-asia-strategy-and-reality/

Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan need to redirect investment flows as combustibles’ future spells doom

Caspian and Central Asian states should take into account an upcoming shift in capital investments away from combustibles, and the urgent issue now is how to keep those funds in place but with different sector destinations

July 8 — “The wider Caspian region, which comprises the Caspian littoral states and the lands to their east, is sitting on a vast riches of subsoil resources of which combustibles are made to quench the world’s ever increasing thirst for energy. Those who dedicate their lives and/or cash to such resources hardly ever miss an occasion to stress the need for them, downplaying the growing importance of alternative resources, located not under but on and above the earth’s surface and being infinite.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/18312-kazakhstan-turkmenistan-uzbekistan-need-to-redirect-investment-flows-as-combustibles-future-spells-doom

Central Asia Aid Vital to US Counterterrorism Efforts

The opinion piece author believes that rather than cut aid to Central Asia simply because it is hard to understand the region’s complexities, increased resources should be devoted to the region by the US

July 12 — “President Donald Trump’s recently proposed funding cuts will notably eliminate foreign aid programs for Central Asia states. From a US perspective, terminating such programs is both myopic and counterproductive, as good relations with Central Asian countries bolster the administration’s counterterrorism efforts both in the region and in neighboring Afghanistan.” READ MORE: https://www.geopoliticalmonitor.com/central-asia-aid-vital-to-us-counterterrorism-efforts/

Sergey Kwan