Media Highlights of the Week
Energy and Economy
Azerbaijan Forms the Azerbaijan Construction Corporation to Accelerate Infrastructure Development
Azerbaijan developed the Azerbaijan Construction Corporation designed to accelerate infrastructure and development projects in cities and districts. The Corporation will be responsible for overseeing long-term infrastructure projects and attracting investors. The Corporation was formed to mitigate any negative impacts that COVID-19 is projected to have on the development and construction sectors.
Azerbaijan Rolls out New Initiative to Provide Economic Support During COVID-19 Pandemic
The Azerbaijani prime minister signed a new initiative which aims to provide support for entrepreneurship, employment, and economic stability. To satisfy the initiative’s aims, $126.5 million (215 million manat) was allocated to pay for the salaries of 300,000 workers and $47 million (80 million manat) was set aside to support entrepreneurs affected by coronavirus. The government will also subsidize half of the interest rates for 60 percent of new loans of more than $294 million (500 million manat).
Georgian Government Will Compensate Those Who Lost Jobs Due to COVID-19
The Georgian government has announced that it will identify individuals who lost their jobs due to business closures, resulting from preventative measures to stem the spread of coronavirus. The government will identify these individuals by looking to see who has not paid income tax. These individuals will be compensated as determined by the government.
Azerbaijan Absolves Banks and Investment Companies of Making Payments in April
Azerbaijan is exempting banks and investment companies from making payments to the Central Bank of Azerbaijan in April. The government hopes that this will ease the strain placed on the financial sector due to coronavirus.
EBRD to Support Azerbaijani and Georgian Firms During the Pandemic
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is pledging $1.08 billion (1 billion euros) to support its existing clients based in 38 countries. Some of the money will be allocated to the EBRD’s clients within Azerbaijan and Georgia.
World Bank Pledges $12.15 Million to Support Kyrgyzstan During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The World Bank is pledging $12.15 million to Kyrgyzstan as part of its $14-billion package to strengthen COVID-19 responses in developing countries. In addition, a previous $9 million in financing from the World Bank has been approved to be reallocated to support the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kazakhstan Will Use Defense Factories to Produce Medical Equipment
Kazakhstan is transforming defense factories into facilities capable of producing much-needed medical equipment amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Kazakhstan Engineering pledged its aerospace plant in northern Kazakhstan to produce two million face masks. Two additional plants near Almaty will make hazmat suits and sanitizers. Some of these plants are committed to staying open 24-hours a day with three shifts throughout the day to maximize output.
Uzbekistan to Start Producing Coronavirus Test Kits and Ventilators
Uzbekistan announced that by the end of the month Uzbekistan will start producing test kits for coronavirus. According to the Ministry of Health, Uzbekistan already has more than 200 thousand test kits 50 thousand protective suits which they purchased from China. Next month, Uzbekistan will start producing ventilators with the help of Chirana, a Slovak company, and Russian partners. They plan to have foreign partners invest up to six million dollars and for this initiative to create up to 100 new jobs.
Kazakhstan Will Produce More Chevrolet Cars to Expand its Automobile Industry
Kazakhstan is looking to increase its local manufacturing of the American automobile brand Chevrolet, which is owned by General Motors. Officials hope that the initiative will provide Kazakhstan with an additional 1,000 manufacturing jobs. The plant in Kostanay is expected to produce 26,000 Chevrolet cars in its first year, with anticipation that this number could increase to 100,000 units per year in the future.
Kazakhstan Amends Economic Projections for the Year Amid COVID-19 Spread
The Kazakhstani government has revised its economic projections for 2020 to account for the negative impacts that COVID-19 will have on its industries. Previous projections predicted that Kazakhstan’s GDP would expand by 4 percent, however, current projections place this prediction at a 0.9 percent contraction. Kazakhstan’s production and value of oil have plummeted since COVID-19 began to spread, leading to an economic downturn for the country.
Dispute Between Kyrgyz Government and Major Flour-Milling Company Holts Production
The Bishkek-based flour-milling company “Akun” is claiming that the government is not permitting its workers to get past checkpoints to work at the plant. The company is accusing the government of withholding their permits, while the government is insisting that the necessary documentation has not been completed by the company. The dispute comes as concerns grow over a possible food shortage in the region due to the spread of coronavirus.
Turkmenistan Bans Foreign Cash Withdrawals
On April 1, Turkmenistan’s government banned all foreign currency cash withdrawals. Those with foreign bank accounts will only be able to withdraw money in Turkmen manats and at the official rate of 3.5 manats to the U.S. dollar, the standard set by the government since 2015. Workers who receive their wages in a foreign currency will now only be able to collect their payments in manats. Moreover, on April 6, reports indicate that people were being restricted in the amount of money they could withdraw, limiting them to only 100 manats they could withdraw daily. The decision is likely due to falling global oil and gas prices and China slashing trade with the country due to its stringent policies imposed by COVID-19.
Uzbekenergo Starts Liquidation Process
On March 31, the state-owned Uzbekenergo began a process of liquidation in accordance with agreements from joint-stock companies, Thermal Power Stations (TPP), National Electric Grids of Uzbekistan (NESU), and Regional Electric Grids (REG).
Politics and Economy
Kazakhstan Utilizes Snap Draft as Coronavirus Spreads
Kazakhstan began an emergency military recruitment drive to help ensure order in the face of the unfolding coronavirus epidemic. Defense Minister Nurlan Yermekbayev said that draftees could man checkpoints, patrol streets, disinfect public spaces, guard government facilities and assist in the event of floods. Men up to the age of 60 will be eligible, but exemptions apply to teachers, full-time students, law enforcement, aviation specialists, agricultural workers and fathers with three or more underage children.
NATO Deepens Relations with Ukraine and Georgia
Foreign Ministers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) decided to strengthen their partnership with Ukraine and Georgia which includes new exercises in the Black Sea region, joint work to counter hybrid warfare, and efforts to share more air traffic radar data. The U.S. mission to NATO stated that they support the eventual membership of Ukraine and Georgia.
Turkmenistan Distributes Sacks of Flour to Quell Protests
About three dozen women protested in the southeastern region of Mary, Turkmenistan on April 3. Protesters rallied against shortages of government-subsidized flour and vegetables. The march ended when officials distributed a 4.4-pound sack of flour to each demonstrator. The food shortages come as Turkmenistan keeps its borders with its neighbors closed and imposes new restrictions on food imports.
Kazakhstan Moves to Distance Learning
More than three million students in Kazakhstan switched to distance learning on April 6. According to the Minister of Education and Science, Askhat Aimagambetov, the government plans to use this method of learning in the future. Students take distance learning courses via TV or a number of online platforms.
European Court of Human Rights Rules Georgia Must Pay for Death of Prisoners
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Georgia must pay $86,328 (80,000 euros) to the families of two inmates who were killed during a riot in Georgian prisons in 2006, under the United National Movement government. The court said that the right to life was violated in both cases and the incident was not investigated properly.
(Sources: Agenda.ge, Al-Jazeera, Azernews, Caspian News, Eurasianet, Kabar, RFE/RL, Sputnik Kazakhstan, and UZ Daily.)