Monochrome by Centil Law: Choosing friends wisely

The boat continues rocking, and most Central Asian states realise that and lockdowns are no longer a viable option to tackle the COVID-19 spread, choosing economic health and relying on support from reliable friends instead.

Kazakhstan prepares to gradually ease the lockdown. On 17 August shopping venues, markets, nurseries and wellness centres will reopen and flights will resume with 7 countries, including Russia and Germany. Public pools, entertainment centres, late night venues and museums will remain closed. No festivities or sports events are allowed yet and 80% of employees will work from home still. 

Uzbekistan also entered the first phase of lifting quarantine measures, in spite of 858 new confirmed COVID-19 cases registered overnight on 13 August. Vehicular traffic, domestic flights and rail services will resume starting from 15 August. Public transport will resume on 17 August and on 20 August, residents will be welcome back in markets, shopping malls, fitness clubs and public pools.

The UNDP launched a new program in Uzbekistan with a $1m budget to support the members of the population who were most affected by the pandemic. These include the unemployed, those unable to work and migrant workers who are not entitled to social care. The program will be implemented jointly with UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund and the International Organization for Migration.

Kazakhstan’s Damu Entrepreneurship Fund issued the first green bonds on the Astana International Exchange with the assistance of the UNDP. The Damu Fund committed to reduce investment risks in renewable energy projects and will use the investments attracted by the green bonds to help the second tier banks and microfinancing agencies support local environmentally-oriented SMEs.

Tajikistan received a $10m grant from the Asian Development Bank to finance the development and implementation of a sustainable tourism plan for the country, operated in collaboration with the UN World Tourism Organisation and two local NGOs. This is the first project of the ADB in Tajikistan. Official statements expect the research and evaluation phase to be completed in the next 12 months.

Kyrgyzstan received a $100m loan from the Eurasian Fund for Stabilisation and Development to finance the country’s contingency plan against the economic consequences of the pandemic, as well as to provide social assistance for the population. The credit was issued a 1% interest rate for 20 years, including a 10 years grace period. To date, the country counts  41 373 confirmed cases in total.

In Uzbekistan, President Mirziyoyev signed a decree for the construction of the 1500MW combined cycle gas turbine plant in Syrdarya by the renewables portfolio operator Acwa Power Syrdarya with $1,2m of investments from The International Company for Water and Power Projects of Saudi Arabia and a 25-year power purchase agreement. Earlier, ACWA agreed to build a wind farm in the country.

During an online meeting with the Committee for External Relations of St. Petersburg, Turkmen Seaways officials reached an agreement to open new logistical routes between Russia’s Caspian ports and the Turkmenbashi port. Negotiations also explored opportunities for joint production between Russia’s United ShipBuilding Corporation and Turkmenistan’s Balkan Shipbuilding Plant.

Switzerland offered a $150,000 grant to Uzbekistan’s Centre of Innovation for the creation of the online platform, designed to facilitate remote school education by focusing on the STEAM approach. The project also includes financial, technical and professional support for the teachers. With COVID-19 still present in the country, the scenario for the next school year remains unknown.

The USA encourages the UN Security Council to extend the arms embargo on Iran, which ends in October 2020. The first draft of the proposal was rejected by China and Russia, but the US administration is determined to review it to receive unanimous support. In response, the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed his confidence that the new resolution will be vetoed yet again.

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