Media Highlights of the Week
Energy and Economy
Tajikistan’s Parliament Will Now Allow Foreigners to Buy Shares in Roghun
Tajikistan’s Parliament voted to permit foreigners to buy shares in the Roghun hydroelectric plant. The government began the effort to privatize after selling shares to the population in 2010 to raise the funds for construction. Although foreign companies will now be allowed to buy into the project, it may not be lucrative for foreigners to do so, as estimates say that it could take up to ten years before Roghun produces enough energy for export.
New Thermal Power Plant Opens in South-East Georgia
The Gardabani Thermal Power Plant opened for operations in southeastern Georgia. Construction by the Chinese engineering company China Tianchen Engineering Corporation (TCC) took 23 months to complete and cost $190 million. The plant is projected to provide 200 permanent jobs and generate 1.3 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year.
New Derivatives Law Passed by Georgian Parliament
Georgian Parliament passed a new derivatives law, providing increased enforceability of derivatives transactions for companies looking to engage in business dealings within the country. The new law allows for companies to safely calculate their risk while providing financial collateral and close-out netting. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) announced that the new regulations were an important development in progressing Georgia’s capital market.
Kazakhstan and the EU Reaffirm Their Commitment to Improving Bilateral Relations
The European Union (EU) and Kazakhstan reaffirmed their mutual support for The Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA) after the Cooperation Council met in Brussels. All EU member-states and the European Parliament have ratified EPCA which will officially come into play on March 1, 2020. Additionally, the Cooperation Council discussed the importance of strengthening relations between the two economies and promoting high-quality governance and human rights. The meeting paves the way for Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s first official visit to Europe.
Drilling Begins for the First Exploration Well in Shafag-Asiman
Drilling began off of Azerbaijan’s Caspian Sea coast for the first exploration well on the Shafag-Asiman offshore block (SAX01). Azerbaijan’s State Oil Company (SOCAR) plans to drill up to 22,965 feet (7,000 meters) to reach the oil deposits found in the sea to the southeast of Baku. Primary geological studies indicate the presence of reservoirs with hydrocarbon potential.
Azerbaijani Central Bank Undergoes Structural Change
The former directors of the Department of Foreign Market Operations and the Department of Risk Management, Ali Ahmadov and Togrul Aliyev respectively, are the two new directors general of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan. Following the abolition of the Azerbaijani Financial Market Supervisory Authority in an effort by the president to centralize the control of the financial services market, the Central Bank of Azerbaijan adopted many of its previous responsibilities.
Kazakh Currency Exchange Offices Subject to New Rules and Regulations
New rules were implemented regarding the flexibility and maintenance of currency exchange offices in Kazakhstan. Offices will now be limited in the amount of capital they can hold (up to 50 million KZT ($132,199 USD)). The previous regulations permitted currency exchange offices to hold up to 100 million KZT ($264,398 USD). Furthermore, the timeline for this proposal was delayed, allowing currency exchange offices to fully implement these new regulations by April 1, 2020 in cities of national significance, by July 1, 2020 in cities of regional significance, and by January 1, 2021 in local villages and towns. Currency exchange offices will be forced to close every night by 8 p.m. to ensure a heightened sense of security. This last amendment does not affect currency exchange offices in airports, railway stations, or at the borders.
Security and Politics
Kazakh Court Rules Against Extraditing Two Ethnic-Kazakhs to China
On January 21, a court in Kazakhstan ruled that two ethnic-Kazakhs who illegally crossed the border into Kazakhstan from China will not be deported. These two men fled from the Xinjiang province, where they feared persecution and being sent to a reeducation camp. This case follows another ruling which allowed another ethnic Kazakh to seek asylum from China.
Commemoration of Black January’s 30th Anniversary
Thousands of Azeris commemorated the 30th anniversary of “Black January,” a Soviet crackdown on the Azerbaijani independence movement that killed 147 Azeris. To pay tribute to those killed and injured by this crackdown, on January 20, people including government officials and diplomatic representatives descended on the “Alley of Martyrs” to participate in commemorative ceremonies.
Azerbaijan and Georgia sign Bilateral Cooperation Plan for 2020
In an official visit to Georgia on January 21, the Minister of Defense of Azerbaijan, Colonel General Zakir Hasanov met with his Georgian counterpart, Irakli Garibashvili to discuss the prospects of deepening military cooperation and territorial support. Following these talks, both Ministers of Defense signed a Bilateral Cooperation Plan for 2020 which details sharing strategy and conducting shared training events.
Turkmenistan and Turkey’s Cooperation Strengthened in Meeting
Turkmenistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Raşit Meredow, met with the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Turkey to Turkmenistan, Togan Oral. In this meeting, the officials discussed cooperation between Turkmenistan and Turkey in the areas of politics, economy, and culture. They also expressed the shared goal of strengthening the relations between these two nations.
Kazakhstan Appoints New Officials
Kazakhstan’s President Tokayev appointed Aset Isekeshev Assistant to the President and Secretary of the Security Council on January 16. Isekeshev had previously held numerous official positions, including his latest ones as mayor of Astana and Chief of Staff. Isekeshev’s predecessor, Kalukhanbet Kassymov was subsequently designated Head of the Kazakhstan State Guard Service.
Impromptu Abkhaz Election Nominations to Occur January 22
Following the unexpected resignation of Raul Khajimba, leader of the breakaway Georgian republic of Abkhazia, candidates for the upcoming election are set to be nominated January 22. The official elections will take place March 22. Over the weekend opposition to Khajimba debated about who should be nominated. The recent events also sparked dialogue between Georgian and Abkhazian representatives about the future of the region.
(Sources: Agenda.GE, AKI Press, Astana Times, AzerNews, Ekho Kavkaza, EBRD, Eurasianet, RFE/RL, and Trend News Agency.)