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Kazakhstan readies itself for EXPO2017

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

1In 2017, Astana, the capital city of my home country of Kazakhstan, will host the next Universal World Exposition, joining a long heritage that includes Shanghai’s extraordinary effort in 2010. EXPO-2017 is a national project that provides a great opportunity for the Republic of Kazakhstan to investigate new sources of energy and current developments in green technologies. We have set ambitious goals to ensure that this exhibition is held at the highest level, meeting the expectations and hopes of other countries. The president of Kazakhstan has set up some challenging objectives; we need to turn EXPO-2017 into the central point for the third industrial revolution, which includes the development of an alternative economy and the creation of new high-tech materials, sources of renewable power and a skilled workforce. The promotion of EXPO-2017 is gaining significant feedback from across the world” Rapil Zhoshybayev, first deputy minister of foreign affairs of Kazakhstan. [Global times]

2Mayor of Almaty replaced with fresh face: analysis. Kazakhstani political analysts Andrey Chebotarev and Dosym Satpayev talked to Tengrinews about the meaning of the new appointments. The first believes that both appointments are a sign of trust that the President put into the two men. The second thinks Yessimov was downgraded, and Baibek’s appointment was a way to encourage the younger generation of civil servants. Director of the Center of Topical Research Alternative Andrey Chebotarev contended that rotation of high-level officials was a normal occurrence. Yessimov had served as Akim (Mayor) of Almaty for quite a long time – since 2008. The expert believes that appointing Yessimov as head of the National Company Astana EXPO – 2017 was a sign of confidence that the President had in him.

3The Pluto of International Organizations: The Evolution of the SCO. “The SCO seems to be structured in a manner that undermines its own development, as IO evolution is understood by the scholarly community. The member states simultaneously support and undermine the organization via individualized micro-agendas because of their worries about the tricks each might play upon the other. Interestingly, what the literature does not do is question the legitimacy of the SCO. This is one of the main contentions here: membership of the SCO in the IO community should be questioned instead of simply de facto bestowed. Until now, its membership has always been a given” Dr. Matthew Crosston for Modern Diplomacy.

4Off the Coast of Iran, a High-Stakes Version of Spy Versus Spy. “In the skies and waters of the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden, the two continue to constantly watch each other. American naval ships openly roam the waters along Iran’s 1,100-mile-long southern coastline, their radar trained on the Iranian shore and on Iranian ships leaving their harbors. Iranian fighter jets patrol the skies, keeping an eye on American combat planes that take off from an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf every time an Iranian jet comes close to their ship. “It’s a little bit of a game we play,” said Capt. Benjamin Hewlett, the commander of the air wing aboard the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, which is in the Persian Gulf keeping an eye on Iran right now. “When they launch, we launch. We consider this our sovereign territory, so we make sure they’re not unescorted in and around the aircraft carrier” Helene Cooper for New York Times.

5Enagás making investment in important gas pipeline connecting Azerbaijan with Europe. We are investing in an important gas pipeline connecting Azerbaijan with Europe, CEO of Enagás, Marcelino Oreja said while speaking about Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project in an interview with “European CEO” newspaper. He said that this gas pipeline would supply gas to the European Union.

6The “Azerbaijan: Land of Tolerance” exhibition will open its doors to all art lovers in Paris on August 18.World famous for his intrepid style of photographing the world’s most exotic places, Reza is putting on display a series of photographs on the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities cohabitating in Azerbaijan. All are driven by a deep commitment for sharing, mutual respect, and dialogue with each other. The exhibition, to be held between August 18 and September 10, highlights the millennial ties that all of these religious communities have forged with each other.

7The Russia-OPEC-America Nexus: Reimagining the Great Oil Game. “The most intriguing geopolitical connection with oil prices collapsing is the Western sanction regime on Russia. As inflation hit the Russian economy and protracted recession weighed on Russian morale, OPEC ramped up production. Similarly, Russia has (as of May 2015) produced more oil since the end of the Soviet era. Interestingly, this economic stand-off brought the two biggest oil-producing countries (Saudi Arabia and Russia) to the bargaining table as Russia considers closer ties to OPEC. This tantalizing prospect of a Russian-OPEC alliance has almost always been an illusion since OPEC’s formation and would drastically increase OPEC’s global power in determining oil prices. OPEC has never really trusted Russia and an alliance may only form out of dire necessity. But that is something the United States would staunchly oppose” Brian Hughes for Modern Diplomacy.

8An Azerbaijani delegation will attend the international forum of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to be held in Tbilisi on August 23-25. The event will bring together government and state officials, economists, experts from 57 countries. The forum will focus on the activity of AIIB, investment in infrastructure projects in partner countries of AIIB, as well as economic cooperation. AIIB is newly created bank that is expected to be established by the end of this year for the purpose of providing loans for infrastructure projects in developing countries in Asia.

9An Iranian official says Iran and Azerbaijan have been talking on transiting gas to Europe. Azerbaijani and Iranian officials have in recent weeks discussed in Tehran ways to export Iran’s gas to Europe via Azerbaijan, the Fars news agency quoted an unnamed official as saying Aug. 18. Recently, on Aug. 4, an Azerbaijani delegation headed by Economy and Industry Minister Shahin Mustafayev traveled to Iran and met with Iranian top officials, including Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh.“Azerbaijani delegation offered their Iranian counterparts to cooperate in the gas export to Europe via Azerbaijan, as Iran’s involvement will leave no concern in terms of providing Europe with gas,” the source said.According to the report, the two parties stressed that the Iranian gas export to Europe through Azerbaijan is easier than its direct export to the West. The head of Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR, Rovnag Abdullayev said in April that Iran is interested in purchasing a stake in the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP).

10North Korea’s Balancing Act in the Persian Gulf. “In March 2015, Saudi Arabia signed a deal with South Korea to build two small and medium-sized nuclear reactors. This move grabbed the attention of the White House, as it symbolized Saudi dissatisfaction with U.S. attempts to forge a nuclear deal with Iran. The synchronized timing of North Korea’s missile shipments to Yemen and the North Korean regime’s defiant rejection of Iran-style nuclear talks with the U.S. is therefore intriguing. Pyongyang’s extension of assistance to Yemen could be its way of retaliating against Saudi nuclear cooperation with South Korea, which will probably increase should the US Congress ratify the Iran deal” Samuel Ramani for The Huffington Post.

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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An economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific

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On the 23 May, in the run-up to SPIEF, a roundtable held jointly between the Roscongress Foundation and St. Petersburg State University of Economics took place, entitled ‘Building a Common Economic Space from the Atlantic to the Pacific: Current Issues and Ways to Overcome Them’.

The experts discussed opportunities related to integration, investment, infrastructure, and innovation, alongside new forms of collaboration for those shaping the economic region of Greater Eurasia. In addition, they brainstormed a joint vision as to how the shared economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific will develop in the future.

The welcome address was given by Igor Maksimtsev, rector of St. Petersburg State University of Economics. Moderating the session was Sofia Rekord, head of the world economy and international economic relations department of the same institution.

The participants observed that the geo-economic potential of Greater Eurasia – stretching from one ocean to another – is enormous, and needs to be unlocked to a greater extent, regardless of the unpredictability of the global economic environment and political climate. They also laid out the main aim behind the formation of a shared economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific: to facilitate comprehensive interaction and cooperation between countries across the Eurasian continent through stepping up dialogue between all stakeholders. These include government representatives, business figures, the expert community, and research organizations tackling a wide range of issues related to economics, politics, and culture. This should result in continuous development for all parties, and prudent solutions to new challenges.

Other areas of focus included promising forms of economic collaboration in Greater Eurasia: opportunities for dialogue between the EAEU, SCO, ASEAN, and EU; the implementation of the EAEU’s shared digital agenda; prospects for transport, logistics and energy projects; bolstering regional development institutions when unlocking the investment potential of the EAEU; and opportunities to foster greater foresight with regards the future development of a shared economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Participants from the expert community included Mikhail Voronin, associate professor of the world economy and international economic relations department of the St. Petersburg State University of Economics; Sergei Dyatlov, professor of the department of general economic theory and the history of economic thought of the St. Petersburg State University of Economics; Sergei Karaganov, dean of the world economy and international politics faculty of the Higher School of Economics National Research University and honorary chair of the presidium of the International and Defence Policy Council; Dmitry Miropolsky, head of department of general economic theory and the history of economic thought of the St. Petersburg State University of Economics; Vadim Panin, associate professor of the world economy and international economic relations department of the St. Petersburg State University of Economics; Vladimir Salamatov, director general of the International Trade and Integration Research Centre; Tatyana Urzhumtseva, director of the China and Asia-Pacific Studies Centre of the St. Petersburg State University of Economics; Alexander Khodachek, president of the Higher School of Economics National Research University in St. Petersburg; and Slava Khodko, general director of the North-West Development and Investment Promotion Agency.

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Russia’s Economic Recovery Continues: Modest Growth Ahead

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Russia’s economic recovery continues, amidst relatively high oil prices, enhanced macroeconomic stability, gradual monetary loosening, and ongoing momentum in global economic growth, says the World Bank’s latest Russia Economic Report (no. 39 in the series). However, the country’s growth prospects for the period 2018-20 remain modest.

Russia’s growth is forecast at between 1.5% and 1.8% over the next three years. In the short-term, however, this forecast may be adjusted because of changing oil prices – which were projected to average US$ 65/bbl in 2018 and 2019, and US$ 66/bbl in 2020, but which may increase further, especially in the short-term.

In 2017, growth was mainly driven by non-tradable sectors. The unemployment rate declined to 5.2%, while real wages and pensions increased on the back of low inflation. In 2018-20, consumer demand is expected to be the main engine of GDP growth, while the poverty rate is expected to decrease slightly.

“Russia’s economy continued its recovery in 2017, but growth prospects for 2018-20 remain relatively modest, and well below the current global growth average of over 3%,” said Apurva Sanghi, World Bank Lead Economist for Russia, and main author of the report. “In the next few years, greater focus on education, health and infrastructure investments will require the government to find fiscal space through further improvements in tax administration, optimization of non-tax revenues, increased efficiency of public expenditures, and potentially some tax policy changes.”

Moderately tight monetary and fiscal policies, in combination with a favorable external environment, let the Central Bank of Russia reach a record low-level of consumer price index (CPI) inflation, which averaged 3.7% in 2017. Annual inflation now stands below the Central Bank’s target of 4%, while inflation expectations, though trending downward, remain elevated.

Driven by a rebound in disposable income and consumption, the poverty headcount declined marginally in 2017 to 13.2%, after reaching 13.3% in 2016. The poverty rate is projected to decline in 2018, 2019 and 2020 to 12.5, 11.9 and 11.4%, respectively, as income and consumption grow further. Among the factors that could fuel real income growth are a general recovery of the economy and further deceleration of inflation.

“With enhanced macroeconomic stability, the key challenge for achieving higher levels of economic growth is to increase productivity.” said Andras Horvai, World Bank Country Director and Resident Representative for Russia. “This requires improved infrastructure connectivity, strengthened competition across the economy, further improvements in the business climate, vibrant innovation activity and the reduction of the skills gap. Investments in human capital will be key.”

The special topic of the 39th edition of the Russia Economic Report examines how Russia can accelerate its transformation to a digital economy. A strategic focus on digital transformation has enabled Russia to build a national digital infrastructure to support universal broadband and mobile communications. However, to fully reap the socio-economic benefits of this digital infrastructure, Russia will need to implement policies that accelerate the digital transformation of the traditional enterprise sector, and promote R&D, innovation and entrepreneurship.

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UNIDO at SPIEF 2018: Increasing the contribution of women to economic growth and prosperity

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On the opening day of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) 2018, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) organized an international forum. Titled, “Increasing the contribution of women to economic growth and prosperity: Creating an enabling environment”, the event was staged in cooperation with the OPORA RUSSIA Committee on Women Entrepreneurship Development, with organizational support from the Roscongress Foundation and financial support from the Government of the Russian Federation.

More than 200 participants from all over the world came together to share their experiences on the challenges and best-practice solutions for scaling up successful models for women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship. The event was attended by numerous high-level representatives from regional governments of the Russian Federation, as well as from the Russian and international business community, including Scania, SAP, Festo and Didactic, among others. The event was attended by two UNIDO Goodwill Ambassadors, Helen Hai and Janne Vangen Solheim. Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe also joined the event as a special guest.

During the opening session, the Deputy Chairperson of the Council of the Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, Galina Karelova, commented on the fact that for the second year running leading experts and representatives of the business community were debating opportunities and best practices for strengthening the role of women in economic development with UNIDO’s support at the prestigious SPIEF-2018: “This is strong evidence that the women’s agenda in Russia, as well as at the international level, has reached a fundamentally new level,” she stated.

In his written message sent to the organizers and participants of the Forum, Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, welcomed the fruitful cooperation between UNIDO and OPORA RUSSIA in the area of women’s entrepreneurship, and wished the Forum success in developing effective solutions aimed at increasing the role of women in overall efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Nadiya Cherkasova, Head of the OPORA RUSSIA Women‘s Entrepreneurship Development Committee, stressed the importance of women’s entrepreneurship as an engine for economic growth and noted the numerous opportunities for scaling up women’s participation in business activities.

Alexander Kalinin, Head of OPORA RUSSIA, mentioned that the country is facing an ambitious goal of boosting national economic growth, where a reliance on small and medium-sized businesses is crucial. He added that OPORA RUSSIA’s work in the area of women’s entrepreneurship is thus very timely, while women’s entrepreneurship is gaining pace and is expected to play a key role in economic development.

Jacek Cukrowski, Chief of UNIDO’s Europe and Central Asia Division, reiterated the importance of forming global alliances and building upon common goals to achieve the economic empowerment of women: “UNIDO has joined hands with OPORA Russia, capitalizing on our knowledge, experience and partners’ networks, for the delivery of concrete, measurable and productive outcomes,” he stated.

Three main sessions of the Forum provided a platform for fruitful debate with an action-oriented outlook on the road ahead, involving policymakers and representatives from the private sector, as well as women’s networks. The development of a global women-leaders talent pool, as a way of fostering network opportunities among women experts from various business sectors, the creation of an e-learning platform for women in business, providing opportunities to take learning and skills development courses to improve managerial and entrepreneurial skills, as well as capacity building initiatives for women entrepreneurs and leaders in different industrial sectors in cooperation with the private sector, business associations and civil society were all discussed during the event.

UNIDO’s representative said that women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship are powerful tools for economic development and are firmly anchored in the Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. UNIDO will therefore continue in its efforts to advance the economic empowerment of women.The issue will be at the centre of the debate at the upcoming Eurasian Women’s Forum in St. Petersburg in September 2018.

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