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The Second (Tele)Coming of MTS in Turkmenistan
Written by , Wednesday, 5 Sep, 2012 – 1:00 | 2 Comments

Editor’s note: Last week, MTS returned to Turkmenistan two and a half years after its mysterious departure. But will this prove to be a Second (Tele)Coming? NewEurasia’s Annasoltan is skeptical.

In the first hours of August 30th, Turkmen who still possessed MTS SIM cards, two one and a half years after the company was mysteriously and unceremoniously booted out of Turkmenistan, reported receiving a signal. The long-awaited return of MTS to Turkmenistan has been greeted with widespread joy — and jokes.

Our state provider, Altyn Asyr, could not deal with the demand, although they did make strenuous efforts to prepare by offering a new variegated tariff regime with names like “100″ and “Go”. Yet, I’ve heard jokes about Altyn Asyr circulating in Turkmenistan. For example:

Re: “100″, “You try 99 times and only once you succeed in calling.”

Re: “Go”, “Rather than calling somebody, you better ‘go’ visit them, instead.”

Still, MTS is apparently rewarding loyal customers. Between August 30 and September 30, they are offering to old clients who have kept their SIM cards a 20% bonus on their accounts, plus 30 free minutes of calling within the MTS network every day.

Read the full story »

Rare photos of Kumtor mine and environs
Written by , Monday, 26 Mar, 2012 – 1:00 | One Comment

“People would prefer to have gold or silver or platinum, some tangible asset that can preserve their wealth. So, while we’re sitting out in this isolated part of Central Asia and it seems unconnected to much of the rest of the world, this is obviously very central issue to what’s going on economically and financially right now in Europe and North America.” — Dr. Robert Moran, hydrologist/geologist

This past September, Bankwatch and I made a documentary about the Kumtor mine. You can view the video via YouTube. Some weeks later I was invited to join a State Commission which was visiting the Kumtor goldmine to do an environmental monitoring and take water samples. While we were out there, though, I also took a long series of photographs, originally posted by Bankwatch on Flickr but which I’m now re-posting with permission here to help spread the word about what’s happening in Kyrgyzstan’s mountains.

View of the Davidov Glacier with waste rock on it at the Kumtor goldmine.

Read the full story »

Energy Loss Reduction project receives more funding to scale up ongoing activities
Written by , Tuesday, 21 Feb, 2012 – 13:00 | One Comment

The World Bank Board of Executive Directors today approved additional financing of US$ 18 million for the Energy Loss Reduction Project in Tajikistan. The project assists in reducing the commercial losses in the electricity and gas sectors, and lays the foundation for the improvement of the financial viability of the electricity and gas utilities in a socially responsible manner, WOrld Bank’s press-service reports.

The Energy Loss Reduction Project was initially approved in June 2005 and was funded by an International Development Association (IDA) credit and grant of US$ 19 million, and a US$ 8 million grant from the Government of Switzerland’s Secretariat for Economic Cooperation (SECO). The project was restructured in February 2011 to include financing for the assessment studies for the proposed Rogun Hydropower Project. Read the full story »

Uzbek slavery in Kazakhstan
Written by , Monday, 6 Feb, 2012 – 1:00 | One Comment

гастарбайтер в Казахстане

Translator’s Note: Translated from Jamil’s post (RUS).

On March 14, 2011, Mukhiddin Khojimuradov suggested to his compatriots Khairulla and Sunatullo Yuldashevs from Chinaz region of Tashkent oblast that they move to Kazakhstan’s city of Turkestan, where they could earn decent money. When the four young men reached the place, the only job they were offered was at the car washing station; their employer refused to pay for their labor, reports the Initiative group of independent rights activists of Uzbekistan (IGIRAU). They never signed contracts and their passports had been taken away; they had effectively become slaves, who were constantly beaten and forced to work each day from 7am to 10pm.

Read the full story »

Kumtor truck convoys in Barskayn + unhappy new hydrology report
Written by , Tuesday, 31 Jan, 2012 – 3:00 | 2 Comments

The rather crappy photos above are of Kumtor tractor trailer convoys in the Issyk-Kul region of Kyrgyzstan. The close-up shows one convoy parked outside of Barksayn (Барскаун, a.k.a., Barskoon, Barkaun, etc.), the second shows a full convoy that had been blocked on the road in Barskayn for mechanical reasons (an engine overheated in the lead truck), and the third shows a convoy with a police escort in one of the hamlets that rest along the Lake’s South Shore, which is less populated than the more touristy North Shore. I remember the cops being rather dramatic: sirens wailing, driving way up ahead of the trucks, frantically waving at pedestrians to get out of the way. I was surprised by the frequency with which the convoys came and went. Since I’m not at all an expert on resource issues, I’ve no idea what’s contained in these trucks (if anything; they could have been empty).

I took these photos back in April 2011 but misplaced them in the wilderness of my hard drive. However, today’s report from Bankwatch.org concerning the mining industry in Kyrgyzstan (http://bankwatch.org/sites/default/files/Kumtor-MoranReport-31Jan2012.pdf) has prompted me to dig them up (pun intended). The report explores a lot of the difficulties that exist trying to get a technical and ecological audit on the mine and other related mining ventures. I recommend reading it.

Read the full story »

The Aral Sea Disaster: Told By People Of Karakalpakstan, Yet Facing A Denial
Written by , Friday, 16 Dec, 2011 – 13:54 | 12 Comments

“The water that serveth all that country is drawn by ditches out of the River Oxus, into the great destruction of the said river, for which it cause it falleth not into the Caspian Sea as it hath done in times past, and in short time all that land is like to be destroyed, and to become a wilderness for want of water, when the river of Oxus shall fail.”

Anthony Jenkinson, 1558

Sometimes I think that people of Uzbekistan with a 28 million population know less about one of the greatest catastrophe in their own country than people worldwide. One of the reasons of it is the governmental propaganda of the successes in the policies towards its citizens. Another one is that the tragedy is being considered as not only the one of Uzbekistan but also of Kazakhstan, neighboring country rich of oil, and, considered as a main responsible side.

I found out about the Aral Sea ecological disaster when I became a freshman in my undergraduate studies. We had an introduction of our class and my then-future fellows introduced themselves. As myself, majority of students were from the capital city of Tashkent. The distribution among provinces represented the wealth and accessibility of the education in the most prestigious university of Uzbekistan: Tashkent, ancient cities of Bukhara and Samarkand were in top three in representation. All of them were telling their mostly enthusiastic live stories and what inspired them to study at the University. Except for one 17 year old guy who looked much older for us: skin on his face was flabby; he had a permanent cough and was breathing very hard; he was so thin and tall that for the rest of our five year education he had been called a “Skeleton”; the manner of speaking was slow but the way of thinking was critical and, as I understood later, more realistic than ours. Read the full story »

World Bank launches new Country Partnership Strategy with Uzbekistan
Written by , Thursday, 8 Dec, 2011 – 14:06 | No Comment

On December 6, 2011, the World Bank Group’s Board of Directors approved a new Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) for Uzbekistan, providing the framework for World Bank Group assistance to Uzbekistan between 2012 and 2015, World Bank press-service reports.

The new Strategy proposes a program linked to Uzbekistan’s development vision of reaching high middle-income status by mid-century. It was developed based on a broad dialogue with the Government of Uzbekistan and consultations with all development partners, including civil society organizations, academia, business communities, professional associations, and multilateral and bilateral donors.

Through implementation of the CPS, the World Bank intends to help enhance the key elements of the Government’s medium-term growth and development strategy: promoting efficiency, enhancing competitiveness, accelerating diversification, and ensuring social inclusion. A new financing envelope of US$1.3 billion – consisting of concessional International Development Association (IDA) credits and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) loans – reflects the country’s development needs, its income level, economic prospects, economic management, poverty level, and performance of Bank-sponsored programs. Read the full story »

Officials vs. Corruption in Uzbekistan: Bees vs. Honey?
Written by , Saturday, 3 Dec, 2011 – 2:07 | One Comment

The same day Transparency International issued its annual Corruption Perceptions Index 2011 (CPI) that ranks countries/territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be, and where Uzbekistan is in a group of six most corrupted countries — Uzbek State Property Committee and Prosecutor General’s office hosted a seminar dedicated to UN’s Convention Against Corruption: realities and challenges of its implementation in Uzbekistan.

OSCE, which is one of the main financial supporters of this sort of nominal events, was also represented by a guy, who talked about general situation with corruption in the world.

One of the main points of the State Property Committee was that a Plan of Action and Code of Conduct was elaborated to fight corruption in Uzbekistan.

To me, the results of a poll on Olam.uz web site “What measures do you propose to take towards currupted [officials]?” impressed me more than useless statements of officials during the seminar. Read the full story »

Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are Central Asian “Leaders” in Global Corruption
Written by , Thursday, 1 Dec, 2011 – 15:48 | 3 Comments

Corruption in Post-Soviet Central Asia is something very familiar to people living in the region. Without bribing, one is destined to see their case be delayed for a long time, very often beyond time limits defined by laws.

Be it application for a new passport, or registration at a new place of living, or even finding a day care for your kid — bribing is the easiest way to get it all done faster and without a hassle.

Transparency International (TI) has released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index 2011 (CPI) that ranks countries/territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be. According to TI, it is a composite index, a combination of polls, drawing on corruption-related data collected by a variety of reputable institutions. The CPI reflects the views of observers from around the world, including experts living and working in the countries/territories evaluated.

This year Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have proved that they can also have stablility in something — if not positive and progressive, then at least something not really desirable by leaders of developed countries. That something is the abuse of public power. Read the full story »

KFC: Kentucky Fried Chicken? You betcha! Kokand Fried Chicken!
Written by , Tuesday, 15 Nov, 2011 – 12:40 | 3 Comments

Alright, this is getting really funny — the more people express their opinion on Starbucks and KFC potentially coming to Uzbekistan the more we receive shots from neweurasia‘s friends. One of them, KFC Kokand style, called “Kokand Fried Chicken.”

A reader from Kokand sent us this picture explaining that the product has been sold at bazaars in the central part of the ancient city of Kokand, Fergana region. It’s just a “package” of chicken: one can buy as much as they want — no weight limits :)

To note, there’s no reference to Colonel Sanders as it is in Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan. Read the full story »