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
1The increase in the scale and number of military exercises by Russian and NATO is making armed conflict in Europe more likely, a think tank has warned. Ian Kearns, director of the London-based European Leadership Network, said that war games “are contributing to a climate of mistrust” that has “on occasion become the focal point for some quite close encounters between the NATO and Russian militaries.”Kearns is a co-author of a study which looks in detail at two military exercises held this year by Russia and NATO, which are deeply at odds over Moscow’s interference in Ukraine. He found signs that “Russia is preparing for a conflict with NATO, and NATO is preparing for a possible confrontation with Russia.”The exercises “can feed uncertainty” and heighten the risk of “dangerous military encounters”.The ELN study said NATO is planning around 270 exercises this year, while Russia has announced 4,000 drills at all levels.
2Iran’s frozen funds: how much is really there? Iran’s portfolio of foreign assets is diverse, and the segment that has been frozen as a result of Western and international economic sanctions is spread among several countries and dates from different times. The freeze date for some goes as far back as the 1979 Islamic Revolution.The conflicting estimates about the value of assets to be released within a year of the deal’s implementation are partly due to the fact that there are different types of assets: some will be very easy to recover, while others will likely remain tied up. Details are murky.In general, the value of all Iranian assets blocked since 1979 most likely exceeds $100 billion. Nader Habibi for the Fortune.
3How much will the Iran deal really affect the U.S. dollar? President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry argue that if Congress doesn’t approve the Iran nuclear deal, the U.S. dollar will fall from grace. Recently, Kerry and Obama have argued that if the Iran deal doesn’t pass, the U.S. would be forced to slap sanctions on anyone doing business with Iran going forward. That could be some of the world’s largest banks or even our allies in Europe or China if they forge ahead with the deal and America doesn’t. That would not go down well. The fear is that these nations and banks might retaliate by ditching the dollar as their currency of choice.
4Azerbaijani and Turkey’s military officials have exchanged views on the military situation in the region.Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov met outgoing military attaché of the Turkish Armed Forces to Azerbaijan Hasan Nevzat Tasdeler on August 11, the Azerbaijani defense ministry said.They stressed the importance of high-level reciprocal visits, and exchanged views on the military-political situation in the region, military-educational issues.The sides emphasized the necessity of solving the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, saying this will help establish peace and security in the region.
5The foreign trade turnover of Kazakhstan with the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) (Russia, Belarus, Armenia) declined by 21 percent and amounted to $7.806 billion in January-June 2015 compared to the same period of 2014, according to the State Statistics Committee under the Ministry of National Economy of Kazakhstan.Kazakhstan’s exports to the EEU countries decreased by 26.8 percent and amounted to $2.351 billion in the first half of 2015. Kazakhstan’s import from Russia, Belarus and Armenia decreased by 18.2 percent and amounted to $5.455 billion. Kazakhstan’s main trade partner in the EEU is traditionally Russia. Some $2.323 billion of Kazakhstan’s exports and $5.221 billion of Kazakhstan’s imports accounted for this country in the reporting period.
6The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project has recently become much more popular. The problem is that security in the transit countries, which the pipeline should cross, i.e. Afghanistan and Pakistan, is at a very low level. Blowing up infrastructure in these countries is commonplace. For the years since the emergence of the idea of the TAPI gas pipeline, the situation has not improved. On the contrary, with the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan in 2014, the terrorist threat in the region only increased. Under these conditions, in case of the project implementation, its participants will have to take huge risks, without any guarantee. The question arises: is it worth it for Turkmenistan to take such a risk? Elena Kosolapova for Trend.
7President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev visited Almaty city on August 9, shortly after the city’s mayor was changed. Nazarbayev spoke about the progress achieved by Akhmetzhan Yessimov, the former Almaty Mayor. The latter took the office of Almaty Mayor in 2008 and only days ago was appointed Chairman of Astana EXPO-2017 National Company, the company steering Kazakhstan’s preparations for the EXPO. He explained that Yessimov’s experience was needed for organization of the upcoming EXPO-2017 in Astana. “EXPO-2017 is our future. Construction exhibition venues is just one part of this task. Another part, a more important one, is its content. EXPO-2017 is supposed to boost Kazakhstan’s transition to a new technological level based on alternative energy. The steering company needs an experienced leader capable of working with the government and regional akimats (local authorities) as well as with dozens of countries to attract investments and new technologies,” Nazarbayev said.
8Azerbaijan, the only Caucasus country with significant prospects for comprehensive development, is keen on diversifying its national economy, in particular the non-oil sector.A successful energy policy pursued by the government has enabled the South Caucasus country not only to stand on its own feet, but also to decrease dependence on petrodollars.Nariman Agayev, the Chairman for Research on Sustainable Development Center, believes that Azerbaijan can develop its non-oil sector by investing in the agricultural sector.He told local media that after three years, this sector of the national economy will bring significant revenues to the state budget.
9Saudis Looking for A Life of Problems. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham said on Tuesday that remarks by al-Jubeir in a joint press conference with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin on Monday showed that the JCPOA, which is aimed at ending an “unnecessary crisis,” has incurred the Saudi official’s “irrational wrath”.“When the senior representative of a regional government is infuriated to such extent by the political settlement of issues in the region and at the international level, it leaves no doubt that he has chosen a life of problems and crisis,” she said.She expressed regret that the Saudi minister’s remarks about the JCPOA were an “echo of the Zionist regime’s stance.”
10Ereymentau Wind Power has kicked off tendering to build a 50MW wind farm in Yereymentau city, Kazakhstan.The developer intends for prequalified firms, joint ventures and consortia of any nationality to tender for the turnkey project.Subsequent phases could push total project capacity up to 300MW.Funding sources for build include part of a loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s Clean Technology Fund and the client, EWP.
World Bank Supports Serbia’s Move Toward Greener, More Resilient, and Inclusive Growth
Serbia is making strides toward accelerating economic growth that is more green, resilient, and inclusive, by implementing a series of legal and policy reforms designed to create a public sector that is more efficient and transparent, as well as better able to enhance the economy’s resilience to natural hazards and climate change. The Public Sector Efficiency and Green Recovery Development Policy Loan, approved today by the World Bank Board of Directors, will provide €82.6 million to solidify this reform agenda and quicken Serbia’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This budget support operation is an important part of the World Bank Group’s engagement in Serbia and is closely linked to the pathways toward reducing poverty and boosting shared prosperity, with a strong focus on environmental sustainability and climate action,” says Stephen Ndegwa, World Bank Country Manager for Serbia.
“Public sector reforms and greening the recovery are important vehicles for accelerating Serbia’s EU integration agenda.’’
The two-pronged operation will support the Republic of Serbia in improving public sector efficiencies and initiating a green recovery, in tandem with the Agence Francaise de Développement, (AFD) – which is supporting the green recovery aspects of this initiative through its own additional financing to the Government of Serbia.
Public sector efficiency improvements are expected to come from a more transparent and efficient public procurement, improved mechanisms for public sector hiring, more efficient management of social protection programs, better control of state aid, and a more predictable legal framework for international transactions.
A green recovery will also focus on reducing air pollution and creating a legal framework for climate policy, actions which are expected to benefit people from all segments of the population.
“For us, this operation is only the beginning of the significant and comprehensive support for Serbia in the field of a green recovery. We are already working with other development partners on creating a program of reforms over the next couple of years to create greener, more resilient, and inclusive growth,” concluded Mr. Ndegwa.
Secrets to Successful Selling Online
Online commerce has opened a new revenue for people to earn money with very little overhead costs. It’s much easier and faster to set up an online shop especially with some of the best eCommerce merchant services available to you on the Internet.
The number one rule you need to adopt right now as a seller is to never overlook the details or turn a blind eye to setting up the foundations of your eCommerce site. Every detail matters, and it’s the little ones especially that will lead to overall success, not merely buying and selling inventory alone.
You don’t want to be one of those sellers who’s so eager to get going you rush through the entire process and end up making several mistakes along the way.
Plenty of eCommerce sites today handle the shipping and payment functions when you sign up, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have your work cut out for you.
Your job is to make sure your store is continuously selling and to do this, you need to consistently improve your store’s performance and monitor it regularly. You need to be mindful of the sales, the seller rating as well as return rates.
Setting up your online store is one thing but keeping it sustainable for long-term and continuous sale is another thing. You got your store to the top of its game, now you need to help it stay there.
Think of these secrets to successful selling as your Must Do List, your bible that paves the way for what success as an entrepreneur looks like. Let’s get right to it:
- Make Your Page Mobile Friendly – Plenty of customers these days do their online shopping on their mobile phones. It’s easy, quick, convenient and sometimes they like to shop on the go. Any content you create today must be optimized for mobile viewing first, and desktop second. It includes your eCommerce stores. If your store is not optimized for mobile viewing, you’re already on the losing end. Customers who will be turned off by this inconvenience and purchase from other sellers with better flexibility. Remember you are dealing with a very short attention span.
- Offer The Best Prices – Without compromising on your profit margins too much, offer your customers the best value for money prices, and they’ll be happy to keep coming back to your store for more. Items that are priced lower show up higher on the search results but be careful that it isn’t too low. Your pricing needs to be competitive and to do that, using Amazon’s Match Low Price feature to assist you in consistently matching with the lowest pricing of the same product on Amazon.
- The Buy Box Is a Must – Products listed on the Buy Box often see an increase in purchases. Therefore, think of this option as the Holy Grail you need to strive to achieve.
- Don’t Be a Rule Breaker – You can never achieve the success you want if you keep cutting corners and breaking all the rules as you go. Follow the rules set by your eCommerce platform, because they are there for a reason. Follow them, and your account will not be penalized or suspended, and you won’t run the risk of losing business.
- Never Ignore Your Customers Reviews – Whether good or bad, if you get a review, acknowledge it and thank your customer for taking the time to leave some feedback. If it is a less than favorable review, thank them too and let them know you’ll consider their points to improve in the future. Never give in to the temptation to cheat on your reviews. Customers will click on products that have higher ratings. The likelihood of them purchasing it is if it has good reviews and high ratings. If you have a product that always gets bad reviews, take it as a sign that maybe you’re better off not selling this item after all.
- Integrate Your Systems for Better Efficiency – If you are on multiple other channels, consider integrating your sales channels with your backend systems. automate these processes and eliminate the process of manual data entry, which can cause delayed data processing time as well as costly errors. Not to mention that in business, time is money. Integrating your systems lets you sync various data such as orders, inventory, customers, items as well as shipping and tracking information between your other systems and Amazon.
Set yourself apart with community values
Setting yourself apart from other businesses in 2021 onwards is not just about producing the best or the most unique content. It’s about setting up values and aligning your values and principles to appeal to your target market.
These values are:
- Going vegan
If you are a company that sells makeup, skincare, household cleaners, or anything that may affect the earth, plants, and animals, then establishing your business values as a vegan is a step approach towards a better tomorrow. Get your brand, company, and products certified with the appropriate agencies to build trust and confidence in your target market. Customers who care about issues like this will be more willing to purchase and support brands that align with their values and principles.
- Cultivating sustainable practices
Online commerce relies heavily on shipping and this comes with its set of plastic packaging. Be kinder to Mother Nature by switching your packaging practices to include more sustainable alternatives. This includes using recycled paper or recycled plastic, reducing the amount of packaging paraphernalia such as stickers, bows, and ribbons, and encouraging your customers to send back the empty bottles, boxes, or packaging material after they have used your products.
- Supporting gender equality and human rights
The world needs more kindness and equality. Support and speak up for your community’s causes. It can be anything from gender equality, LGBTQIA rights, and racial discrimination. Donate to organizations that champion these causes and encourage your customers to do so. You can even donate $1 from every purchase a customer makes to the causes that you care about.
Equitable Human Capital Is a Top Priority for Kazakhstan
The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected Kazakhstan’s progress in strengthening human capital, warned experts during a virtual roundtable this week organized by the World Bank and the Agency for Strategic Planning and Reforms under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The discussion aimed to facilitate a holistic and equity-oriented policy dialogue for informing investments and strategic plans to boost skills and productivity in the country.
Human capital is the knowledge, skills, and health that people accumulate throughout their lives, which enable them to realize their potential as productive members of the society. From 2017, the World Bank has led on a global effort on the human capital development to accelerate more and better investments in people for greater equity and economic growth.
During the event, the World Bank presented key findings of the Equitable Human Capital Development Framework Report for Kazakhstan that showcase declining productivity, growing inequality in the regions, as well as deteriorating health indicators amongst the population.
While Kazakhstan has made impressive economic progress, largely driven by rising exports of oil and gas and increasing productivity, since 2009 the country has seen a marked slowdown in economic growth. Contribution of the human capital to the Kazakh economy beyond extractive industries significantly went down, limiting the country’s ability to produce high-value products.
Today Kazakhstan’s economy lags in some key measures of innovation and competitiveness, and the state of skills development in the country is lower than in countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly lowered domestic economic activity with GDP falling by 2.6 percent in 2020 after expanding by 4.5 percent in 2019 and the poverty rate increasing from 6% in 2016 to 14 percent in 2020. Building back from this economic shock requires strategic and targeted reforms to diversify the economy into more complex, skill-based sectors in order to meet Kazakhstan’s 2050 goals.
“COVID-19 has significantly undermined human capital development gains in Kazakhstan achieved over the last decade. The poorest and the most disadvantaged have been hit the hardest, and this will negatively impact their lifelong learning, future earnings, and socio-economic well-being. For Kazakhstan to enjoy sustainable growth, public policies and investments need to cater to the needs of the poorest and most disadvantaged regions and people. Greater emphasis is needed on the quality of education, skills development, and adult survival”, said Ayesha Vawda, Lead Education Specialist at the World Bank Office for Central Asia.
The report argues that there are substantial inequalities in human capital indicators across regions, gender, and in terms of socio-economic status in Kazakhstan. A child born in the richest 20 percent of households in the country can expect to accomplish 64 percent of his/her productivity, compared to 53 percent for a child born in the poorest 20 percent of households. The regional difference is especially profound in learning outcomes. For example, the HCI score for Atyrau is equal to that of much poorer countries such as Kosovo and Georgia. In contrast, the highest regional HCI score – Nur-Sultan City – is equal to that of Luxembourg and just below that of the United States. Quality of education and education expenditures also differ significantly across the country’s regions. Education policies and financing disincentivize teachers and school leaders to support low achievers. Also, despite ongoing health reforms, there are huge gaps between Kazakhstan and OECD countries in terms of quality control of risk factors, appropriate treatment delivery, and equality of health expenditures across regions.
“If the country continues to strengthen its human capital at the same pace as it did in 2010-2020, it will take 44 years to reach the levels of the 30th ranked country for GDP per capita, assuming the rest of the world does not grow. To join the ranks of the top 30 economies of the world, Kazakhstan will need to revise its economic model, moving aggressively into economic diversification, and building the skills of its next generation—all of them,” said Lilia Burunciuc, World Bank Regional Director for Central Asia.
In his speech, Kairat Kelimbetov, Chairman of the Agency for Strategic Planning and Reforms under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, highlighted “Human development has been identified as a priority in all high-level strategic documents endorsed by the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. In particular, the new system of state planning, the updated National Development Plan 2025 and the new Concept of Public Administration 2030 are all human oriented meaning that all activities under the specified reforms target to improving the life of each country resident as an ultimate goal. The implementation of the National Development Plan until 2025, among other things, is aimed at recovery from the pandemic and improvement of human capital. Based on this document, the reforms will be carried out in all the spheres.”
Both international and national experts agreed that strengthened human capital, as reflected in improved health, education and social protection outcomes would support economic transformation by allowing the economy to move towards skills-based sectors, increasing labor productivity and adaptability to the global knowledge-based economy.
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