World Bank rep calls for Kazakh transparency, Kyrgyz stability

June 03. Central Asia Newswire

World Bank rep calls for Kazakh transparency, Kyrgyz stabilityKazakhstan is rapidly pulling out of the global downturn owing to decisive government action and favorable commodity markets, a top World Bank official said earlier this week during a visit to the Central Asian country.

“We are encouraged to see that Kazakhstan is on the path of speedy recovery from the global financial and economic crisis, thanks to a strong response from the government and favorable commodity market developments,” said managing director of the international financial institution Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the news agency reported on Friday.

She was visiting Kazakhstan to review the government’s crisis response program and visit key World Bank projects in the country.

Okonjo-Iweala met with top-level government and business leaders and civil society representatives during her three-day visit.

“Going forward, it is necessary to focus on further advancing the country’s competitiveness by strengthening institutions, promoting transparent governance, investing in the people, and improving environmental and natural resource management,” she said.

The international lender is currently working on a new Country Partnership Strategy in tandem with the Astana government.

The program is expected to be completed within a few months.

Okonjo-Iweala visited the Aral Sea to review an eight-mile-long dyke project at the Syr Darya river that feeds into the disappearing body of water.

The landlocked sea has lost 90 percent of its water since the 1950s when Soviet planners diverted the Syr Darya and a second river for crop irrigation.

Environmental experts consider the Aral Sea to be one of the world’s greatest manmade ecological disasters.

But so far the Kazakh-World Bank Syr Darya Control and Northern Aral Sea project has boosted the volume of the Northern Aral Sea by 68 percent. Water salinity dropped 50 percent and fish stocks have increased five-fold.

Okonjo-Iweala also saw firsthand the results of a $2.125 billion road transport corridor initiative, called the South-West Roads Project, to boost trade and communication between Central Asia and western China.

The World Bank has provided more than $5.5 billion in loans to Kazakhstan since it became a member in 1992.

In the Kyrgyz capital city Bishkek Friday Okonjo-Iweala advised government leaders to prioritize peace and stability ahead of economic development, the local news agency reported.

“Peace and stability – are the first required things. There cannot be development if there is instability,” she said.

Okonjo-Iweala offered to help Kyrgyz authorities to open up and provide greater transparency to its mining sector, which “has great potential,” she said.