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KYRGYZSTAN


 

 

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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 1,737 1,632 1,500 145
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 330 290 280 178
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km) 
198,500 

Population 
5,081,429

Principal 
ethnic groups
Kyrgyz 52.4%
Russians 21.5%
Uzbeks 12.9%

Capital
Bishkek 

Currency 
Kyrgyz Som 

President 
Askar Akayev



Update No: 303 - (27/03/06)

No more "colour revolutions" in Central Asia - Akayev
No more "colour revolutions" will hit Central Asia in the near future, the former president of Kyrgyzstan said on March 22nd, a year after he was driven from his homeland after being toppled in an uprising, reported RIA Novosti the same day. 
Askar Akayev, who was deposed in what became known as the "tulip revolution" in March, 2005, said the West's desire to encourage the democratic process in the former Soviet Union and to change the old generation of presidents with new politicians had been the main cause of a series of political upheavals in the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose union of ex-Soviet republics. 
A little more than a year ago, Akayev was forced to flee to Russia, new pro-Western authorities had swept to power on the back of popular uprisings after disputed presidential elections in the former Soviet republics of both Georgia and Ukraine in what became known as the "rose" and "orange" revolutions, respectively. 
The former leader said Kyrgyzstan was the only Central Asian country where a "colour revolution" had occurred because it had a developed civil society and political freedoms, which allowed a strong opposition to exist, which is not untrue. "It was the first and, I hope, the last experience of colour coups," he said. 
According to Akayev, the purpose of the uprisings was to weaken integration processes in the former USSR and to undermine the role of Russia, which has traditionally had extensive interests in the area. 
Although he said he hoped to return to his homeland, Akayev, who currently lives in Moscow, said he would only return to Kyrgyzstan if the security of his family, some of whom face criminal charges, was guaranteed. He added that his arrival in Kyrgyzstan would be possible as soon as the incumbent authorities stopped "the anti-Akayev hysteria and persecution." 
The ex-leader said the criminal cases against him and his family had no foundation and were designed to prevent him from returning to Kyrgyzstan, one of the poorest former Soviet states, and his children from pursuing political careers. 
"My wife was setting up education centres for children throughout Kyrgyzstan and as a result the number of criminal cases that were opened against her equalled the number of schools for children she managed to open," the ex-president said. 
He also said the FBI had been searching for millions allegedly stashed away by his family at the request of the country's incumbent authorities, but had found only US$69,000 that had been transferred to a US account for educational purposes. 
Akayev is not quite as blameless of abuses of power as he makes out. But he may have been marginally less corrupt than other central Asian rulers, and was by far the most emollient. Hence why the revolution could happen. 
He said a new criminal case had been launched against him, but dismissed it by saying the move was connected with the failure of the Kyrgyz authorities to achieve any success in the year since the coup.

Kurmanbek Bakiyev's aide: The president has a lot of advisors 
Is this last sideswipe true? Who wields the clout within the highest echelons of state power? Whose advice do presidents heed? 
In a most illuminating interview with the leading political analyst in Kyrgyzstan, Ferghana.Ru met with Valentin Bogatyrev, Director of the Kyrgyz Presidential International Institute of Strategic Studies. The interview began with the banal question on the shape of the so called Kulov-Bakiyev Tandem, respectively the premier and the president.
Valentin Bogatyrev: The tandem is getting better and better but I do not think that the term "tandem" applies. I'd rather call it normal relations between the president and his prime minister. Not the way it was at first when Kurmanbek Bakiyev and Felix Kulov were equals in an alliance. This tandem or whatever you choose to call it was formed before the election. It boosted its participants' image, abated political tension, and convinced the population that their political masters were a monolithic team.
The relations between them normalized and I do not consider it odd at all. Paradoxically as it will undoubtedly sound, I'd say that the president and his prime minister grew closer to each other than they had been before. In the past, their tandem was something of a necessity. These days, it is a properly functioning arrangement of working relations. I'd say that it makes their alliance even steadier than it was, say, last July.
Ferghana.Ru: Kulov said in an interview with Ferghana.Ru last December that "Bakiyev is trying to do his earnest best." Would you say he has learned to be the president?
Valentin Bogatyrev: He has solidified his positions indeed. It was truly a demanding school, you know. Bakiyev was forced to learn whatever had to be learned despite the powerful resistance put up by all sorts of political forces. It is only now that he is getting to wield a certain political resource. It is only now that he began demonstrating his ability to hold the situation in check.
Ferghana.Ru: Shall we call the election of the new chairman of the parliament Bakiyev's triumph?
Valentin Bogatyrev: I would not discuss it in these terms, you know. Bakiyev was not fighting Tekebayev in the capacity of parliament chairman. His grievances were absolutely different. He believed that instead of minding its own business (i.e. legislation) the parliament was generating political problems. For example, the parliament interfered in a quarrel between two structures of the executive branch of the government. The parliament brought up some matters that should remain the province of law enforcement agencies... What really irked the president was that when the parliament was discussing this years budget, it began with itself - autos, apartments, and so on. It enraged the president but he did not demand Tekebayev's resignation even then. Tekebayev has only himself to blame for it.
As for the resignation as such, it was a banal show, a political show like the one involving conflict between the Interior Ministry and National Security Service over Ismankulov's arrest. Tekebayev would have been the chairman even now had he not aggravated the situation deliberately. Sure, there had never been any love lost between Bakiyev and Tekebayev, but it was the latter that went personal and got the worst of it.
Marat Sultanov, the new chairman, is a man of a different generation. He is a politician of a new type with Moscow education. He spent years in the national bank and the finance ministry, the establishments where modern technologies are used. That's what makes him different. Sultanov thinks in terms of free-market technologies and does not care for emotions or ideological factors. A pragmatic as he is, Sultanov will have the parliament doing what it is supposed to be doing in the first place. Even if his election the chairman may be appraised in terms of contest, then it was a contest organized by the parliament itself, not by the president.
As a matter of fact, a lot of lawmakers in this country promote the idea of a parliamentary republic. That's the widespread idea, you know. Russia tried it once and it ended in tanks in Moscow streets. Well, the parliament lost in the battle struggle. Bakiyev did not gain anything. He has only what he has had and no more. In fact, so far as I know he even intends to delegate some powers to others. His latest proposals stipulate more independence for the parliament than it currently enjoys.
Ferghana.Ru: What power factions exist in Kyrgyzstan? Pro-Russian? Pro-American? 
Southerners? Northerners?
Valentin Bogatyrev: There are four factions that I know of.
Faction One includes Askar Akayev's state officials, the men who have been in their positions since before Akayev's downfall and who fear dismissal or even imprisonment for that. Azimbek Beknazarov suggests their imprisonment.
Faction Two consists of the men who made their fortunes under Akayev and owe it to their loyalty or servility. They are not state officials. They are businessmen and deputies afraid that their wealth and assets may be confiscated now. There are lots of these men in the parliament, you know.
Faction Three comprises the new officialdom. They were elevated to the positions of power by the revolution and they want everything under their own control now. Not that they intend to do away with the first two factions overnight. No, they want control without any dramatic measures. Kyrgyzstan is a small country where everybody are either relatives or acquaintances of everybody else. So, these men are content to take over quietly. This faction mostly consists of the Southerners probably because they were vastly outnumbered by the Northerners in the corridors of power of the previous regime. This is probably the only episode of territorial inequality nowadays. Well, the Southerners want justice restored, they want positions of power for themselves now. Besides, many revolution leaders are Southerners too, and the revolution itself began in the south. And so these men believe that they are entitled to it all now. Practically all men comprising Bakiyev's inner circle are Southerners.
The last faction comprises radical revolutionaries. They are Beknazarov, Roza Otumbayeva, and others. These radical democrats are convinced that the revolution should continue, that the first faction should be imprisoned and the second deprived of everything it possesses.
That's all in terms of the Kyrgyz establishment. I may only add that all these faction include pro-Russians and pro-Americans.
In the meantime, all these factions may be viewed as Bakiyev's adversaries. Whoever fears imprisonment is afraid that the new regime will become so strong one fine day as to lock them up. Whoever fears that their property may be confiscated do not want a strong president who may order an investigation into exactly how they came to possess it all in the first place. The new nomenclature is sabotaging the regime's promises to arrange a revolution and eradicate corruption. These people are where they wanted to be and any dramatic changes nowadays are the last thing they need. As for radical revolutionaries, they are against the president because he does not keep his promises to imprison, to sack, to nationalize... That's what I mean when I say that Bakiyev has found himself in a tight corner. He was compelled to operate all alone, without a political team to rely on or political resources to draw on.
The president is taking some serious steps nowadays. He says, for example, that we should put an end to the witch-hunt and fix the outcome of privatization and legalize capitals. Bakiyev is even enlisting the services of radical revolutionaries. Baibolov will reorganize law enforcement agencies. Beknazarov will be in charge of the constitutional reforms. The president is trying to include the opposition in his team. In fact, I believe that Bakiyev is going to sack some particularly odious men from his inner circle soon and fill the vacancies with more adequate people.
Ferghana.Ru: Describing the establishment, you missed a certain faction that is seen in Russia as powerful indeed. I'm talking of the underworld and men like Aziz Batukayev, Ryspek Akmatbayev, Nurlan Motuyev...
Valentin Bogatyrev: Like Bakiyev, I'm convinced that seriousness of this particular factor is way too exaggerated. One constantly hears the deliberately spread rumours that the president has the underworld's support and so on. I'd say that the actual state of affairs is absolutely different. Whenever the power of the state weakens, the underworld always grows stronger. It is only logical. Besides, the underworld itself was in involved in mob wars in the course of this period. These episodes with Bajaman Erkinbayev, Surabaldiyev, Akmatbayev - there were episodes of these mob wars. When the new regime was installed, kingpins went after each other in attempts to expand their spheres of influence. All of that had its effect on the situation with the state power.
Last but not the least, the impression that the corridors of power and the underworld are really close to each other was augmented by the fact that victims of contract killings were deputies of the national parliament. They all had been kingpins once but they became deputies. They were killed when the country knew them as lawmakers and that created the illusion of some political ulterior motives. In the meantime, there was nothing political about these murders...
Well the conflict between Akmatbayev and Kulov also played its part in creation of the myth. As a matter of fact, it was Kulov himself who had asked for it with his impulsive words concerning Akmatbayev's brother Tynychbek.
Ferghana.Ru: Is the president strong enough to withstand all of that?
Valentin Bogatyrev: Bakiyev has a certain weakness (for want of a better term) that will eventually prove to be his strength. What I'm talking about is his insistence of solving every problem by the law. That's what the radical revolutionaries condemn him for. 
Ferghana.Ru: The president is compelled to manoeuvre in foreign politics between Russia, Uzbekistan, America, and other geopolitical players, right?
Valentin Bogatyrev: Of course. The situation is extremely difficult. The president is experiencing pressure from every conceivable direction. I'd say that he is trying not to take someone's side on any particular matter only because Kyrgyzstan has always had warm relations with Russia. Or because Kyrgyzstan should not spoil its relations with the West. Or because it needs better relations with Uzbekistan. In short, there is a whole tangle of factors to be considered in every particular episode so as not to affect relations with somebody else. That's difficult. Choosing the line of conduct, I mean. Consider the episode with the military base in Manas when the Shanghai Organization of Cooperation decided all of a sudden that all US military bases should be ousted from the region. From Kyrgyzstan's point of view, validity of the decision was highly questionable. Indeed, why oust the base which earns the national budget money?
I cannot wait to see all elections everywhere organized and done away with. That includes Russia too - with its fears of a revolution and attacks on non-government organizations. In Kyrgyzstan, non-government organizations were never harassed even under Akayev. There were practically no problems with them, you know. Of course, Akayev himself maintains these days that he was toppled with such ease precisely because of all the non-government organizations in the country. Well, there are lots of them indeed and the West helps them greatly. At the same time, I'm telling you right here and now that these non-government organizations were not directly involved in the last year events in Kyrgyzstan. They were not directly financed the way non-government organizations in Georgia and Ukraine had been (or so I hear). That is why we do not really understand what the matter is when Russia is putting its non-government organizations under pressure or accuses them of espionage or whatever. We do not understand why it is that we are expected to follow suit. The Uzbek authorities are fairly harsh on non-government organizations in their country too. The latter are compelled to operate under total surveillance. Not so in Kyrgyzstan. From this point of view, mutual understanding with our neighbours is difficult indeed. In any case, so far as I understand the president does not plan to change anything in this respect... Well, we like the way we live. Travel to Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan and you will feel a wholly different atmosphere there. We feel free in Kyrgyzstan.
Ferghana.Ru: I hear that the nostalgic longing for Akayev's era is gradually mounting in Kyrgyzstan. Is it?
Valentin Bogatyrev: There is a certain nostalgic longing but that's because of the pogroms and the effect they had on everyone. Particularly in southern Kyrgyzstan. There is practically no nostalgia in the north to comment on. The northern regions of the country are fairly optimistic with regard to the existing state of affairs. In the meantime, I cannot say I ever heard any outright demands for having Akayev back. What everybody only says is that Bakiyev should finally restore order.
Ferghana.Ru: What is your International Institute of Strategic Studies about?
Valentin Bogatyrev: It is about analysis. We are supposed to list the existing and potential and offer solutions to each and every one of them. I worked with Akayev too, you know. My directorship persuaded me that presidents do heed our advice and recommendations but only the ones they themselves agree with. Generally speaking, presidents always do what they think should be done. For example, I met with Akayev shortly before March 24 and suggested several options. It was on March 18. One of the solutions I suggested stipulated Tanayev's replacement with Bakiyev. Akayev turned the idea down. He took somebody else's advice. Well, all presidents have a lot of advisors.

Kyrgyz vote with their feet to go abroad
In a quiet referendum on the achievements of Kyrgyzstan's revolution, citizens are voting with their feet -- leaving the country in search of better economic opportunities elsewhere. According to some estimates, the number of emigrants from Kyrgyzstan is surging. The exodus is fast approaching the point that it could cause long-term damage to the Kyrgyz economy, some experts warn. 
The overwhelming majority of migrants are heading to Russia and Kazakhstan in search of jobs. Between 350,000 to 500,000 Kyrgyz nationals, out of an overall population of roughly 5 million, work either seasonally or full-time in foreign countries, according to some estimates. Kyrgyz MP Kubanychbek Isabekov, who chairs parliament's Labour Migration Committee, told EurasiaNet in an interview that an increasing number of departing Kyrgyz have no intention of returning. "Besides ethnic Slavs, the number of ethnic Kyrgyz leaving country forever increased three fold," Isabekov said, adding that roughly 90,000 Kyrgyz at present are in the process of obtaining Russian citizenship. 
Labour migrants have been keeping the country financially afloat in recent years. According to the official estimates, labour migrants remitted nearly US$200 million in 2005 to family members back in Kyrgyzstan, a figure that is roughly half the state's budget. Remittances, according to Isabekov, have risen steadily year-on-year, providing further evidence of an explosion in labour migration. "Labour migrants in Russia sent US$160 million via Western Union [back to Kyrgyzstan] in 2004," he said. "During the first half of 2005, our citizens transferred US$124 million." 
Souren Hayriyan, the CEO of Unistream, a Moscow-based cash-transfer system, said the volume of his company's traffic between Russia and Kyrgyzstan rose 400 percent in 2005, reaching a total of $83 million. "The money transfer market is growing incredibly," Hayriyan said. "The CIS market grew from 25 to 30 percent over the past year and we expect further growth. The main reason for this is that the Russian economy is growing and more people from CIS countries tend to stay and work here." 
Some observers believe the actual volume of remittances from Kyrgyz labour migrants could be much higher than officially reported totals. Many Kyrgyz migrants, especially those living in more remote parts of the mountainous Central Asian nation, tend to shun wire transfer systems. Instead, they quietly repatriate their foreign-earned income without officially declaring it, observers say. 
Recent changes in Russia's citizenship legislation, initiated by President Vladimir Putin, have helped encourage a significant number of Kyrgyz to seek a permanent place in Russia. The changes make it possible for all former Soviet citizens who have legal residency status to be eligible for fast-track Russian citizenship. In addition, Russia's Federal Migration Service announced in late last year that it would seek to legitimise up to 1 million illegal migrants from the CIS in 2006. 
Russia's population is projected to decline by about 1 million people per year over the next couple of decades. Thus, Moscow is increasingly eager to attract immigrants to fill gaps in the country's labour pool, especially low-paying and menial jobs. The changes would seem to have the added benefit of increasing the Kremlin's political leverage with CIS states. 
Kyrgyz are rushing to take advantage of the Russian changes in order to reap economic rewards. Isabekov, the Kyrgyz MP, noted that with legal Russian residency or citizenship, Kyrgyz stand to earn higher incomes. In addition, they would be less prone to police extortion. Foreign nationals in Russia, especially those from the Caucasus and Central Asia, are often subjected to police document checks. Those whose papers are not in order must pay hefty bribes to escape detention and possible deportation. 
Some migration experts say that Kyrgyzstan over the near term will benefit from the Russian changes -- mainly in the form of a rising amount of cash remittances. But there is a considerable danger to Kyrgyzstan's economic stability over the medium- to long-term, experts add. Instead of continuing to remit earnings back home, economic migrants over time might opt to bring loved ones to Russia. "Kyrgyzstan faces irrevocable migration," said Bermet Moldobekova, a national program officer at the International Organization for Migration's Bishkek office. Isabekov added that much of the working-age population in some Kyrgyz areas, such as the Osh Region's Alay District, have already gone to Russia. 
The Kyrgyz government should take immediate steps to ensure that Kyrgyz labour migrants retain strong ties to their homeland, some officials and experts say. Isabekov and others suggested the Kyrgyz parliament should consider legislation providing for dual citizenship. Before his ouster last March, former president Askar Akayev indicated that he intended to submit a dual citizenship bill - a move that, at the time, was primarily driven by a desire to stem the outflow of Slavic residents from Kyrgyzstan. The dual citizenship issue has largely been ignored since Akayev's abrupt departure from power. Other suggestions include reforms to Kyrgyzstan's tax code to encourage Kyrgyz migrants to keep sending both cash and goods back home, and the creation of a diplomatic post at the Kyrgyz embassy in Moscow that specifically works on labour-migration-related issues. 
The Kyrgyz government should additionally take steps to improve the ability of Kyrgyz to compete in Russia's labour market. Moldobekova, the IOM representative, said that after 15 years of independence, many Kyrgyz do not have a solid knowledge of Russian. "If Kyrgyzstan wishes to export its labour and benefit from it, then it should [confront] the issue of continuing to teach people the Russian language," Moldobekova said.

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INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

India and Kyrgyzstan sign the MoU to set up IT center in Bishkek


On 20th March, in a ceremony held in Bishkek, India and the Kyrgyz Republic signed an MoU to set up an Indian-Kyrgyz Centre for Information Technology, AKIpress News Agency reported. 
The IT centre, to be set up in the Kyrgyz capital by M/S HMT International Limited, an Indian undertaking, aims at providing training in modular short-term proficiency courses in computer application software, training officials of the Kyrgyz government in IT, upgrading the skills of IT faculty in the universities of Kyrgyzstan, imparting state-of-the-art training in software, design and development etc. Apart from creating a pool of knowledge workers and generating employment opportunities, the centre, conceived as an institute of excellence in software learning and development to usher in knowledge economy, would be creating world class IT professionals to attract investment into Kyrgyzstan and generating revenues through exports, and would also assist in establishing e-governance. 
The Indian-Kyrgyz centre for information technology, one of the several India-assisted projects in the Kyrgyz Republic, is a testimony to the close and multifaceted cooperation between India and the Kyrgyz Republic. Both the countries share strong historical and cultural ties and are actively engaged in diversifying relations and expanding cooperation. India is also engaged in executing other cooperation projects in Kyrgyzstan, in fields such as agro-processing, high altitude medical research, technical cooperation and educational training.

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TRANSPORT

Kyrgyzstan to build railway link to China

Kyrgyzstan has a big stake in launching the construction of a railway link to China, Interfax News Agency reported. 
"But before the construction is launched, a decision must be made in principle, a feasibility study drawn up and funding provided," Kyrgyz Prime Minister, Felix Kulov, told the Cabinet recently. 
"A group of investors are prepared to put money into the project if Kyrgyzstan and China come to terms on when the construction will begin," the prime minister said. 
"Prior to drawing up a feasibility study, talks must be held with the World Bank to secure a soft credit. And then ways of repaying the credit must be discussed with investors," Kulov said. 
Transport and Communications Minister, Nurlan Sulaimanov, said "the construction of a 268-kilometer railway is estimated at some US$1.3 billion and is to last for six years." 

"To get started, an agreement must be signed with China and a route negotiated. The railway could run through southern Kyrgyzstan and further to Uzbekistan, or through Kyrgyzstan's northern part towards Kazakhstan," Sulaimanov said. 

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