The last few weeks underscore why investors are wary of investing in Kyrgyzstan’s mining sector. Over that span, a gold-mine tender was sidetracked by a legal dispute, a scandal brewed involving allegations of conflicts of interest in parliament, and villagers near a potential mining site signaled they would strongly oppose development.
“A patriotic state official only takes bribes in the local currency,” deadpans Nurlan Anarbayev, one of three presenters on a new Kyrgyz television satire news show. With its motto “more than the truth, a little less than a lie,” the show, Studio 7, filters politics through the prism of comedy, employing a format similar to American primetime hit, The Daily Show.
Last autumn, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kyrgyz counterpart Almazbek Atambayev tried to clarify the Kremlin’s energy ambitions in Central Asia: Putin promised massive Russian investment in the impoverished country’s hydropower sector in return for an Atambayev pledge to enhance economic and security cooperation.
Kyrgyz media outlets have been full of accusations and counter-claims about low-quality medicines, corruption and conflicts of interest, raising concerns about government oversight of the lucrative pharmaceuticals sector.
China is financing the construction of Kyrgyzstan’s first major oil refinery, and excitement is building in Bishkek that the facility could enable the Central Asian nation to break Russia’s fuel-supply monopoly. At the same time, some observers express concern that the project may stoke local resentment, or become enmeshed in political infighting.
The symbolism of a new monument outside Kyrgyzstan’s parliament is hard to miss. Unveiled last April, three bronze-cast heroes push a block of black-clad concrete away from a larger block of white. The black, of course, represents the Kurmanbek Bakiyev era (and some other evils that preceded his administration).
Narcotics use is wreaking havoc in Russia, responsible for 30,000 annual deaths and 200 new HIV infections every day. But Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin is letting knee-jerk hostility toward the United States cloud its response to the drug-trafficking crisis.
Lawmakers in Kyrgyzstan are again trying to force Toronto-based Centerra Gold, the country’s largest foreign investor, to renegotiate the terms of a mining deal that generates up to 12 percent of GDP. Any new operating contract would be the third for the country’s flagship Kumtor Gold Mine in less than a decade.
It is no secret that elements of Kyrgyzstan’s underworld enjoyed many freedoms during the reign of the country’s second president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Indeed, members of the current political elite are keen to remind us of anything that blackens the former first family’s name and deflects attention from their own shortcomings. But recent comments by Interior Minister Shamil Atakhanov go beyond the usual Bakiyev-bashing and provide some interesting insights into the way the state and mafia became enmeshed during his rule, as well as what Kyrgyz mob-watchers should look out for in the future.
In a January 23 interview with K-News, Atakhanov spoke of the “criminalization of the entire political structure,” and labeled “criminal elements” as the main drivers of the ethnic violence in Osh shortly after Bakiyev’s overthrow in 2010. But he also made some more specific remarks about the fight against drugs and organized crime under Bakiyev.
During the presidency of Kurmanbek Bakiyev, criminals managed to incorporate themselves in the system of state governance. Staffing and government activities were decided thanks to the help of criminal leaders, including in the law enforcement agencies. [...] Not without the participation of criminal elements were the Agency for Drug Control and the Main Department in the Fight Against Organized Crime reduced in size. Practically, the police and the criminal world became one and the same.