The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development announced that it will lend $1 billion to Kazakhstan in 2015. The $1 billion lent constitutes the largest amount the EBRD has ever allocated to Kazakhstan, something it attributes to a growing and diversifying economy. Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev in part based his campaign for reelection on the need for a more diverse economy, something that had already been urged by foreign advisors who viewed the Kazakh economy as too reliant on the hydrocarbons sector.
The variety of projects to which the EBRD will donate includes a number of renewable energy projects and agribusinesses, among other ventures. The Kazakh economy has slowed in recent years, and is expected to continue a downward trajectory in 2015, going from 4.3% to 1.5% growth. Another possible catalyst for increased EBRD investment is the downturn in the Russian economy. Some analysts view Western investment as a maneuver to take advantage of a limited window of opportunity left open by decreased Russian investment in Kazakhstan.
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- The Turkmen parliament, known as the Majils, ratified a protocol that is designed to protect the Caspian Sea from pollution. The new agreement establishes a framework adds to an existing protocol signed during a 2003 environmental summit held in Tehran. The Tehran Convention, as the document came to be known, was the first legally binding document agreed to by all of the littoral states.
- A new report by BBC examines Iran’s potential impact on the world energy market should sanctions be relieved. Iran is currently home to the world’s second largest proven natural gas reserves and some of the world’s largest deposits of oil, which it holds both on and offshore. The current output of Iran’s natural gas sector is 165 billion cubic meters per year, although the lion’s share of this is used domestically, while smaller quantities are exported to Turkmenistan, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Should sanctions relief come in the next several months, it is to be expected that Iran will broaden its export clientele and seek foreign investment to modernize its energy infrastructure.
- Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan depend on foreign support to maintain already dismal national health care centers. The systems that both countries use are often insufficient for the country’s health needs, which include a rise in Tuberculosis, AIDS and other maladies. A new report on graft in Tajikistan indicates that grants from domestic and international NGOs and international organizations are threatened due to the high incidence of graft in both countries. The Global Fund, a Geneva-based health organization, already decided to reduce funding for grants in both countries due to uncertainties related to what percentage of the grants would be used for actual health needs.
- Kyrgyzstan continues to seek solutions to ongoing power shortages throughout the country. The nature of Kyrgyzstan’s seasons, marked by a bitter winter and equally hot summer, demand high amounts of resources which have proven difficult to secure for a variety of reasons. Due to differences with neighboring Uzbekistan, the country was without natural gas supplies leading into the winter, until Russia interceded on its behalf and convinced the Uzbek government to renew supply. Kyrgyzstan relies heavily on neighbors such as Tajikistan during the summer, and Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan during winter, although each of these countries faces increased demand during the winter, leading to a decrease in exports and greater shortages in Kyrgyzstan. To combat the issue a panel of experts suggests the construction of new hydropower and thermal plants in Kyrgyzstan. However, the article published by AzerNews is scant on information related to where the Kyrygz government could secure the necessary funding for the plants.