Investors operating in three post-Soviet Central Asian republics face an “extreme risk” of having their businesses expropriated, according to a survey released last week in the UK.
Maplecroft, a Bath-based political risk consultancy, said on January 9 that it had found plenty of reasons to be wary of the business climate in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan after “evaluating the risk to business from discriminatory acts by the government that reduces ownership, control or rights of private investments either gradually or as a result of a single action.” Recent fits of resource nationalism in Kyrgyzstan -- where the Kumtor gold mine, operated by Toronto-based Centerra Gold, accounted for 12 percent of GDP in 2011 and more than half the country’s industrial output – and rampant authoritarianism in places like Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have led Maplecroft to rank these countries among the most risky in the world. Not far behind, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan both fall in the “high risk” category.
From the study:
Central Asia is characterized by areas of increasing natural resource exploration and exploitation, but also for poor respect for property rights. Indeed, Turkmenistan (11), Tajikistan (18) and Kyrgyzstan (20) are all categorized as extreme risk. Kazakhstan (26), Azerbaijan (58) and the already mentioned Uzbekistan  are rated as 'high risk'. As such, the region presents high expropriation risk particularly motivated by low regulation enforcement and widespread corruption. Various instances of expropriation have occurred in 2012. These include the allegedly unlawful expropriation and demolition of housing in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku; the expulsion of Russian telecommunications firm MTS in 2012 and the continued fallout associated with the expropriation of a gold mine belonging to Oxus in 2011 in Uzbekistan; and increasingly frequent hostility towards the mining sector from parliament in Kyrgyzstan.
The index, released as part of Maplecroft’s fifth-annual Political Risk Atlas, will offer little surprise to embattled foreign investors. Yet it offers a chance to rank the region, legendary for its pervasive corruption and venal dictators, internationally. Turkmenistan, regularly named by human rights groups as one of the most authoritarian and closed regimes on the planet, sits right after Omar al-Bashir’s war-weary Sudan in the expropriation index. Nepotistic Tajikistan, where the president’s family reportedly controls almost all business interests, is sandwiched between Angola and Bolivia.