Monochrome by Centil Law: Bravado

This week’s long read is on the new Investment Law recently adopted in Uzbekistan – the move seen as an attempt to codify the governments’ efforts to attract investor attention.

Further to Tajikistan’s excitement regarding CASA-100 last week, Afghanistan begins the construction of its 562 km long part of the line, linking Central Asia and South Asia under a four-nation electricity generation system. The $1.2bn project is expected to supply 300MW to Afghanistan and 1GW to Pakistan annually from the surplus generated in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. This should garner political stability for the region.

With a hope to bring the economy to its feet, the Republic of Korea and the World Bank commit to support Tajikistan in the implementation of its Digital Economy 2040 Concept and Digital CASA Tajikistan Project. This would include financial assistance and knowledge transfer for the development of smart city applications and ICT infrastructure to improve the efficiency and transparency of public services.

On his way to Tashkent, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came on an official visit to Kazakhstan. Speaking to President Tokayev, former President Nazarbayev and other officials, Pompeo emphasised regional trade, China's influence and security threats to be the main objects of concern and alluded to the new strategy for Central Asia being drafted by the Trump administration.

In Tashkent, Pompeo participated in the C5+1 framework with the rest of the Stans. He praised the country’s ongoing efforts to introduce reforms and the fight with forced labour, and stressed the importance of regional security. He also pledged to support the development of capital markets in the country, stating that the US would provide $1m in technical assistance for the cause. Official China was not thrilled by this show of bravado, retaliating with spiky remarks.

Uzbekistan prepares to meet with the executives of BP and SOCAR to discuss potential production sharing agreements to develop local hydrocarbon deposits on three contract territories in Ustyurt. This follows up the Joint Studies Agreement signed between the parties in May 2019 to conduct technical studies on geological exploration of the Samsko-Kosbulak and Baiterek blocks in the western region.

Turkmenistan prepares for the “Oil and Gas Turkmenistan 2020” International Roadshow to be held in Dubai, in the hopes to conclude partnerships necessary for the next stage the Galkynysh field linked to TAPI. Other matters of concern will be the development of deposits on licensed shelf blocks in the Caspian Sea, innovation in mature fields, investments in hard-to-develop fields and chemical projects.

As part of its aim of reaching 1 GW of solar production, Uzbekistan announces a tender for a 200MW solar park in the Surkhandarya province, in close proximity to the Surkhan substation, main hub for electricity supply in the region. The project will include the construction of a 220kV substation and a 52km transmission line. The Asian Development Bank will act as transaction advisor throughout the tender.

Kazakhstan also upholds its commitment to increase the share of renewables as Shanghai's Universal Energy begins the construction of a second solar power plant worth $34.6m in the Almaty Region, in collaboration with Kazakh Invest. The company's first project was a 100 MW solar plant in Kapshagai. This adds up to 13 renewable energy projects with a total capacity of 700 MW to be implemented in Kazakhstan in 2020.

In another odd announcement from Turkmenistan, President Berdymukhamedov’s son draws media attention as he unveils plans to import equipment for $1.5bn in budget funds, to build a new city in the Ahal region, of which he is the governor. This raises many questions and criticism given the cuts in public spending, the policy restrictions on national imports, the shortages in foreign currency and depressed energy prices. 

Following up on the recognition by the Economist, Uzbekistan was ranked as 4th fastest growing tourism destination by the Independent. According to the UNWTO, the country's statistics show 27,3% up in visitor numbers. Next amongst Central Asian countries comes Kazakhstan, listed 20th with a 10% increase. Investments in tourism infrastructure and the introduction of visa-free regimes in the region seem to be bearing pleasant fruits.

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