Monochrome by Centil Law: Vigilance

With the worst case scenario unravelling, chaos and regional security concerns define this week’s news, while the Stans and their foreign allies remain vigilant.

Defying Biden's predictions, the Taliban entered Kabul and swiftly took control of Afghanistan, while President Ghani fled the country, allegedly with piles of cash. In face of these developments many Afghans are now trying to flee Afghanistan, with Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan alert to possibly the largest refugee inflows in the region, which they are reluctant to accept.

Under these circumstances, minute attention is paid on security in Tajikistan. China conducted collaborative counterterrorism military exercises along the Tajik-Afghan border, like Uzbekistan and Russia did just weeks ago. China’s interest mainly lies in protecting its Belt and Road infrastructure projects and preventing Islamic extremism from spilling over into the majority-Muslim Xinjiang.

The United Nations temporarily moved its Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the affiliated agencies to Kazakhstan until the political situation in Afghanistan stabilises. At the moment, only US and NATO aircrafts are allowed to operate at the Kabul airport, where the situation is extremely difficult with the infrastructure going down and thousands of residents hoping to flee the country.

Iran commits to collaborate with Russia and China to ensure security and political stability in Central Asia, battling both radicalism and a new wave of COVID-19. Raisi also plans to join Putin and Xi at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting scheduled to take place in Dushanbe next month. Through this alliance, Iran also hopes to receive aid to counteract its healthcare crisis.

After registering its record daily infection rates, Iran reached its record number in COVID-19 fatalities amounting to 620 deaths in 24 hours. In response to this, the government imposed stricter measures until 27 August. These include the closure of offices, banks and non-essential businesses, as well as travel restrictions between provinces.

In wake of the upcoming presidential elections, Uzbekistan’s President took the stage in a meeting with entrepreneurs, promising reforms. These include land ownership for enterprises, tax reforms, the creation of a specialised agency for the mitigation of exchange rate related risks and many more. In addition, the National Fund for Reconstruction and Development will issue $600m on a competition-basis for private and public banks.

Kazakhstan plans to invest in digital technologies for its small- and medium-sized enterprises to boost economic growth. Non-cash payments now amount to $17.5bn. Kazakhstan also negotiated with Mastercard to support its local SMEs in promoting digital and financial literacy, building digital payment infrastructure and establishing a supportive eco-system for start-up and fintech acceleration.

Uzbekistan’s state-owned oil and gas company Uzbekneftegaz plans to open online access to precise geolocation information of all oil and gas wells, pipelines and deposits through ArcGIS and Google Earth Pro technologies. It is expected that making access to well data public would improve both the transparency and the efficiency of companies working on energy project design and implementation.

Kyrgyzstan hosted the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council meeting, with the participation of the heads of governments of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. On the agenda were trade between EEU Member States, developments in Afghanistan and joint actions for greater climate resilience. Uzbek PM Aripov also suggested to set up a Central Asia Transit Hub for greater trade volumes between the EEU Member States.

Led by President Tokayev, Kazakhstan signed 23 MoUs with South Korea in the format of a business roundtable that took place in Seoul. The parties plan to cooperate on a series of projects ranging from automobile manufacturing to the development of natural resources. President Moon also requested that Kazakhstan offers support and facilitates business development for South Korean firms.

Uzbekistan simplifies the licensing process for microfinance organisations starting from 1 October. It will now suffice to be included on the register of the Central Bank to receive the permission to issue bonds. These organisations will now also be allowed to attract funding from other financing organisations, while the existing limitations on microlending of appox. $28k and leasing limits of approx. $56k will be lifted.

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