On one of the most important holidays of the year for the region, Central Asia is still fighting hard to keep problems at bay and recover from the COVID-19 calamity.
Kazakhstan extended the nationwide strict quarantine for another two weeks. According to PM Askar Mamin, reintroducing a second lockdown since 5 July allowed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by 29%. Just a day earlier the Health Minister Alexei Tsoi stated that these measures would be gradually eased from 3 August, but now this date is pushed back to 17 August until further notice.
To stay afloat through another fortnight of quarantine, Kazakhstan’s PM Mamin ordered to issue another one-off $50 compensation payments to the residents, whose economic activities have been interrupted and to extend the loan repayment delays for SMEs until 1 October. The government and the Central Bank are also developing a new action plan, to reanimate the economy post-quarantine.
Tajikistan received a new grant of $928,000 from the Asian Development Bank to purchase COVID-19 medical supplies and equipment for healthcare workers, as part of its Regional Support program. Additionally, $100,000 were reallocated for this purpose from the country’s Maternal and Child Health Care Project, bringing ADB’s COVID-19 response package in Tajikistan to a total of $51,3m.
Kyrgyzstan proclaimed 30 July as the national day of mourning for the lives claimed by coronavirus, coinciding with the Eid-al-Adha muslim celebrations. The country’s official death toll remains the highest in the region with 1,364, compared to 793 in Kazakhstan, 131 in Uzbekistan and 60 in Tajikistan, but when could we trust official stats? Meanwhile, Kyrgyzstan is developing a new healthcare code with their counterparts from Russia.
Turkmenistan prepares to celebrate Eid-al-Adha instructing businesses to observe the presidential decree from 31 July to 2 August. At the same time, the authorities recommended people to stay home and to abstain from going to the mosque on this occasion, wear masks and keep a social distance of 2m, as safety measures from the ‘excess of dust’ in the air that might be hazardous to their health.
Uzbekistan officially launched a joint programme with the European Union and UNESCO on financing the Skills Development in Rural Areas of Uzbekistan programme of €9,6m. It is focused on introducing methods and technologies to crop cultivation, food processing and irrigation practices. Earlier, the World Bank allocated $500m for the country’s agricultural development.
Uzbekistan inaugurated a hydroelectric power plant at the southern Fergana canal in the Andijan region with a capacity of 7,05 MW, constructed by the Chinese Power Construction Corporation. This follows the state program to build a series of HPPs with a combined capacity of 25MW by the end of 2023, operated by Uzbekgidroenergo and for which the country received a $60m loan from the ADB.
As if there’s not enough challenges, water shortages in the Nurek reservoir put strains on hydroelectric power generation, forcing Tajikistan to stop exporting electricity to Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, and restricting domestic consumption. As a consequence, the beneficiary countries turned to Turkmenistan to balance the shortage. This also raises questions regarding overfinancing of the Sebzor HPP.
Uzbekistan seeks investors for construction projects of tourist facilities. As such, 5 hectares of land near the Karkidon reservoir in the Fergana region were put up for rent to build hospitality infrastructure (hotels, water sport and beach facilities). The Uzbekenergo building was also listed on sale for the next owners to build a new hotel with at least a 200 person capacity and a shopping mall.
The United States updated the sanction list against Iran by adding 22 specific metals, including graphite, over 98% pure aluminium powder, raw and semi-finished materials used in the country's military or ballistic missile programs. In response, Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stands firm in his position that these attempts are futile, as the economy and society scrambles for air under COVID-19.