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The fate of the world cannot be determined by one country

Dimitris Giannakopoulos

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Welcome to the Caspian Daily, where you will find the 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region. We appreciate ideas, reports, news and interesting articles. Send along to Caspian[at]moderndiplomacy.eu or on Twitter: @DGiannakopoulos

1Russia says the fate of the world countries and nations cannot be put in the hands of a country or a limited number of countries seeking to keep their dominance over others, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov wrote in an article titled “Lessons of History and New Milestones.The article was published on Sunday in Russia’s Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily as well as China’s Renmin Ribao newspaper on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in August 1945. In an apparent reference to the interventionist policies of the US and its NATO allies in other countries, the Russian foreign minister said that global developments, including the occupation of Iraq and the conflict in Libya and Ukraine prove the “tragic consequences” of striving to capture and retain global dominance at any cost. “We are resolute opponents of imposing one’s will on sovereign countries, including by military means, of unilateral sanctions pressure, and in general of employing the practice of ‘double standards’,” he wrote. Lavrov said that the “lessons of the Second World War” proved that global woes can only be resolved through collective efforts.

2Turkmenistan, Iran trade to hit USD60b in 10 years. An Iranian official said that the two nations are committed to grow relations in all sectors as its presidents stressed in Iran’s Exhibition, therefore the trade between them is set to hit USD60 billion over the next decade. The oil, gas, construction, energy, water and engineering products and services exhibition resulted in Turkmen traders, economic activists and investors becoming acquainted with the capabilities of Iranian companies. The expo, called ‘Iran Project’, focused on increasing Iran’s non-oil exports and paving the way for developing trade, mainly exchanging Turkmenistan’s gas with Iranian goods and services.

3Japan has lodged a protest over Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to one of four disputed Pacific islands that have strained ties between the two countries since the end of World War II. The decades-old argument over the territory, claimed by both states, could set back Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to court resource-rich Russia and keep the door open to dialogue, despite the Ukraine crisis. While on the island, Mr Medvedev said Japan’s attitude would not stop more such visits.”Our position is simple: we want to be friends with Japan, Japan is our neighbour. We have a good attitude towards Japan, but this shouldn’t be linked in any way with the Kuril islands, which are part of the Russian Federation,” he said.”Therefore, we have made visits, we are visiting and we will make visits to the Kurils.” Mr Medvedev emphasised economic development plans for a region potentially rich in oil and gas and invited foreign investors. Russia ordered a quicker build-up of military facilities in the disputed islands in June, following comments by Mr Putin in April that he was ready to discuss the issue, while blaming Japan for a lack of dialogue.

4Despite the forecasts announced by investment group Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Kazakhstani experts say that the probability of a default in Kazakhstan remains low, Tengrinews reports citing business newspaper Kursiv. Last week, the American bank placed Kazakhstan on the ninth place among ten countries with the highest likelihood of sovereign default. Experts in the country acknowledge certain risks exist but contend that a default is not on the horizon.

5Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan are in talks for the establishment of a joint bank whose branches would conduct financial operations in the two countries, Press TV reports. Speaking in an exclusive interview with Azerbaijan’s Trend News Agency, Iran’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi emphasized that further development of the two countries’ banking cooperation is necessary for expansion of trade relations between Tehran and Baku. “Currently, the trade volume between our countries is about USD 500 million…. I think that it’s not a very good indicator for the two neighboring countries and peoples so close to each other. Azerbaijan and Iran have set a goal to increase this figure by four times to USD 2 billion,” he said.

6The Black Sea Trade and Development Bank is seeking to increase the number of financial intermediaries in Azerbaijan. This was noted in the BSTDB cooperation strategy with Azerbaijan in 2015-2018, published on its website. The bank hopes to find suitable partners for the development of leasing in Azerbaijan.”It is an area of great potential in Azerbaijan and the Bank intends to use the leasing product not only for financing capital expenditure of SMEs but also for other companies as an effective financing tool for the promotion of regional trade. Medium-term credit lines opened to leasing companies for trade related purposes will enable them to offer their customers finance for capital expenditures on imports from other countries in the region,” the document said.

7Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and his Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov have discussed relations between their two former Soviet republics in Central Asia. Tajikistan’s presidential press service quotes Berdymukhammedov as saying that Tajikistan and Turkmenistan “have common positions on the issues related to peace and stability in the world and in the region.”Rahmon said the two countries have a “common position towards the struggle against terrorism, [and] extremism [that] creates a base for developing economic ties.” The presidents’ concerns about terrorism follow reports in recent months that Taliban fighters have intruded into Turkmenistan and Tajikistan from neighboring Afghanistan.

8Kazakhstan’s national gas supply company KazTransGas has signed with China Development Bank Corporation and Bank of China an agreement on a syndicated loan worth US $2.5 billion for the period until 2028. The loan will be used to finance the construction of the Beyneu-Bozoi-Shymkent gas pipeline, the press service of KazTransGas said on August 19. The Beyneu-Bozoi-Shymkent pipeline will deliver natural gas from gas fields in western Kazakhstan to southern parts of the country.

9The Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping CJSC will increase the number of the vessels engaged in cargo transportations in the Black Sea to four.The company said the ‘Teymur Ahmadov’ dry cargo ship, with an ability to carry a load of 3,000 metric tons, will reach the Black Sea through the internal waters of Russia.Aside from the ‘Teymur Ahmadov’ ship, the Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping CJSC has the ‘Garadagh’, ‘Natavan’ and ‘Uzeyir Hajibeyli’ vessels in the Black Sea.

10Kazakhstan’s currency recovered some of its recent losses against the dollar Monday with a 15 percent rise, even as the country’s stock market slumped. The tenge traded at 218.61 to the dollar in the morning session on the Kazakhstan stock exchange, down from 252.47. The tenge had slumped by over 25 percent against the dollar on Thursday when Kazakhstan’s government and central bank moved to a free float, abandoning a trading corridor.

Journalist, specialized in Middle East, Russia & FSU, Terrorism and Security issues. Founder and Editor-in-chief of the Modern Diplomacy magazine. follow @DGiannakopoulos

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ADB Provides $360 Million for Rolling Stock to Boost Bangladesh Railway

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The Board of Directors of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved loans totaling $360 million to buy modern rolling stock and support reform in Bangladesh Railway to help promote a shift from roads to rail.

“Railways in Bangladesh potentially offer a cheaper, safer, and more fuel-efficient means of transport of goods and passengers than roads, but have been held back by lack of investment and aging and unreliable rolling stock,” said Tsuneyuki Sakai, an ADB Senior Transport Specialist. “The ADB Railway Rolling Stock Operations Improvement Project will boost the operational performance of Bangladesh Railway by introducing new technology, equipment, and processes that will be cleaner and more efficient, cutting carbon dioxide emissions.”

Historically, railways enjoyed a monopoly as a carrier and transported most commodities. However, its market share has dropped because of inadequate investment in railway infrastructure and rolling stock over an extended period. This has resulted in unreliable freight operations and uncomfortable experiences for passengers. Most rolling stock is more than 30 years old, and much is past the end of its economic life. Maintenance facilities have also not improved over time and are not adequately equipped.

Under its Seventh Five-Year Plan for fiscal years 2016-2020, the government has placed special emphasis on railway development, setting targets to increase the market share to 15% in freight transport and 10% in passenger movements by 2020.

Bangladesh Railway has also been operating at a loss, its operating costs about double what it makes from revenue. Under the railway reform supported by ADB, the government has taken steps to boost revenue by raising the level of passenger and freight tariffs that have remained unchanged for decades. An increase in the operational capacity through new rolling stock is needed to generate more revenue.

Starting with a Railway Sector Improvement Program in 2006, ADB has provided four loans to the government for railway development totaling $2.81 billion. Three loans invested in network improvement in key sections of the railway, with two targeting enhanced South Asian subregional connectivity. The Railway Reform Project under the 2006 program introduced financial reforms and an enterprise resource planning information technology (IT) system. A loan approved in 2015 is also procuring rolling stock and maintenance equipment, for which work is ongoing to 2020.

This latest project seeks to address the investment and modernization needs of Bangladesh Railway. It will procure 40 broad gauge locomotives, 125 luggage vans, and 1,000 wagons for freight trains for use on major lines of the rail network. The rolling stock will introduce auxiliary power units (APU) to Bangladesh Railway, to significantly reduce diesel consumption when the locomotives are idling. The project will also draw up investment plans for urgently required maintenance facilities, establish training programs for the drivers, and run the enterprise-wide IT system.

The total cost of the project is $453.37 million, of which $93.37 will be met by the government. It is due for completion around the end of June 2022.

Accompanying the loans is a technical assistance grant of $500,000 to devise a training scheme for drivers in the use of the APU and recommend potential approaches to achieving overall energy efficiency. ADB will administer the grant, to be provided by the Asian Clean Energy Fund under the Clean Energy Financing Partnership Facility, established by the Government of Japan.

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Helping Armenia Thrive

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Despite being a landlocked country with few natural resources, Armenia has come a long way since independence in 1991, with all major socio-economic indicators drastically improved.

The Asian Development Bank now is supporting Armenia in its effort to expand its private sector, diversify its economy, cut red tape, and gain access to new markets, says Shane Rosenthal, Country Director for Armenia at the Asian Development Bank.

What is Armenia’s current state of the economy?

Since independence in 1991, Armenia has come a long way. Gross domestic product per capita has increased ten-fold in the country, in large part because of smart decisions about investment and because of good connections with its main trading partner, Russia.

We now have a country where the electricity is reliable, where most of the population has access to clean water, where business is beginning to thrive, not least because it is possible to register a business in a short amount of time. It’s possible to go to a bank and get a loan.

This economy needs to diversify into new products, into new markets. That may mean Europe, it may mean other Eurasian economic union members, and increasingly, it may mean looking eastward, toward Asia.

What role does ADB play in Armenia’s development?

ADB has focused on what it does best vis-a-vis other development partners in Armenia. And that, for us, means infrastructure.

Infrastructure in terms of connectivity, helping upgrade the national highway system so that cargo and people can reach neighboring countries more quickly, more reliably.

It means making the cities more livable with improved water supply.

How can the private sector support Armenia’s development?

Going forward it’s important to understand that Armenia’s growth can no longer depend on the public sector to play the leading role. The private sector needs to be the one that takes this country forward. And that means diversification. It means ease of doing business, and it means access to new markets.

ADB is going to focus increasingly on a balanced portfolio, between the public and private sectors. It’s clear that Armenia’s future will depend on the role that the private sector plays. And there, Armenia has many advantages: a strong financial system, a strong diaspora, with very good connections around the world, and a very strong educational base.

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Three steps to end discrimination of migrant workers and improve their health

Afsar Syed Mohammad

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Authors: Afsar Syed Mohammad and Margherita Licata

When migrant workers leave their home, many encounter abuse and violence on their journey and discrimination once they arrive. This can be because of their status as migrants but also because of their ethnicity, sex, religion, and HIV status.

They often struggle to find decent work, which means they can end up in poor living and working conditions, which in turn affects their health. Female migrants are more likely to be vulnerable to exploitation and violence, which exposes them to the risk of HIV and other health issues.

Research has shown that migrant workers – particularly those who are in an irregular situation – often fail to access health services because of poverty, language and cultural barriers, lack of health insurance, as well as fear of job loss and deportation. It means that by the time they see a doctor, their illness has become all too serious.

Against this background, a newly launched ILO publication looks at the interplay between migration policies and those relating to broader health goals in countries of origin, transit and destination. Its key recommendation is that HIV and health policies should be integrated into the entire labour migration process.

So what can be done to ensure that migrant workers have better access to decent work, health and HIV services? The report recommends a three-pronged approach.

1) End discriminatory practices

Migrants face obstacles in accessing decent work, health as well as social protection. Whenever migrants are denied their rights, they tend to live and work in the shadows.  They become vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation and marginalization.

Discriminatory practices such as mandatory HIV testing of migrants for employment have proved to be ineffective. On the contrary, it is a violation of their rights. It disrupts access to health care and increases migrants’ vulnerability to HIV infection.

2) Set up an integrated response

It is essential to develop a response that does not just pile up ad-hoc policies one after another. Instead there needs to be an integrated and coordinated response that leads to decent work and health outcomes for migrants, including more effective HIV responses.

Right to entry does not mean the right to work for women in many countries. In such cases, women are left with no option but irregular migration which further exposes them to various forms of abuse, exploitation and risks such as HIV.

Gender-responsive migration policies would help address existing inequalities between men and women migrants, while at the same time improve their health.

3) Focus on migrant workers’ rights

There are no quick-fix solutions but discrimination and inequalities relating to HIV and health can be reduced if we focus on migrants’ rights and if we take a global approach. The report especially insists on the following priorities:

  • There is a need to target different groups of migrant workers for HIV prevention, care and treatment, depending on the specific risks that they face. For example, risks are different depending on whether they are low skilled or high skilled workers.
  • Effective responses to HIV for migrant workers should be integrated into fair recruitment initiatives, encouraging fair business practices to reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination, and equal access to health services.
  • Health programmes and HIV prevention for migrants must be disassociated from immigration enforcement.
  • Inclusion, participation and freedom of association among migrant workers are essential pillars for effective actions on migration, health and HIV.
  • Migration and health policies and practices, in particular those relating to HIV and AIDS, should address inequalities between women and men. A gender analysis is needed from the start for all policies and practices relevant to migration and health.

*Margherita Licata, Technical Specialist Gender, Equality and Diversity and ILOAIDS Branch

Source: ILO

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