President AlmazbekAtambayev of Kyrgyzstan has stepped down now. His six-year tenure would likely be remembered for his dismal economic performance and the inability to think before speaking.
It is important to put together here some of the most notable oral faux pas of Atambayev to leave a footnote for the future historian.
For example, he said very recently that he had doubts whether the EAEU (Eurasian Economic Union) could ever be a civilized economic bloc. He said that all the decisions of EAEU remain on paper. He urged the Kyrgyz businessmen to work with China instead.
It is important to note here that the treaty for EAEU was signed between Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia in 2014, and Kyrgyzstan joined it on 6 August 2015 under the presidency of the self-same president Atambayev.
Either the decision to join EAEU was a mistake that was committed with open eyes or the perplexing statement that creates an unnecessary either/or situation by advising the business community of Kyrgyzstan to shun EAEU and deal instead with China is a terrible error.
As a matter of fact, this statement spotlights a shoddy practice of the Kyrgyz government. It is quite irksome for the EAEU countries that Kyrgyzstan imports huge quantities of Chinese goods and re-exports them to the EAEU countries under the shelter of the customs union. This deprives the EAEU countries of revenues in possibly billions of dollars.
While EAEU was basically created to encourage the domestic industries in the member countries, Kyrgyzstan under Atambayev has defeated this purpose for the sake of a quick buck.
He praised EAEU up and down and a few months later he was the fiercest critic of the union.
This is not the only example of his behavior unbecoming of a statesman. In fact, his language and attitude frequently slipped out of the accepted norms of decency.
For instance, in October this year, he suddenly criticized the USA, by saying that Washington at one time armed Uzbekistan, allegedly preparing for a war in Central Asia, while allocating not a dollar to Kyrgyzstan. He added that if instead of ‘spending billions on Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria, if the USA could provide real assistance to Kyrgyzstan to build a democratic country,’ it would have been an excellent example for the entire Islamic world.
This statement, indeed, was flabbergasting, the president of a country advising another country where to spend its money.
This was not the only time when Atambayev engaged in a verbal assault on the USA.
When Michael McFaul, the former ambassador of the USA in Russia, commented on the presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan, where numerous violations in the conduct of the campaign and elections became one prolonged exercise in power manipulation by the administration, Atambayev replied by criticizing the presidential elections in the United States, saying that there was no democracy in the USA.
Russia and China have also been at the receiving end of criticism from Atambayev.
At a press conference in July 2017, he said Bishkek was threatened with missile strikes when the American military base was located at the Manas International Airport. He did not mention Russia and China as the source of threat but everyone can read between the line as to what was Atambayev alluding to.
Belarus is also among the countries abused by Atambayev. In 2015, he said that they encourage the presence of criminals in their territory, hand them passports, state awards, and congratulate them on anniversaries. His outburst was believably triggered by the killing in Belarus of a crime boss of Kyrgyzstan. Atambayev tried to link it to Bakiyev, the former president of Kyrgyzstan who took refuge in Belarus.
Perhaps one of the most unkindest cut of all was delivered by Atambayev to Turkey. After the failed coup of 2016, when the Turkish authorities requested steps against the Gulen supporters, reminding politely of the political and economic support Turkey has been providing to Kyrgyzstan over the years, the reaction of Atambayev was anything but civilized.
He said that countries should help without any conditions; they should not think that we will run for it; we don’t need such help, you can take it back.
He said that we are grateful to the countries for their help but they should not dictate the terms.
All the while, he did not explain his silence when the coup attempt was taking place.
Factually speaking, Atambayev managed to bruise the relations of Kyrgyzstan with all of its traditional allies including Kazakhstan.
This is despite the fact that at every critical juncture Kazakhstan acted as economic lifeline and political buffer for Kyrgyzstan.
The business communities of the neighbouring countries want to broadly interact with their Kyrgyz counterparts but the venues of cooperation have shrunk during the tenure of Atambayev. A quick glimpse of ‘before’ and ‘after’ indicators will explain this.
The total exports of Kyrgyzstan amounted to USD 1.9 billion in 2012 but they had climbed down to USD 1.3 billion by 2016. This amounts to nearly 32% of fall in export within the span of five years.
The foreign trade turnover fell from USD 7.5 billion to USD 4.9 billion during his tenure.
The figures for this year will take a while to emerge but looking at the deterioration of trade and economic relations with Kazakhstan, they would likely be far worse.
The real wages, pensions and social payments have declined, the macroeconomic indicators have sunk, and the political goodwill has been squandered. Kyrgyzstan frequently became a source of amusement for the political elites of other countries. All because one man, who happened to be the president of the country, could not learn to think before speaking.
Even though there is no chance of the duplication of this phenomenon in the region, it is still important to highlight that it is a story that must not be repeated. /// nCa