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
1Nefarious scenarios that are being implemented in the Middle East today, were prepared for Azerbaijan as well, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev said Sept.8, addressing the meeting on economic issues and preparation of the state budget for 2016. Some foreign circles were talking about the “Arab Spring” in Azerbaijan in 2011 and then in 2012 and were stating that it is unavoidable, Aliyev noted. The head of state said that much has been done to exacerbate the situation and disrupt the stability in the country, adding that however, all this was revealed by the country’s law enforcement agencies.They wanted to create ‘Maidan’ in Azerbaijan, involve the youth in these nefarious activities and made them miserable, President Aliyev said. The president said lots of funds were spent to exacerbate the situation in Azerbaijan.“There were revealed tens of millions of dollars that were supposed to be brought to Azerbaijan illegally, through the local ‘fifth column’ and with the help of NGOs in order to exacerbate the situation and bring to power the people serving some foreign circles here,” he added.
2Russia and Kazakhstan want to unite their air defense systems, Pavel Kurachenko, the head of the Russian Aerospace Forces, said on Tuesday, TASS reports.The two countries signed an agreement on creation of a united air defense system in 2013.”At this stage, we are rehearsing coordination among groups of troops and are laying down the legislative framework for this unified system,” Kurachenko said.Russia also wants to create united regional anti-aircraft defense system with Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Kurachenko said. A draft agreement between Armenia and Russia on creation of a united regional air defense system in the Caucasus has been approved by both states, which are ready to sign it.
3Hic Dracones: Corruption across the Caspian. “A region clearly struggling to make progress in fundamental aspects of structural freedom and guarantees, which signal a lack of real opportunity for popular prosperity and stability” Dr. Matthew Crosston- Modern Diplomacy.
4Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan are discussing the establishment of a “green corridor” to facilitate the cargo transportation between the two countries, Aydin Aliyev, the head of the Azerbaijani State Customs Committee, told reporters Sept. 8.”We have already established a similar corridor with Russia,” he said. “In the near future we plan to start official negotiations with Kazakhstan.”As for the delay of Azerbaijani businessmen’s goods on Kazakhstan’s border, he said that the problems have been solved. The entrepreneurs transported the goods from China to Kazakhstan’s Aktau port.
5The National Fund for Development of Financial Services has offered its plan for tackling the situation created by the depreciation of the national currency and transition to the floating exchange rate of the tenge, Tengrinews reports. The Fund was established in November 2014. Its main objectives are to help customers use banking and financial services, control the quality of services provided by banks and financial institutions, and improve the financial literacy of the population of Kazakhstan.
6Social Media Terrorism: DAESH’s New Caucasian Province. “DAESH relies heavily on an innovative and polarizing message to recruit and expand its illusory borders. In the North Caucasus, it has relied on sympathy for the so-called fight for Islamic independence and an ardent rejection of Kremlin influence. With this message, it has aligned itself with al-Qaeda’s Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus, with four of the six most powerful divisions formally aligning themselves with DAESH after the announcement” Brian Hughes- Modern Diplomacy.
7Obama hits 41, cements Iran victory. President Obama cleared a significant political hurdle Tuesday when several undecided Democrats came out in favor of the Iran nuclear deal, giving him enough votes to block a Senate resolution of disapproval. Three of the five remaining swing votes, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Gary Peters (Mich.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.), announced their support for the accord in a flurry of near-simultaneous press releases on Tuesday morning, increasing the number of pro-deal Democrats to 41. The Hill.
8The National Agency for Technological Development of Kazakhstan has been accepting bids from inventors for innovation grants on new priorities as of September, the national agency said. The list of areas has been expanded from eight to 16 in accordance with the order of the Ministry of Investment and Development of Kazakhstan.The inventors can apply with innovative projects in the fields of nanotechnologies and space industry, the advanced technologies in woodworking and furniture industry, pharmaceutical industry, medical industry, bioengineering, genetic engineering, agricultural chemistry, robotics.
9The ways of developing relations between Azerbaijan and Pakistan were explored as the first deputy chair of the Azerbaijan State Committee on Religious Organizations, Sayyad Salahli, has met Pakistani ambassador to the country Khalid Usman Qaiser. Salahli hailed relations between Azerbaijan and Pakistan, stressing that there was mutual interest in developing the bilateral ties. Qaiser said that the foundations of strong relations between Azerbaijan and Pakistan were laid by national leader Heydar Aliyev. The diplomat stressed that Pakistan has always backed Azerbaijan`s just position on the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.Goods turnover between Azerbaijan and Pakistan has reached about $1,318 mln from January to July, 2015, according to the State Customs Committee.
10Why do Vladimir Putin and his Kremlin cronies look so nervous? Putin’s resort to theatrics clearly indicates he is gearing up to run for re-election in 2018. The annexation of Crimea and surge in Russian patriotism have pushed his approval rating to levels no Western leader can hope to replicate. The only place they can really go is down. Yet despite having no serious domestic political opponents, Putin’s path to re-election may prove complicated. Andrei Kolesnikov and Andrew S. Weiss- Reuters.
ADB Provides $360 Million for Rolling Stock to Boost Bangladesh Railway
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.
Helping Armenia Thrive
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.
Three steps to end discrimination of migrant workers and improve their health
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
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