The Conway Bulletin: Independent newssheets covering Central Asia & the South Caucasus

Issue no. 114 Nov. 23 2012 (covering Nov. 16 - 22)

Central Asia & South Caucasus News.

Edited in London

GEORGIA: More arrests

TURKMENISTAN: Production at gas field to start

Police in Georgia arrested more senior officials, mainly linked to the opposition, throughout the week in an operation some have described as a witch-hunt by the new government. Highlighting the alarm felt by Georgia’s foreign allies, the US publicly asked the authorities to stop the arrests (Nov. 16).
GEORGIA: Opposition leader returns

A Turkmen official told Reuters that production at the world’s second largest gas field, Galkynysh, would begin next year (Nov. 16). Galkynysh was confirmed as the world’s second largest gas field last year and, when production begins, will cement Turkmenistan’s status as one of the region’s most important energy producers.
AZERBAIJAN: BP’s problems

After five years in exile, Georgia’s former defence minister Irakli Okruashvili returned to Tbilisi to face accusations of bribe-taking and forming an illegal armed group (Nov. 20). Mr Okruashvili had been an ally of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili before becoming an opposition leader in 2007 and then fleeing.

KAZAKHSTAN: Police raid media

A senior official at SOCAR, Azerbaijan’s state energy company, hinted that the BP-lead group developing the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli (ACG) field in the Caspian Sea would be expected to invest more cash into the project to maintain production, media reported (Nov. 21). Azerbaijan has complained about below-expected production rates at the field.

In their latest effort to close opposition media, the Kazakh authorities asked the courts to label TV station K+ and the Respublika and Vzglyad newspapers as extremist and ban them (Nov. 21). This year, in the wake of riots in the west of the country, the authorities have cracked down on media it views as troublesome.
KYRGYZSTAN: ICG researcher accused

Media quoted Sahatmurad Mamedov, chairman of state energy company Turkmengaz, denying that Turkmenistan had cut gas supplies to Iran because of a pricing dispute, as reported last week by Iranian media (Nov. 22). Instead Mr Mamedov said gas had been stopped to fix the pipeline and that the flow had now re-started.

TAJKISTAN: Remittance kings

Kyrgyz authorities have accused an Irish researcher, Conor Prasad, working for the Brussels-based think tank International Crisis Group (ICG) of stirring ethnic tension in Osh, media reported (Nov. 22). The ICG, which publishes influential reports on Central Asia, and Kyrgyzstan in particular, denied the allegations.
FOCUS: Kyrgyzstan’s economy

World Bank data showed, again, that Tajikistan’s economy is the most reliant in the world on remittances, media reported (Nov. 22). In 2011, remittances, mainly from Russia, accounted for 47% of Tajikistan’s GDP. Second on the list was Liberia with a 31% share. Remittances made up 29% of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP last year.

>>Recent economic news from Kyrgyzstan presents conflicting future prospects Instability stalks Kyrgyzstan. It’s prone to revolution, the rule of law is weak, corruption is deeply-rooted and ethnic tensions simmer just below the surface. Under-pinning all this is its relatively impoverished economy. Alongside Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan is the poorest country in Central Asia, with little arable land or natural resources. All this makes the Kumtor gold mine in the mountains of eastern Kyrgyzstan so important. It’s owned by Toronto-listed Centerra Gold (which is, itself, part owned by the Kyrgyz government). The mine makes up around 12% of the country’s annual GDP. That’s why the announcement earlier this month by Centerra that the gold reserves at the mine are actually more than 50% larger than originally thought was so important (Nov. 8). Centerra went further and said the life-span of the mine would be extended by another five years to 2023. Good news, indeed, for Kyrgyzstan. Less positive was an announcement by the national bank that it expects inflation to be higher in 2013 than first thought (Nov. 19). It now forecasts inflation in 2013 at around 11%, up from an earlier forecast of 8%. Rising food prices have created the inflationary pressure -- a bad economic sign not just for Kyrgyzstan but for the entire Central Asia region. The Conway Bulletin, 12 Melcombe Place, London NW1 6JJ Copyright © 2012