Monochrome: Some news and one very important one

Date: Oct 2018

There's a piece of news we find far more important than all the visits, pipelines, satellites, and billion-dollar contracts, but we'll try to build suspense first. This week's latest: 

Kyrgyzstan may soon open up its skies and with them -- the fifth freedom of the air. “It’s because of our closed airspace that we have only three airlines. Our citizens have to fly through Almaty because we don’t have the flights,” said one of the members of parliament. The fifth freedom of the air enables airlines to pay and carry passengers and cargo from one foreign airport to another while en route to their home country. 

Kazakhstan's government turned to banks to issue bonds on foreign markets. Though it used to issue bonds in dollars, the administration is about to break with its time-honoured tradition and denominate this round in euros. The government last issued securities in 2015, bringing home 4 billion dollars in double-tranche loans. 

Kazakhstan has announced a five-year plan to upgrade its KazSat-2 satellite in-space, and Uzbekistan may get to link up with it. Renovating together would be cheaper, opined Roscosmos at the Uzbek-Russian business forum in Tashkent (President Putin’s currently visiting the Central Asian republic). Maybe this will speed up Internet access in Uzbekistan, after a lengthy spell of connectivity drought. 

As if to tease, Kazakhstan is about to introduce 5G broadband, as directed by its “Digital Kazakhstan” programme. This was one of the discussion points for Nokia’s chair Risto Siilasmaa and President Nazarbayev, who is currently touring Europe (Finland and Belgium included), where he’s been signing or overseeing the signing of several important documents. 

Moscow Exchange (MOEX) will see off 2019 by buying a 20% stake in its Kazakh counterpart (KASE). This points to the growing freedom of finance between the two countries and to a major market integration. Such kind of bonding, no pun intended, may make for greater opportunities for investors and help market players from Russia and Kazakhstan to raise capital. 

Tashkent has invited RusHydro to draft feasibility reports for two new hydro-electric power plants that the company will also help design and construct. The two stations will produce a total of 500MW. Hydropower is costlier than heat-borne electricity, and where thermal power stations take 12 years to pay off, hydropower plants may never justify their means. Building them comes with one fat cheque, and maintenance works come with another. Still, hydropower is necessary, both for its environmental impact (or lack thereof) and for the discharge speed control it allows. This means plant operators have a much easier time regulating the current frequency, which ups the product quality. 

Following the talks between Uzbekneftegaz and CNPC , a possibility has arisen for a fourth string to be added to the Uzbekistan-China pipeline. CNPC may also join the drilling on the Khojisayat field. The two countries have so far built three pipeline strings, toiling away at a lengthier 5bn dollar “Turkmenistan-China” pipeline project. 

In other ‘volatile’ news, Gazprom’s top brass has visited Turkmenistan and said Moscow is planning to buy gas from Ashgabat beginning next year. The gas giant also aims to join other projects, among them advanced gas processing. Gas supply to Russia has been cut off since the two countries had a major falling-out in 2016. Now the main question is: how far will Gazprom be able to push the price down? Far enough. 

President Mirziyoyev has run through a number of hurdles in the country's chemical sector, one of the pillars of a model modern economy. Uzbekistan has a fertile land, but all its chemical industry produces is fertilisers… outdated fertilisers not enough outdated fertilisers. The Uzbek petrochemistry is in need of development, even as its gas gets exported left, right and centre. These must have informed the meeting’s agenda, which concluded with the decision to realise several large-scale investment projects. 

The battles waged on Afghanistan's grounds may well be carried into its General election. Current MPs will stand against their opposition; the Taliban will stand against all. Will foreign stakeholders – America, Russia, Iran or Uzbekistan – pitch in to sway the results? Over the past years, Ashraf Ghani's administration has wasted no time berating Afghanistan's 2010 Parliament. Tomorrow's election will test his hold on power, ahead of next year’s Presidential election. Here’s interesting read.  

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