KYRGYSTAN Russia and China compete for loans from Kyrgyzstan
Putin has pledged anti-Covid vaccines and $ 100 million. Rail and air communication routes with Moscow are multiplying. Beijing is extending terms for repaying $ 5 billion in debt and seeking licenses for the Dzhetim-Too iron mine.
Moscow (AsiaNews) The first overseas trip of the new Kyrgyz head of state, Sadyr Zhaparov, was in Moscow to pay tribute to Vladimir Putin. The Russian president congratulated his new colleague and promised to visit him with a trip to the former Soviet country which, according to Zhaparov, “is always ready to collaborate with the Russian Federation”.
The meeting, which ended on February 24, discussed the supply of Sputnik-V vaccines to Bishkek, and a $ 100 million credit from the Kremlin to the Kyrgyz ally.
Zhaparov also met with a large representation of Kyrgyz emigrants in Moscow, promising them to be excluded from the “blacklist” of migrants in Russia, in order to obtain normal residence visas. The Kyrgyz president urged his compatriots to respect Russian laws, and announced the agreement on the strengthening of communication routes, rail and air, which will facilitate relations between the two countries.
Russian loans and investments are particularly necessary for Kyrgyzstan, so as not to succumb completely to the growth of the national debt, which is partly preponderant vis-à-vis China. In total, the Kyrgyz foreign debt reaches 5 billion dollars, of which more than 40% depends on the Import-Export Bank of China. Over the past decade, China has built a series of infrastructure in this Central Asian country as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.
The Kyrgyz economy is in crisis, also due to the Covid-19 tragedy. In 2020, the country’s GDP collapsed by 8.6%, which casts doubt on the possibility of paying not only debts, but also interest. Many members of the Kyrgyz administration offer to sell part of the state’s assets as a means of payment. Zhaparov himself, in an interview with Kabar Agency on February 13, said that “if we do not pay at least part of the debt on time, we will lose many parts of our national heritage.” He blamed his predecessors for this situation, “but God willing, we will get rid of these debts in time, we have plans to do it.”
So far, Beijing has shown a great willingness to extend the terms of some credits of Kyrgyzstan, as well as other countries in a similar situation, not in the form of charity, but by imposing rather complex forms of negotiations in this regard. According to experts, one of the objects of the latter would be the Kyrgyz iron field of Dzhetim-Too, from which Beijing would like to obtain exclusive extraction rights.
Zhaparov is therefore called to a difficult task, in the implementation of the economic reforms which he promised during the electoral campaign of recent months, and in the success of the campaign also announced against corruption. Unsurprisingly, before his visit to Moscow, Zhaparov had a telephone conversation with Xi Jinping, in which limits the freedom of initiative of the Kyrgyz president, who was elected in the name of nationalist pride and also denounces the policies of his predecessors subordinate to Chinese interests.
Beijing and Moscow are now awaiting a return of the Central Asian country to greater political and social stability, with a view to ordering the spheres of influence and the sectors of economic and geopolitical interest of the two giants, between the roads of the silk and Eurasian unions. .