Perizat RISBEK KIZI
The new dynamics of regional integration, which is clearly observed in the countries of Central Asia, is critically important for strengthening stability and minimizing risks with recent events in the region. However, it is worth emphasizing that regional integration also opens up new economic opportunities that deserve special attention. Thus, the countries of Central Asia are organized into an integration space in order to establish closer trade and economic relations not only among themselves but also with other actors of the world economy.
The recent scale of economic changes in Central Asia is impressive. The countries of Central Asia have undergone a major transformation and have become a significant and rapidly growing region. Economic growth indicators remain within the range of 5-7%, and even in the crisis year of 2020, the economic growth rates did not deteriorate. And according to the forecasts of the World Bank, the Central Asian countries in 2021 will be able to restore the positive dynamics of GDP growth and increase the growth rate in 2022.
Such economic growth in Central Asia is mainly due to the use of the economic potential of the region. Transport and transit opportunities are one of these important drivers. In this context, the geographical location of Central Asia is the most important communication crossroads connecting Europe with Asia, the Middle East with Northern Eurasia and Russia. Thus, the region has become a center for the development of West-East and North-South transport corridors.
The importance of the “Middle Transport Corridor”, which will connect Asia with Europe through Central Asia and Turkey, should be specially noted. This corridor will have a positive impact on the connectivity of the region and reduce border barriers, which, naturally, will increase regional trade and economic interaction not only between regions but also within the region. The second no less important project is the construction of the “Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar” trans-Afghan railway, which will open access for the Central Asian countries to the fast-growing markets of South Asia. The development of this transport network will provide access to the ports of Karachi and Gwadar, diversifying the logistics flows of existing routes to the Iranian ports of Chabahar and Bandar Abbas, which will solve the problem of the continental isolation of Central Asia. Also in this direction, large-scale projects of the Central Asian countries are envisaged, such as the TAPI gas pipeline, the TAP and CASA-1000 electricity transmission lines, which will closely link the economies of Central and South Asia, contributing to the achievement of stabilization and sustainable development of the entire region.
The next important driver of economic growth in Central Asia is increasing investment attractiveness and improving the business environment. In particular, recent trends in the economic integration of Central Asian countries make this region very attractive for capital investments by potential investors, including the European Union (EU). Thus, in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, on November 5, the first economic forum “EU – Central Asia” was held, dedicated to the development of cooperation between regions in the areas of green economy, digitalization and improvement of the business environment. On the sidelines of the forum, bridges were built with different EU countries, in particular with Hungary and Austria. As the Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic Akylbek Zhaparov noted, following the meeting, the participants agreed to hold an economic forum in this format on an ongoing basis and create a secretariat, which will be based in Bishkek.
In addition to the EU, close trade and economic ties are also being established within the framework of the Organization of Turkic States. Thus, on November 12, in the Istanbul Declaration adopted at the end of the VIII summit, the Turkic states reaffirmed their determination to further develop economic cooperation and trade. According to the document, the creation of Turkic Trading Houses (Tth) is envisaged in order to increase the volume of trade, export potential and investment between the member countries and observer countries of the organization. In this context, Turkey is an important trading partner for many countries of the Turkic world, which reflects not only ethnic and cultural ties but also Turkey’s active policy to expand economic ties with the countries of Central Asia.
As a result, today the Central Asian countries are actively promoting regional trade and economic cooperation and act as independent economic actors in the international arena. It is worth noting that the countries of Central Asia have begun to understand well that the region can achieve greater economic diversification and sustainability by engaging the geo-economic role, supporting business and attracting investment. Thanks to all this, the problem of geographical isolation disappears and solid prerequisites for intra and interregional cooperation in the long term are created.
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