Central Asia’s two least-developed countries, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, are both heavily dependent on Chinese investment these days. But now it appears Chinese investors are tiring of persistent uncertainty in Kyrgyzstan and are shunning the country in favor of neighboring Tajikistan.
The Kyrgyz government’s penchant for trying to revise deals with foreign investors stands to have a big financial backlash. An assortment of angry investors anticipates winning damage awards totaling almost $1 billion in international arbitration.
Summer is supposed to be the one season when people in Kyrgyzstan can forget about electricity shortages. But this year, it seems, summer will bring no respite, as the government has announced it will import electricity from Tajikistan.
Russia’s state-run oil giant Rosneft wants to purchase a majority stake in the state-controlled company that owns all of Kyrgyzstan’s civilian airports. The negotiations are stoking concern in some circles in Bishkek about the potential risk to Kyrgyzstan’s sovereignty. But with its entrenched corruption, poor governance and remote location, the Central Asian country has few other options.
It is a tough climb to the weather station: The trail leads across snow-covered boulder fields and steep, icy slopes. But for four researchers from Kyrgyzstan’s Geology and Mineral Resources Agency, the six-hour climb to the Adygene Glacier weather station, perched at 3,600 meters above sea level, is routine.
Kara-Keche, a sprawling deposit containing about 430 million tons of coal in mountainous Naryn Province, is a key asset for Kyrgyzstan’s struggling economy. It’s not just the government and an array of local companies plying the open pit mines that are interested in the dirty black stuff. Last November, a shootout at Kara-Keche among gangsters highlighted an unsavory side of the business.
Walk into one of the ubiquitous Bishkek butcher shops advertising itself as “halal” and ask what the word means, and you are likely to receive a shrug and a gesture pointing to a certificate on the wall. In Kyrgyzstan, where the observance of Islamic customs appears to be spreading quickly, there’s little agreement about how to prepare meat in a religiously proper way.
The Year of the Snake has been full of unpleasant surprises for Chinese living in Kyrgyzstan. Against a backdrop of rising economic nationalism and weak law enforcement, Chinese migrants complain they’re being targeted for robberies and extortion, especially by law-enforcement officers who are supposed to protect them.