Monochrome: Iranian bomb and Rembrandt

Date: Nov 2018

The government of Uzbekistan plans to hand over 300,000 hectares of land to private businesses, expecting them to increase yields. A tour around the country showed us that the problem lies in increased soil salinity, which in turn is a result of outdated land development techniques and huge (80%) irrigation water losses. The government requested a development programme running through 2023 that will introduce drop irrigation in Uzbekistan. 

Tajikistan will rejoin with the Central Asian Energy System (CAES), more than a decade after it was disconnected from Uzbekistan's power grid. The Asian Development Bank has pledged 35m dollars for system restoration, and another 500m dollars for Turkmenistan to build 1100 km of power lines. If successful, Turkmenistan will be able to optimise its power distribution system and galvanise its electricity exports. 

Following decades of designing, approving, borrowing, fundraising and bickering, Tajikistan is finally putting the finishing touches on the «construction of the century». The 3.6 GW Rogun Hydropower Plant, the world’s highest (335 meters), is commissioned today. Our warmest congratulations! 

Kiev has accused Uzbekistan of subsidising national car manufacturers to the detriment of Ukraine's motor industry. Tashkent has responded with a threat to impose tariffs on Ukrainian sugar and medicine. Although this is a far cry from a trade war, this shouting match may put a brake on the two countries' relations.  

Uzbekistan plans to split up its national airline and divide the responsibility over flights, airport management and regulation between smaller independent companies. Today, all three are entrusted in a legal mumbo jumbo called ‘Uzbekistan Airways’, the source of huge conflicts of interest. No wonder the industry has been in a stall for quite a while.   

Atamken Party's Chairman Timur Kulibaev has suggested reducing the number of state companies (27,000) by a half. The state is estimated to account for over 50% the GDP, ruling over such competitive economic sectors as transport, logistics, and trade. Mr Kulibaev also recommends tighter accountability rules and more stringent efficiency analysis. He is right and should be heard. 

Astana has held the eighth Financier Congress. Speaking at the event, Elvira Nabiullina, the head of the Russian Central Bank, said rouble and tenge have one common factor: energy commodities. Her Kazakh counterpart Daniyar Akishev said that national banks are catching up with modern financial systems, that Kazcommertsbank is now recovering (thanks to the People's Bank) and that control over the banking sector will be getting tighter. A move in the right direction. 

«Sanctions Are Coming» reads Donald Trump's recent tweet, announcing a new package of «unprecedented» measures against Iran and everyone that dares trade with it (except China, India, and other big-time buyers). General Qasem Soleimani, one of the fiercest characters in Iran, picked up on the GoT reference and published his own poster saying «I Will Stand Against You». With the latest episode of Game of Sanctions running on, the rest of the world keeps buying the Iranian oil)) 

Some more of the news from Iran. If Israeli spies are any good, the Islamic Republic may have some explaining to do with regard to the nuclear centrifuges that were never shut down. Here's a report detailing the interception of Iran's top secret documents. Should Iran pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal, it will have its nuclear weapon ready in months.  

Speaking of finishing touches, a painting probably worth 12 million euros has become the main evidence in the latest criminal case in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The painting, which was nearly smuggled out of the country, is believed to belong to Rembrandt's quill and is temporarily confiscated, pending a court ruling. Someone fetch the BBC; we’ve got a new script for Sherlock. 

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