Media Highlights of the Week
Energy and Economy
Azerbaijan’s Energy Minister Confirms Country Has the Resources for the Southern Gas Corridor
Azerbaijan’s Energy Minister, Parviz Shahbazov assured that there are sufficient resources to provide for the second phase of the Southern Gas Corridor. While the first stage currently supplies 16 BCM of gas to Turkey and Europe annually, the second stage would increase the total capacity to 30 BCM, including an expected 10 BCM per year to Europe. The pipeline has been supplying Turkey with gas since 2018 and is 92 percent complete.
Border Closures Due to Coronavirus Fears Impact Kyrgyz Economy
The Kyrgyz-Chinese border has been closed for over a month now due to mounting fears that the Coronavirus could spread into Central Asia. Although the Kyrgyz government has assured that the closures will not negatively impact the economy, drivers who transport goods between China, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia have reportedly lost their jobs due to travel restrictions. Additionally, there has been an uptick in prices for finished goods, fabrics, and accessories as many of these products sold in Central Asia are imported from China. The increase in prices is prompting many businesses to seek out new markets in Indonesia, Vietnam, Pakistan, India, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.
The Newly Established Highland Private Equity and Mezzanine Fund Will Bring Economic Benefits to Kyrgyzstan
The European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) opened the Highland Private Equity and Mezzanine Fund (HPEMF) to assist in developing small domestic businesses. This fund is the first institutional mezzanine established to focus solely on Kyrgyzstan and is the EBRD’s first independent private equity fund in the country. The HPEMF is only one of many projects supported by the EBRD in the Kyrgyz Republic and across Central Asia.
Six Additional Villages in Georgian High Mountains to Receive Special Financial Status
The high mountain villages of Akhaltsikhe, Melaani, Dvani, Knolevi, Speti, and Chalovani, situated throughout Georgia’s mountainous regions will now receive special financial status as per the new mountain development strategy approved last year. The strategy is projected to last for five years and bring improvements in education, healthcare, social services, infrastructure, and solar panels to Georgia’s mountainous villages. There are currently 1,737 high mountainous settlements with this status.
Uzbekistan and Belarus Increase Agricultural Cooperation
Over 700 people attended the Belarusian-Uzbek Agrarian Forum which saw the signing of a memorandum of understanding and cooperation between the Ministry of Agriculture and Food of Belarus and the Ministry of Agriculture of Uzbekistan. Several ministries and agencies held fruitful discussions to improve bilateral cooperation in the agriculture and food sector. Uzbekistan is a promising trade partner for Belarus as over $15 million worth of Uzbek agricultural products have been supplied to Belarus.
Politics and Security
Tajik Ruling Party Wins Elections
President Emomali Rahmon’s ruling party won parliamentary elections. Central Election Commission Chairman Bakhtiyor Khudoyorzoda said that 50.4 percent of the ballots supported the ruling People’s Democratic Party, which secured them 47 out of 63 seats in parliament. Khudoyorzoda said that the Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan – the only opposition party – failed to meet the 5 percent threshold for representation in parliament.
Georgia’s Former PM Goes Free and Declares Return to Politics
Georgia’s former Prime Minister and Interior Minister, Vano Merabishvili was released after serving almost seven years in prison for embezzlement and abuse of power. He announced he would return to politics to fight the ruling Georgian Dream party.
Russia to Send Brigades to Abkhazia
The breakaway Georgian republic of Abkhazia announced that it was barring all entry to foreigners except Russians. Local media reported that “sanitary-epidemic brigades” will come from Russia to provide medical services and medicine to the area.
Kazakhstani Authorities Blame “Criminal Groups” for Ethnic Clashes
Kazakhstani President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev blamed criminal groups for ethnic clashes between ethnic Kazakhs and Dungans, in the southern province of Zhambyl. He stated that the violence was caused by one criminal group attempting to take another group’s cross-border smuggling business.
Kyrgyz Police and Protestors Clash in Protest Supporting Jailed Politician
Protestors, who gathered to support jailed Kyrgyz politician Sadyr Jasparov and demanded his release, clashed with police in Bishkek. Police fired tear gas and used a water cannon to disperse protestors in Bishkek’s main Ala Too square. Jasparov was sentenced to 11 years and 6 months in prison after being convicted of taking a government official as a hostage in the 2013 protests. Jasparov claimed that the charges were politically motivated.
Two Uzbek Officials Convicted of Corruption Charges
Ikhtyor Abdullaev, the former chief of Uzbekistan’s State Security Service was found guilty of organizing a criminal group, taking bribes, extortion, abuse of office, and other crimes, receiving a sentence of up to 18 months in prison. Former Prosecutor-General Otabek Murodov was found guilty of taking bribes and sentenced to five years of freedom limitation. Subordinates of Murodov and Abdullaev, who were also on trial, received prison time and other sentences.
(Source: Agenda.ge, Azernews, Eurasia.net, RFE/RL, Times of Central Asia, and Trend News Agency.)