Pipeline construction and gas-field development on the 1,680 km Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline commenced in Turkmenistan in 2015. Commissioning of the project is likely to be delayed by one year from 2019 to 2020 because of inability of Turkmenistan to achieve financial closure on the project. It was earlier scheduled to attain this by December 2016, but now it has been moved forward to June 2017. The four countries have signed a US$10-billion investment agreement for the pipeline. The Tapi pipeline is projected to export up to 33bcm/yr from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India over 30 years.
China is falling well short of Turkmen expectations regarding the amount of gas it imports, in the process damaging the latter’s economy. Turkmenistan has supplied China with a total of 160bcm of gas since deliveries started in December 2009. This indicates that deliveries in 2016 totalled 30bcm or less. Such a level falls far short of Turkmenistan’s export target and casts a long shadow over goals set out by president Berdimukhammedov in May 2014, when he declared that “annual export of natural gas to China will amount to 40bcm by 2016 and up to 65bcm by 2021.”
Turkmenistan's GDP growth slowed to 6.2% in 2016 from 6.5% in 2015. Economic growth has been slowing since 2015 as energy prices dropped and Russia halted imports of Turkmen gas, leaving China as its major buyer.
Kyrgyzstan’s Prime Minister stated that the country’s membership of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) has been beneficial for the country. Opposition in Kyrgyzstan has charged that government has done nothing to improve economic situation in the country and create favorable conditions for local businesses to enter the EEU market. In 2016 Kyrgyzstan’s trade with EEU declined by 18.6% as compared to 2015 and amounted to US$1.9 billion. Imports from non-EEU countries increased: from China by 150%, from Turkey by 12.2%, and from USA 130%. Kyrgyzstan’s transitional period with preferences will end in August 2017 and the country will then be required to obey common rules for all EEU member states. Farmers cannot export their products because they do not meet the requirements of EEU technical regulations. Despite criticism of MPs, Deputy Prime Minister expressed optimism focusing on a 3.8% GDP growth and an increase in customs duties by 8 billion soms in 2016. Exports in 2016 grew by 5.1% and reached US$1.54 billion, compared to a 22% decrease in 2015. Imports decreased by 3.7% in 2016, compared to a 29% decrease in 2015.
Government stated that Kyrgyz economy declined because of unfavorable economic situation in Russia and Kazakhstan, the main trading partners of Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan’s economic growth is expected to be about 2.7% in 2017. In January-November 2016, remittances from Kyrgyz labor migrants working abroad amounted to US$1.493 billion, 20.9% more than in the same period in 2015.
Central Bank of Uzbekistan decided to keep the refinancing rate at the earlier level of 9% per annum. This was done to keep inflation under control, stimulate investment and promote economic growth. Inflation in the country in 2016 was 5.7% compared to 5.6% a year earlier. In 2017, inflation is expected to be between 5.7%-6.7%. Uzbekistan has been growing steadily on account of its vast natural resources of oil, natural gas and gold. Uzbekistan's economy grew by 7.8% in 2016 compared to an 8% growth in 2015 reflecting a weaker external environment and slower growth in the industry. The government has forecast GDP growth of 7.8% in 2017.
President Nazarbayev in his state-of-the-nation address on 31st January, 2017, launched the third phase of Kazakhstan's economic modernisation. The Plan looks beyond the current difficult global economic conditions to prepare the country for challenges and opportunities in years ahead to make it among the 30 most developed nations of the world by 2050. Nazarbayev emphasized the importance of expansion of business environment and improvement of conditions for mass business. To achieve that goal, it is necessary to minimize the state’s involvement in the economy and develop public-private partnership.
Position of Kazakhstan in the American Think Tank Heritage Foundation’s “2017 Index of Economic Freedom’’ moved up significantly by 27 positions from 69 to 42 with an improvement of 5.4% in overall performance. Amongst Central Asian States, Kyrgyzstan comes next at 89, Tajikistan stands at 109, Uzbekistan at 148 and Turkmenistan brings up the rear at 170 out of a total of 180 countries. For purpose of reference, India stands at 143 (a decline of 3.6% in performance and fall from 128th position in the previous year), China at 111, Russia at 114, Sri Lanka at 112, Bangladesh at 128, and Pakistan at 141.
World Bank has forecasted that Kazakhstan’s GDP will grow from 0.9% in 2016 to 2.2% in 2017, 3.7% in 2018 and 4% in 2019. Much of this has to do with the government’s own infrastructure spending. As the economy opens up, Kazakhstan climbed the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index and is now ranked 35th. According to World Bank, 80% of all foreign money coming into Central Asia heads to Kazakhstan. World Bank has ranked it as one of the 20 most attractive countries in the world for investors.
Total value of exports and imports of Kazakhstan equals 53% of its GDP with average applied tariff rate of 3.3%.
Tajikistan's trade turnover decreased significantly over 2016. Between 2003 and 2013, Tajikistan’s GDP grew by an average of 7.2% per year, while employment expanded at only 2.1% annually. The low level of product diversification and reliance upon natural resources makes the Tajik economy susceptible to volatile commodity prices. The country adopted a new National Development Strategy covering 2016-2030, which envisages Tajikistan transforming from a mainly agrarian based economy to an industrialized economy.
In 2016 Tajikistan’s foreign debt reached US $2.3 billion or 32.7% of the country’s GDP. Today, Tajikistan’s largest international creditor is China, accounting for more than half of the country’s total debt. Tajikistan’s other large creditors are the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and Islamic Development Bank. In 2016, Tajikistan’s exports amounted to US$898.7 million and imports stood at US$3 billion.
February 28, 2017