Now that the worst is behind them, the Stans, with thanks to the help of their friends, slowly get back to business. And in so doing, some are making a ruckus.
Uzbekistan deferred the signing of the contract with Russia’s nuclear agency Rosatom regarding the construction of its nuclear power plant. Negotiations, which started in 2018 led parties to agree to start in 2022, with a loan from the Russian government. This was incorporated in the 2019-2029 national nuclear development plan. Now Uzbekistan attempts to negotiate better financial and technical terms.
Kazakhstan’s nuclear agency Kazatomprom announced its intention to maintain production cuts of 20% from its current contract agreements in 2021 and 2022, which amounts to 5,5 tons of uranium, due to the uncertainty of the market and the persistent gap between supply and demand. With 12% of the world’s resources under their national soil, Kazakhstan expects to produce 22,000 tons in 2022.
As Uzbekistan tries to end the boycott against its cotton, a new investigation links its recent cotton and textile privatisation program to a corruption scheme. Russia’s bankrupt Starbank, and its chairman Agadzhan Avanesov, allegedly granted bad loans to two companies that took control over the cotton clusters in Uzbekistan, calling into question the government's investor selection process.
Meanwhile, the Nazarbayev family mourns the death of Aisultan, former President Nursultan’s grandson and son of Dariga, former Head of Senate. According to preliminary statements, Aisultan passed away in London from a cardiac arrest, but he was also associated with drug abuse. Back in February, he made public allegations of corruption involving his family and the Russian government.
UzAuto Motors appealed the order of Uzbekistan’s Antimonopoly Committee to reduce the prices on their retail cars and offer a recosting to their clients. Earlier this month, the committee reached a conclusion that the automobile producer was overpricing by an average of 10%. In turn, UzAuto Motors insists that the Committee didn’t have all the information and that the prices are justified.
After Kazakhstan’s PM Askar Mamin approved the gradual lifting of the lockdown starting 17 August, authorities of Almaty and Atyrau announced that the strict quarantine measures in these regions will remain until 31 August. At the same time, the government decided to reinstate restrictions in all regions during the weekends, to allegedly maintain the stabilisation rate and to prevent further spread.
On the bright side, as the lockdown was lifted, Uzbekistan received a $100m loan from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’s Crisis Recovery Facility (CRF). Earlier, the Asian Development Bank issued a $100m loan to support testing, monitoring and treatment of COVID-19, as well as to prevent future epidemics in Uzbekistan.
Kyrgyzstan also benefited from a $50m CRF loan by the AIIB, which would allow the country to ease the weight of the credit. This loan is aimed to support the liquidity of micro and SMEs crippled by the pandemic and quarantine measures. Additionally, Kyrgyzstan’s Guarantee Fund negotiated a loan of $100m from the World Bank for this purpose, of which $24m will be transferred directly to the Fund.
Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry plans to turn the KazAID program into a specialised agency to systematise Official Development Assistance. The government intends to transfer $328m yearly to KazAID for foreign aid to neighbouring Central Asian countries. The proposed authorised capital is $240m and given the domestic economic difficulties, this decision is widely contested by the public.
In the backdrop of the US pushing for the prolongation of the arms embargo on Iran, Tehran showed off two new ballistic and cruise missiles, of a range of 1,400km and 1,000km respectively, as well as new engines for its drones and fighter jets. Incidentally, the missiles were named after Iranian General Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader al-Muhandis, who were killed in a US strike in January this year.