Monochrome: World is blazing, both literally and figuratively

Date: Aug 2018

The US has reimposed trade sanctions on Iran, barring it from buying US dollars and trading gold, metal and cars with the outside world. The rial is down to half its previous worth; prices are up by half their previous worth; and the political elites are fuming. But if Iran is feeling the repercussions now, it’s nothing to what is yet to come. Should the US slap sanctions on the oil industry in November, the situation might well unfold into a full-blown crisis. The Americans will want to strangle Iranian economy, and the Iranians will want to do the same with the Hormuz Strait. The end might be far from happy. The BBC has more.

Uzbekistan’s oil and gas sector spent the past week hosting Air Products, which is looking to invest in gas production in the Central Asian republic and is already drafting a feasibility report. Founded in 1940, Air Products now boasts a mighty $10b in annual turnover. Halliburton (no introductions needed) is opening a representative office in Uzbekistan. For Central Asia’s oil and gas market… change is coming.

Uzbekistan will help draft the CIS Free Service Trade Agreement, which is expected to cover access to the insurance market, transportation and logistics. The document will also lay down the terms and conditions that will inform potential investors on how to set up subsidiaries and what to do once on the market. The news has far-reaching implications that will become more apparent down the line.

The World Bank has warned Central Asia about the risks of floods, landslides, mudslides and avalanches, in addition to the currently existing threats of droughts and seismic instability. Such natural disasters not only endanger the livelihoods of 70m people, but are also liable to cripple national economies and impair vulnerable households. Here’s what the World Bank has to say. It had better be wrong.

Local government officials in Uzbekistan are out of tune with the vision and entrepreneurial spirit of President Mirziyoyev, lacking a sense of responsibility towards the public and sparing little thought to economic development in their municipalities. The Uzbek leader’s comments come at a time when he needs to keep a fine balance between backing khokims (mayors), who put his reforms into action, and criticising them when they fail to come up to scratch. Read on for more details.

A sea or not a sea? That is the question that the leaders of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan are expected to answer at the 5th Caspian Summit, this Sunday. It appears that the five littoral countries will be signing the convention, determining the Caspian’s legal status, after over 20 years of debate. Quite a while ago we did a review on the topic, and we will be keeping a close eye on the Summit’s outcomes.

Sinophobia has spiked in Kazakhstan, first stirred up by a refusal to extradite the Chinese fugitive Sayragul Sauytbay and further fuelled by public calls to nationalise the oil and gas sector, where the PRC currently has a 40% stake. If the truth be told, this ‘spike’ is probably nothing more than an aberration. The extradition case will soon be forgotten, and the appeal for nationalisation might just have been an attempt at creative writing.

Kyrgyzstan is ramping up its public-private partnership, with the government announcing its decision to hand failing state-owned enterprises over to the private sector. The list of 87 SOEs due to be converted into joint ventures will be presented at the investment forum in September.

Russia granted Kazakhstan access to the high-precision signal of its satellite navigation system GLONASS. While the satnav’s civil-grade signal does a great job finding you on the map, it’s terrible at identifying your altitude, which is where its military counterpart comes in. According to experts, the satellite ‘topographer’ has a great deal of tasks and even a greater deal of usage opportunities. Kazakhstan is only the third country, after India and Algeria, to use GLONASS’s high-precision signal.

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