The World Economy | Economy Watch

Water is an essential resource for the economy and for social stability in Central Asia: 60% of the population of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia live in rural areas and 45% of the workforce is employed in agriculture. The only country that appears to be less dependent upon this sector is Kazakhstan. Just 8% of its GDP comes from agriculture, although this 8% employs no less than 33% of the country’s active population. More than 80% of the cultivated land in Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan is productive thanks to irrigation; the exception is Kazakhstan, where only 7% of cultivable land is irrigated.

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These characteristics have meant that historically Central Asian countries have been relatively isolated from the major trans-oceanic routes where most of world trade is transported, and that they depend on their neighbours to access this trade. Kazakhstan depends on the Chinese and Russian corridors to access the major oceans, and Turkmenistan depends on Iran. These are the two countries in Central Asia that depend on the fewest neighbours to connect to the global economy, and that even have a sea border along the Caspian Sea, which enables them to communicate directly with the Caucasus. However, in the case of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan their isolation is even greater. Uzbekistan depends on at least two countries to access the trans-oceanic routes and, in view of the steep terrain on the Chinese border with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan these countries in turn depend on another two or more to reach the oceans. Along with the constraints of the terrain, another factor that has influenced communications in Central Asia with other neighbouring regions has been that the current network of roads and rail built during the Soviet era followed a north-south pattern to converge with the so-called Siberian Corridor between Moscow and European Russia, including the Siberian cities of Yekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, Chita and Khabarovsk to Vladivostok, on the shores of the Pacific. This corridor is around 10,000 km long. This kind of design is still today determining the way goods are moved in Central Asia. The railway is the most widely used method in Central Asia to transport goods over long distances: approximately 90% of exports are transported by rail. The following maps show the most widely used sections of railway according to research by CAREC (Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation). The thicker lines are the routes transporting the greatest tonnage.

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In fostering integration, the EBRD is aligned with major international policy efforts. Achieving integration through connectivity is high on the international agenda, having been highlighted by the world’s 20 leading economies (the G20), international financial institutions (IFIs) and the (OECD) in the recent creation of the new Global Infrastructure Connectivity Alliance. ’s , linking China to the global economy, is another example of how integration is critical for the wider world.

ICSD - Update of the Regional Action Plan for Environment Protection of the Central Asia (REAP CA) in the context of the SDGs and green economy
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For almost 200 years Central Asia was subjected to the plans and designs of Russia in its two versions of domination: the Tsars and the Soviets. In 1991, the dissolution of the USSR marked a new turning point in the political and economic life of the various peoples inhabiting Central Asia. The former Soviet republics became independent States and were no longer under the political, economic and military umbrella of the USSR. This situation seemed ideal for the new Central Asian countries to make their own way on the international stage and to decide their own priorities and goals. For Central Asia, the breakdown of the USSR was a time of economic, political and social crisis, but also of new opportunities, including the chance to seek new partners and allies. The US, Turkey, Iran, India, Pakistan, China and Russia itself were quick to establish relations with the new countries. The starting point is what is now known as the famous ‘New Great Game’, which is none other than a modern version of the traditional power plays in the region by the major empires (although the present game is rendered much more complex by the larger number of players involved). The renewed ‘Great Game’ is due to the increasing importance of Central Asia, stemming from the existence in the region of vast reserves of hydrocarbons (oil and gas) and minerals like uranium, and because of its age-old strategic position as a link between major markets (Europe and Asia).

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Central Asia is an area offering certain geo-economics advantages to countries or multinational corporations that have particular regional or global aspirations, due either to their own interests or to the need to neutralise other nations or companies which they see as rivals.

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Water is therefore the main input in the economy of Central Asia and south Kazakhstan. However, the distribution of water resources in the region is not uniform, and this situation is decisively influencing interregional relations, which are determined by the different capacities of each country to access water, and the varying degrees of priority they afford to water’s different uses. As a result of this situation, countries in the region may be classified into two groups