Kazakhstan President Nazarbayev delivers the State-of-the-Nation address; Kazakhstan to prosecute offenders and mend ties with Zhanaozen protesters; Partners of Trans-Caspian pipeline project may reach decision in June; TAPI: Pakistan agrees in principle
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  • (JANUARY 23-29, 2012)

    According to reports, in his state-of-the-nation address on January 27th, the Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev identified social and economic modernization as its main vector of development for the next decade. 1 To achieve these he identified ten areas or directions that needed reform:
    employment, affordable housing, development of regions and small towns, improvements to the quality of public services, improvement of human resource capacity, modernization of the judiciary and law enforcement systems, high quality growth of human capital, improve pension system, implementation of industrial and innovation projects, and finally development of agriculture.2 With regard to Kazakhstan’s foreign policy, President Nazarbayev said that his country will remain committed to a balanced foreign policy, interacting both with the West and Asia. 3

    In the meanwhile, Kazakhstan’s Prosecutor-General last week said those top-ranking local police officials as well as current and former heads of state-run oil companies will be charged for Zhanaozen-related crimes. Fired oil workers had been demonstrating against OzenMunaiGaz and KMG since May 2011 and the recent firing has brought the Kazakh government under intense scrutiny wherein human rights activists’ maintained that police engaged in extralegal actions to quell the riots. 4 According to reports, senior officials have acknowledged errors in their handling of the strike, fired subordinates and state oil company executives, and have begun a sweeping program to offer alternative employment to the strikers wherein the Kazakh government has set about resolving the labor problems here as it has in the past, releasing a mini-gusher of new financing not only for the workers but for the local government, schools and roads. 5 This unrest poses challenge to the Western oil companies and the government as in the latter case there is a switch in the demands of the protesters from wages to political change. In a related event, a new strike broke out on 26th January as some 200 workers downed tools at a major oil project by the U.S.-led TengizChevroil Company in Atyrau, the western region of Kazakhstan in demand of higher pay. 6

    In another development, according to reports, talks over the disputed Trans-Caspian pipeline project that would link Turkmen gas with pipelines to Europe may reach a yes-or-no decision in June wherein the EU Commissioner for Energy Gunther Oettinger described the current series of negotiations between the governments of Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan as “intensive” yet “constructive”. 7

    In a related development, according to reports, Pakistan has agreed in principle to charge a uniform transit fee for natural gas supplied from Turkmenistan, paving the way for further progress on the TAPI pipeline, at the meeting of the Indian and Pakistani oil ministers in New Delhi last week. 8

    According to reports, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) confirmed recently that it will extend a $400 million loan and political risk guarantee to help Uzbekistan build its largest petrochemical plant—Surgil Natural Gas Chemicals Project, designed to meet the country’s industrial and commercial needs for gas, scheduled to go online in early 2016. 9 Additional financing toward the project – the cost of which will come to around $4 billion – will be provided by the Export Import Bank of Korea, Korea Trade Insurance Corporation, China Development Bank, National Bank of Uzbekistan, European export credit agencies, and international commercial lenders. 10 In the meanwhile, the World Bank announced last week, that it is setting aside $27 billion, which will be available in next two years, for countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia that will be adversely affected by the downturn in European Union countries. 11

    In other developments, according to reports, the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced on January 26, that the Russian government will crack down on illegal migrants who do not formally register or obtain work permits. Of the 10 million migrants who head to Russia hail from Central Asia wherein significant portions of the working population are from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. 12 According to the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) released last week, the Central Asian Republics (CARs) are considered the worst in the world for environmental protection and are found to be lacking in their management of precious water resources. 13