During my visits to the Kyrgyz Republic I am always surprised to talk with people who fondly reminisce about the economy during Soviet times. Taxi drivers nostalgically describe traffic coming to a stop as factories changed shifts. I guess I should be less surprised, given that, prior to 1991, the Kyrgyz Republic produced almost exclusively for the Soviet Union.
With the fall of the Soviet Union, much of Russia’s demand disappeared and many firms in the country closed during the 1990s. Although the industrial sector has begun a revival over the last few years - with garment shops and private enterprises expanding - the service sector now dominates in the country - accounting for approximately 54% of GDP and 64% of jobs.
Following two rounds of low PISA test results, the government became concerned about skills more broadly and how those skills might affect employment outcomes.
But, little was known about skills in the country!
All around the world, governments are recognizing the value and potential of Open Data. This is clear from the G8’s adoption of an Open Data Charter in June 2013 (with the G20 likely to follow suit), the growing number of countries adopting Open Data initiatives, and the 64 countries that have committed to Open Government Partnership action plans (most of which focus on Open Data). Kyrgyzstan has taken the first steps down this path.
The Kyrgyz Government has been implementing the Open Government Policy and has already undertaken several measures, such as creating official web portals for state bodies including Open Budget, Electronic Procurement, Foreign Aid and many others. Through these websites, citizens can find information about public services and activities offered by government ministries and other state agencies.
In 2013, based on a comprehensive analysis of Kyrgyz public information resources and in consideration of plans for leveraging ICT for good governance and sustainable development, the government designed an e-Government program and corresponding Action Plan for 2014-2017 with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This program was approved by the Kyrgyz government on November 10, 2014.
In addition, this year the UNDP provided support to set up an online network for the Prime Minister’s online community liaison offices. This network has 63 connection points nationwide and supplements the Kyrgyz government’s official website by strengthening relations between the government and civil society by informing citizens about ongoing reforms, as well as and challenges that have been resolved for the country’s communities and citizens. This is one of the existing examples of Kyrgyz government utilizing its openness for greater citizen engagement.
Citizen participation in any issue is most often thought of in the context of formal procedures. Sometimes, civil society representatives, like me, are invited to events, commissions or programs that ensure formal connections with civil society. So while we are not ignored, our participation feels more like a cursory part of the process, without any significant opportunity to influence the processes or explain our position.
This time, things were different. We became real players in the public discussion about mitigating climate change in Central Asia.
The forum in question -- the second Central Asia Climate Knowledge Forum: Moving towards Regional Climate Resilience – was organized by the World Bank Group in Almaty in May, and brought together about 200 participants from nearly all institutions interested or involved in this problem -- including top officials of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and donors. Around 30 civil society representatives from the Central Asian countries also attended the event. NGOs were represented more solidly at the second forum compared to the first.
”Focus on the journey, not the destination,” was our guiding principle.
Some Myths about Informal Trade in Developing Countries
By definition, informal trade is difficult to measure because even if everyone has seen it, there is no evidence of it in official statistics. Thus, estimates are often difficult to arrive at and quite costly because they require the collection of data from several sources (customs data, data from border surveys, local economic and social statistics, interviews with actors and stakeholders in the sectors concerned).
However, such efforts appear to be bearing fruit: as information and data production improves, a number of assertions based on rumors or even beliefs are contradicted by actual figures. It is especially interesting to note that the phenomena and characteristics of informal trade are the same, whether in central Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, or North Africa.
There is nothing worse than having to wonder if you will be able to afford tomorrow's meal. Or the day after's.
But for millions of poor in the Kyrgyz Republic, it is routine - and their every day reality. The World Bank interviewed several families in the country recently to showcase the real face of poverty in the region, where the poor spend significantly more to stay warm and buy enough food to survive than in other parts of the world because of the region's extremely long and cold winters.
Watch the full documentary on poverty in Europe and Central Asia here.
So you think the last thing young people want to discuss is politics or business strategy? Think again.
As a young woman actively involved and passionate about the role of youth in civil society, I was interested when the World Bank brought together youth from Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Tajikistan to talk about exactly that.
Diversification of a country’s exports – increasing both the number of products it produces and the destinations of those products – is considered part of the path to development. Many economists and policy-makers see export diversification as an important means for increasing employment and speeding growth. Diversification also makes growth more stable, as it provides protection against shocks; a country that exports many products will not be hit so hard when the price of one falls, and similarly, a nation that exports to a wide variety of destinations will be shielded against a recession in one of them.
But new evidence contributes to a body of work suggesting that countries with an abundance of natural resources might be more prone to export concentration during spurts of high natural-resource prices – mainly in products, but also to a milder extent in trading partners – leaving them more vulnerable to price swings.
The problem with the World Bank’s 20th anniversary in Kyrgyzstan last November was that everybody else’s party had happened already.
There has been a blur of speeches, gala concerts, jazz bands, canapés, toasts and traditional performances as one embassy after another feted twenty years of partnership with the Kyrgyz Republic. The same guests, speeches, and – truth be told - probably the same canapés.