Monochrome by Centil Law: Get a grip

The solo climb continues with new sparks of COVID-19, international flights still on hold (probably), and some manage to get a better grip on the situation, while others struggle to keep up the facade.

Lockdown returns in 6 cities in Kazakhstan, including Nur-Sultan and Almaty, due to a steep rise in COVID-19 infection rates since the easing of lockdown measures. The 16,351 new cases include the first president Elbasy Nazarbayev, the Prime Minister, the Head of the ‘Non-Spread of COVID-19 Commission’, as well as the Ministers of Health, Education, Agriculture and Defence.

News emerged from Turkmenistan of two major hospitals, specialised in treating infection diseases, being locked down due to the high numbers of patients diagnosed with acute pneumonia. The WHO delegation's visit to the only country in Central Asia where no official COVID-19 cases were registered, was expected around this time, but has still not been arranged. Is the bubble bursting?

During an online meeting with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Central Asian states, the EU representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, revealed the EU’s intention to mobilise €3m to finance projects in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, as part of its Central Asia and Mongolia COVID-19 Crisis Response program, to be implemented by the WHO.

With Tajikistan’s economy slipping, citizens require support. 50,000 low-income families expect to receive one-off payments of $48, as part of the disbursement plan of the World Bank’s Emergency COVID-19 grant. The government also plans to repatriate immigrants stuck in Russia’s transit area during the lockdown. The country appealed to China for financial support, but expectations should be kept low.

President Mirziyoyev ordered Uzbekistan’s National Fund for Reconstruction and Development to allocate up to $100m to provide financial assistance to entrepreneurs in the sectors of services, education, medicine, domestic tourism and digital technologies. The credit package will be issued by public and private banks for seven years, with a three-year grace period and an 11% interest rate.  

Similarly, in Kazakhstan, a new industrial development fund will provide assistance to manufacturers starting from 1 July. The fund was approved by presidential decree with the aim of facilitating import substitution and enhancing the diversification of the country’s export goods. Emphasis is placed on the sectors of automobile industry, agricultural equipment and oil and gas engineering.

The Uzbek government approved the establishment of the investment company, UzAssets to accelerate the sale of state assets. At present, the company’s portfolio counts shares in 10 large state-owned companies and is expected to expand to 50 in 2021. Its authorised capital amounts to $2m, was injected by the State Asset Management Fund. 

Kazakhstan eyes economic diversification with plans to attract $738m worth of investments in the crypto industry by 2023 (and not a penny more). To date, the country’s tax exemption policy allowed the 14 mining farms on its territory to generate just over $200m. At the same time, like Russia, the official stance is to restrict the circulation of digital assets and ban unauthorised cryptocurrencies.

Kyrgyzstan’s former Prime Minister Abylgaziev resigned, ahead of the parliamentary elections in October 2020. Earlier, he went on leave in light of speculations around his involvement in the illegal trade of national radio frequencies, involving telecom giant Beeline. While allegations of corruption are under investigation, the Parliament’s majority coalition appointed Kubatbek Boronov as his successor.

Uzbekistan awarded a €142m contract for water supply and reuse in Tashkent to SUEZ Group. The seven-year project will be led in partnership with the the Tashkent water supply body to modernise the sewage and wastewater networks. With AIIB’s recent $385m loan to Bukhara, Uzbekistan has the largest water management budget in Central Asia, yet access to clean water and sanitation are far from perfect.

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