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
1Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said that Iran will not give up its quota in OPEC and its share in world market.Speaking on Iranian State TV Aug. 26, Zanganeh said Iran will raise exports even if the oil prices fall.“The Islamic Republic of Iran will by no means ignore its quota in OPEC and the world oil market. We have no problem with slashing of oil prices on the global market because we can double our oil exports,” said Zangeneh, adding, “We should bypass the tyrannical conditions imposed on our country because maintaining Iran quota in OPEC and world market is among our vital parameters.” He said. Noting that the OPEC members should reconsider current oil production, Zanganeh said to this end, OPEC members have been asked to hold an extraordinary session that will be held if all the 13 members agree to it on consensus. Certain OPEC members do not wish increase in the prices and want to harm other members through low prices as a result of oversupply, he concluded.
2The next meeting of the Working Group on the legal status of the Caspian Sea is scheduled for early September in Moscow, Iran’s special envoy for Caspian affairs, Ibrahim Rahimpur told Trend. Rahimpur said the meeting would discuss the issues on the legal status of the Caspian Sea still uncoordinated by the littoral states.There are two possible solutions to the issue on the legal status of the Caspian Sea: delimitation using a midline modified method or division into five equal parts of 20 percent share.Baku supports defining the Caspian Sea’s legal status based on the sovereign rights of the littoral states, a mutually beneficial partnership, and peaceful negotiations.Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Russia signed an agreement on the delimitation of their respective Caspian maritime borders on May 14, 2003. Azerbaijan, together with Kazakhstan and Russia, agreed on the delimitation of the sea in early 2000. Turkmenistan and Iran, however, have not reached a consensus yet.
3China and Russia: Cyber Cousins but not Cyber Brothers. “There seems to be a strong divergence in perception behind China’s desire to command cyberspace offensively. On the one hand, there is the assumption that this is a natural manifestation of its growing desire to achieve global superpower status. On the other hand, there is the counter-argument that emphasizes China’s own perception to be unable to operate effectively against the United States in a conventional military confrontation. Indeed, many Chinese writings suggest cyber warfare is considered an obvious asymmetric instrument for balancing overwhelming US power” Dr. Matthew Crosston for Modern Diplomacy.
4Putin To Visit China Next Week, Sign 20 Bilateral Deals. Putin will attend celebrations dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the victory of Chinese people over Japan and the 70th anniversary of victory in WWII. The Russian and Chinese leaders also plan to hold negotiations on energy and other issues, and sign more than 20 bilateral documents, many implementing agreements reached during Xi’s visit to Russia in May 2015 and in meetings in Ufa in July 2015.Russia’s Ambassador to China Andrey Denisov said cooperation between the two countries has “already become a powerful stabilizing factor of security” in the world.
5Pakistan and Kazakhstan on Wednesday agreed to bolster bilateral ties through enhanced cooperation in trade, economy, energy, science and technology and education for the mutual benefit of two brotherly countries.“As we move forward, we would be taking concrete steps to expand mutual cooperation in diverse fields, including regional connectivity, energy, security, education, culture, and people-to-people exchanges,” said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while addressing a joint press conference with Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The prime minister said the two sides also agreed to strengthen economic cooperation by optimally utilising the existing institutional mechanisms, adding, the bilateral trade between the two countries was not commensurate with the actual potential and needed to be revitalized.
6Kazakhstan Steering through Troubled Waters. “Perhaps, with the exception of multinational oil companies, potential investors are turned off by the many disadvantages there are to investing in Kazakhstan. In addition to being quasi-democratic and geographically landlocked, Kazakhstan’s private sector lacks experience, still has to develop a larger educated workforce, and suffers from global doubt as to its financial ability to follow through on the aforementioned promises. It also doesn’t help that Kazakhstan acts like an autocracy at times in that its government is known for its lack of transparency and has high levels of corruption. It maintains tight controls over the press, lacks diversity, and has an unimpressive civil rights record. Dealing with these political complications would be an inevitable headache for investors” Jeanette “JJ” Harper for Modern Diplomacy.
7The Western flow of Caspian natural gas. Azerbaijan has been a reliable energy partner with the West for more than 20 years now, after the country opened up to international investment and partnership following the restoration of its independence from the Soviet Union. Since 2006, it has pumped nearly a million barrels of crude oil each day through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline to Europe, the U.S. and Israel, and much-needed natural gas through the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline.Unlike those pipelines, which were designed and driven by international companies, Azerbaijan itself is now a major player in the Southern Gas Corridor. The corridor will start in Azerbaijan, initially tapping into its giant, Manhattan-size Shah Deniz gas field. Azerbaijan’s state energy company, SOCAR, is also a major stakeholder in the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline and will operate the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline; and its input will also be essential if the Trans-Caspian Pipeline is built. Nasimi Aghayev Azerbaijan’s consul general to the Western United States, based in Los Angeles [Washington Times]
8Azerbaijan to regulate activity of social networks. The Azerbaijani Ministry of Communications and High Technologies will certify the activity of instant messengers (Viber, WhatsApp, Skype and others) and social networks, Azerbaijani Minister of Communications and High Technologies Ali Abbasov told reports August 27. He said that the negotiations with these companies have already started.“Most of them have reacted positively to this action of the regulatory body of the country, moreover, a number of them render services over the Internet. As a regulatory body, we believe that the companies engaged in mass collection of information in Azerbaijan must work in accordance with the country’s law about the personal data, that is, get a certificate. This certificate is issued by our ministry.”
9Why an Iranian New Deal was Necessary. “Several conceptual and theoretical explanations have been used to highlight key indicators that counteract the effectiveness of sanctions within the Middle East and how the spread of certain ideologies and social practices have impacted the success of international mediations. This microcosm analysis of the various social variables, mostly stemming from historical and political events, supports the need to judge more harshly the long-term efficacy of sanctions. It provides an analysis concerning weapons proliferation within Iran and will question the overall potential success of sanctions against such targeted states” Dianne A. Valdez for Modern Diplomacy.
10Russia Overtakes Botswana as World’s Top Diamond Producer. Canada emerged third in production value, Angola fourth and South Africa fifth. Russia saw its output leap 20% to $3.73 billion, while the value of precious stones rose 19% to $97.47 per carat. Its volume jumped 1% to 38.303 million carats. Botswana saw its diamond value drop 5% to $147.84 per carat as the growth in value of the country’s diamond output remained at $3.65 billion despite a 6% leap in volume to 23.187 million carats.
World Bank Financing to Help Kazakhstan Unleash Full Potential of its Livestock Industry
The World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved today a $500 million loan for the Sustainable Livestock Development Program to support the development of environmentally sustainable, inclusive, and competitive beef production in Kazakhstan.
The program financing will support Kazakhstan’s state Agro-Industrial Complex Development program in improving veterinary services and animal recording systems, scaling-up a farmer-centric service delivery model, and improving agro-environmental policies for the sector.
Over a period of five years, the program aims to achieve a 10 percent increase in the share of public expenditure for sustainable beef production and processing, and a three-fold increase in the value of beef exports. In addition, around 20,000 small and medium farmers will be connected to export value chains.
“We are very happy to support Kazakhstan in developing its high-value export-oriented beef sector,” said Jean-Francois Marteau, World Bank’s Country Manager for Kazakhstan. “The country has a huge natural potential and favorable geographic position, which are conducive to export-oriented beef sector development. These can be utilized to benefit Kazakhstan’s long-term economic development goals, namely, diversification of exports and improving rural livelihoods. The Program is particularly important in a COVID-19 environment which is affecting employment countrywide.”
An export-oriented, high-value beef sector provides an opportunity for Kazakhstan to achieve its national development objectives, by mobilizing significant investments from domestic and foreign agribusiness firms and expansion of production by small and medium farmers.
A potentially competitive expanded resource base and geographical proximity to important consumer markets will also help attract private investment in meat processing, packaging, and logistics companies to Kazakhstan.
The program will promote green growth and sustainability policies aimed at promoting climate-smart practices for beef cattle production, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the overall agri-environmental outcomes of the government’s beef sector support programs.
The five-year (2021-2025) implementation of the Sustainable Livestock Development Program for Results will be financed through a $500 million IBRD loan, which will be disbursed on the basis of Program-for-Results (PforR) – a financing instrument that links the disbursement of funds directly to the achievement of specific program results.
Turkey’s Rail Connectivity and Logistics will Improve with World Bank Financing
The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved a loan in the amount of EUR 314.5 million ($350 million equivalent) for the Turkey Rail Logistics Improvement Project. The project aims to reduce transport costs in selected rail freight corridors and to strengthen institutional capacity at the Turkish Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure (MoTI) to deliver rail freight connectivity and manage rail-enabled logistics centers.
The project will support delivery of last-mile rail and multimodal connectivity infrastructure at well-prioritized nodes of Turkey’s national railway network. These interventions will help revitalize the transport and logistics sector, and by extension, contribute to the sustainability of the cargo owners operating supply-chains in the project’s target corridors in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Despite having economic geography and commodity specialization characteristics that are in-principle favorable to the use of rail freight, rail accounts for only 4% of Turkey’s transported tonnage, leaving a large share of freight to be moved by road. This leaves significant economic value on the table in terms of avoidable logistics costs and environmental externalities,” says Auguste Kouame, World Bank Country Director for Turkey. “The project’s investments will contribute towards more fully realizing rail freight’s potential in Turkey.”
The project will be implemented by the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure’s (MoTI), and has three components:
Component 1 includes construction of railway branch lines and multimodal connections at priority network nodes, including Filyos Port, Çukurova Region Industrial Zones, Iskenderun Bay Maritime Ports, and at additional priority sites to be selected during implementation;
Component 2 includes feasibility studies, detailed engineering designs, environmental and social documentation, and construction supervision for rail last-mile connectivity infrastructure at additional freight nodes;
Component 3 focuses on Phase 2 COVID-19 response support, institutional strengthening, capacity building, and project implementation support, including technical assistance on uniformization of rail technical standards across the national rail network, support in preparation of a strategy document for rail freight sector performance improvement, and support to Turkish State Railways through development of an operational and management model for rail-enabled logistics centers.
“Strengthened management and decision-making capacity at MoTI to promote multimodality, expand the use of rail freight, and improve the quality of rail freight services nationally will be the other benefits,” remarked Murad Gürmeriç and Luis Blancas, Task Team Leaders of the Project. “The project is expected to reduce transport costs, reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and local pollutants, and increased share of rail in the freight transport task of the corridors targeted by the project.”
The project is aligned with Turkey’s Country Partnership Framework (CPF) for FY18-FY21, which focuses on the three strategic objectives of growth, inclusion, and sustainability.The project will contribute to the growth focus area which has the objective of enhancing the competitiveness of selected industries. The project is also aligned with the WBG approach to supporting client countries in mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on their economies, firms and workers.
The impact assessment envisioned in Component 3 of this project will help mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 by supporting MoTI in diagnosing the medium- and long-term impacts of COVID-19 on multi-modal logistics of both the demand and supply sides, and helping design public, public-private, and/or private interventions – including interventions aimed at tackling behavioral and occupational aspects of risk prevention.
Second phase of the Nurek Hydropower Rehabilitation Project in Tajikistan
The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved additional grant financing of $50 million from the International Development Association (IDA) for the second phase of the Nurek Hydropower Rehabilitation Project in Tajikistan. The Nurek Hydropower Plant (HPP) is the most important asset of Tajikistan’s energy system.
“The restoration of the generation capacity of the Nurek HPP is essential for ensuring energy security for the people of Tajikistan,” said Jan-Peter Olters, World Bank Country Manager in Tajikistan. “Especially in these difficult times, the combination of inherent climate benefits from this renewable source of energy and the ability to support job creation and incomes for the local population, including by their engagement in this large-scale rehabilitation process, makes this a critical investment for a fast and sustainable post-crisis recovery.”
The Nurek HPP, with an installed capacity of over 3,000 megawatts, generates about 50 percent of total annual energy demanded in Tajikistan. Operational at currently about three-quarter of its installed generation capacity, the HPP is undergoing its first major rehabilitation since its commissioning in 1972. Once completed, the rehabilitation will allow the Nurek HPP to increase electricity generation by about 300 million kWh, supporting the Government’s efforts to ensure that energy demand can be met even during the cold winter months.
At the same time, during summer, Tajikistan would be in a position to expand electricity exports from its hydro resources, including through the CASA-1000 transmission line and upon synchronization of the country’s electricity network with Central Asian Power System (CAPS). This would generate much-needed additional revenues for the sustainability of the power sector, thereby reducing pressures on the pace of tariff adjustments.
The first phase of the Nurek Hydropower Rehabilitation Project, financed by the World Bank ($225.7 million), the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank ($60 million) and the Eurasian Development Bank ($40 million), was launched in March 2019. It has focused on rehabilitating three of the nine generating units, replacing and refurbishing hydromechanical equipment and the key infrastructural components of the power plant, replacing six auto-transformers that are used to evacuate the generated electricity, and enhancing dam safety with a special focus on protection against seismic hazards and floods.
Through a separate project, the World Bank is supporting Government’s efforts in strengthening the institutional capacity and financial viability of the open joint stock holding company Barqi Tojik (BT).
The project’s second phase will finance the rehabilitation of the remaining six generating units, the Nurek bridge, the powerhouse, and other key buildings, while strengthening the HPP’s capacity to operate and maintain the power plant.
Capacity building will be provided to Nurek HPP and BT to enhance dam safety monitoring and the operation and management of hydro facilities. With a total cost of $192 million for the project’s second phase, the Government of Tajikistan is currently finalizing its discussions with other development partners to secure the required additional resources.
Given Tajikistan’s long history of power outages, particularly during the cold winter months, the climate co-benefits, and the socio-economic development impact of using available hydro resources effectively, Tajikistan’s energy sector has been a priority area of engagement for the World Bank. Its current energy-related investments exceed $530 million.
These investments aim at supporting the sector’s sustainability, eliminating seasonal energy rationing, ensuring an affordable and stable electricity supply to families and businesses and much needed revenues from increased export of clean, non-fossil energy resources.
The World Bank Group’s active portfolio in Tajikistan includes 21 projects, totaling US$938 million that aim at helping Tajikistan to take advantage of emerging regional opportunities, transform its economy and improve the livelihoods of its citizens. Since 1996, the World Bank has provided US$1.9 billion in grants, highly concessional IDA credits, and trust fund resources.
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