Kazakhstan announced a deal with the Asian Development Bank on Sunday during the 47th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of Asian Development Bank in Astana to infuse cash and expertise into the country’s economy to develop the economy beyond its large oil and gas sector, which comprises roughly 80% of its total exports and a quarter of its economy. President Nursultan Nazarbayev ordered the treasury to utilize reserves from the National Fund, replenished with oil export revenues in order to keep growth levels at 6-7% in the coming years. During the meeting, Nazarbayev announced that Kazakhstan is set to join the World Trade Organization later this year, saying that “the negotiating process has gone through its final stage.”
He emphasized that membership with the WTO would help Kazakhstan negotiate on more equal footing with foreign investment firms and large international corporations whose business the country is hoping to attract.
Foreign investors are still skittish about the prospects for Nazarbayev’s Kazakhstan, however. Not only has he not named a successor, certain recent issues that have plagued the regime have come to a head this year. Foremost is the currency crisis in which the tenge was downgraded by 19% in a single day, diminishing national savings and triggering bank runs. This has lent popular support to protests that the government is doing its best to tamp down, as Russia has made it clear that it will intervene as it sees fit in its neighbors’ affairs.
Kazakhstan is likely joining the WTO in imitation of Russia and Belarus in preparation for the formation of the Eurasian Economic Union, which will be formed from the current legal framework which surrounds the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. The EEU is still being negotiated between the leaders of the three countries, with the primary issue being what rights the smaller former Soviet states will have guaranteed if closely tied to Russia.
- President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov is in Dushanbe for talks, according to RFE/RL. He arrived for a two-day visit and is slated to participate in negotiations with Emomali Rahmon and other Tajik government ministers to discuss investment from Turkmenistan in energy and transportation. The likely topic of conversation between the two nations is the ongoing railway project that will connect the two nations via Afghanistan. Regional security following the NATO withdrawal is a cause for concern, and recent events such as the landslide outside of Mazar-i-Sharif have created concerns over the feasibility of the project.
- Afghan officials in charge of landslide rescue operations in the northern provinces gave up hope of finding survivors, putting the number of confirmed dead at as high as 500, and the number of missing persons as high as 2,700. The United Nations said it was focusing on helping more than 4,000 displaced people instead of digging bodies out of the mud. With over 300 mud-brick homes buried on Friday, precise information on the number of dead and missing is hard to pinpoint.
- Kazakhstan successfully launched its first satellite, the KazEOSat-1. The French-built reconnaissance satellite was launched from a station in French Guinea and is set to orbit the Earth from an altitude of 435 miles (700 kilometers). The launch represents the second space-related pieces of news directly related to Central Asia, as Turkmenistan already announced that it was beginning to test its own communications satellite back in March.
- Extremists in China’s Xinxiang province carried out a rare suicide bomb attack on the Urumqi South Railway Station in the Western Chinese city of Urumqi on Wednesday, April 30. The attack represents a break from traditional attacks, and combined with increased political affiliation and an elevated use of technology, may represent a change in the separatist group’s modus operandi. Indeed, Chinese officials have labeled the attack an act of terrorism and have compared Uyghur separatist groups to international terror organizations.