The CIS heads of state summit, held in Ashgabat on 11 October 2019, has added to the economic and other opportunities available to Central Asia.
At a briefing on 12 October 2019 for diplomats and journalists on the outcome of the CIS Summit, the DPM and foreign minister of Turkmenistan, Rashid Meredov, rightly pointed out that a vast array of opportunities had been created. However, he cautioned that the decisions taken during the CIS Summit and other regional forums should be implemented at fast pace because the window of opportunity was rather limited in nature.
It is important to look at two questions here: 1. What are the opportunities; and 2. Why they may disappear if not captured quickly.
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CIS is just one of the many regional platforms where Central Asia interacts multilaterally. The Central Asian states are also the members of ECO, OIC, CAREC, and OSCE.
They are together in the World Bank, EBRD, ADB, and Islamic Development Bank.
The Central Asia region has deep overlap with CSTO, EAEU.
The specialized UN structure UNRCCCA (UN centre for preventive diplomacy in Central Asia) spans the entire region.
Four of the five Central Asian countries are members of SCO; whereas Turkmenistan is traditionally an invited guest at SCO summits.
There are effective mechanisms in the Central Asia Plus format, such as Central Asia + Japan, and Central Asia plus USA.
The Caspian Economic Forum (CEF) has the potential to become a permanent format.
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At most of the platforms the focus is on economic cooperation. The economy, after all, is the prime mover of almost every other area of life.
The declaration on strategic economic cooperation of the CIS member states, adopted during the recent summit, plausibly combines the ongoing processes in the region from different platforms. Although the complete text of the declaration is not presently available to the media, it covers hi tech, joint transport infrastructure, telecommunications networks, innovative development and energy.
In other words, we are talking of corridors of various natures and the mutual desire to make them successful.
The corridors are central to the entire cycle of production, transportation, and marketing and distribution of products and goods.
The production entails – capacity, know-how, materials, and machinery for production and packaging.
The transportation covers all modes of transport from the production site to the end user.
The marketing and distribution is a combination of various tools to introduce the product or service to the potential consumer and to bring it in their easy reach.
When we talk of corridors, we are including by default the means of communications that would be essential for the corridor to function. The concept of a corridor is itself under transformation – the online shopping which is increasingly becoming the norm, is a new kind of corridor.
Instead of mentioning every opportunity that has been created at the regional platforms, it would be better to say that Central Asia is poised to launch itself into the world markets. There is the clarity of vision and there are viable road maps.
There are three things that need to be done to convert the opportunities into tangible advantage: 1. Fill the gaps in the transport and communications infrastructure; 2. Streamline the rules and procedures for speedy movement of cargo within the national territory and across the borders; and 3. Upgrade and interlink the financial, banking and insurance institutions.
The urgency of need to implement the decisions arises from the looming global financial and economic slump and the volatility of the geopolitical situation, particularly in the neighbourhood of Central Asia.
As a matter of fact, the economic boom that can be triggered by the implementation of economic decisions can be helpful in cooling down of some of the situations.
Now is the time to consolidate the gains. /// nCa, 14 October 2019