bne:Chart – As Central Asian succession risks loom, Kazakhs have more reason to be content

By bne IntelliNews January 6, 2015

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As worries grow over the health of ageing leaders in Central Asia and their succession plans, one key factor that may determine how smooth these potentially explosive transitions will be is the level of economic dissatisfaction in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

As this week’s chart shows, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazabayev appears to have done the most to improve the lot of his fellow citizens since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. As the economy has flourished on the back of growing oil exports, Kazakhs’ income levels have followed suit. GDP per capita has risen from $1,647 in 1990 to $13,172 in 2013, making it a middle-income country according to World Bank criterion.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov has made much less of the country’s ample natural resources – Uzbekistan is the world's 17th largest producer of natural gas, ninth largest producer of gold and sixth largest producer of cotton – but the population remains poor. GDP per capita was $651 in 1990 and had only reached $1,878 by 2013.

Tajikistan is not blessed with the same level of natural resources as the other two, but those it does have either haven't been developed properly (hydroelectric power and gas) or have been stolen by elites. The country’s largest export earner, the giant Tajik Aluminium Company, or TALCO, is personally overseen by President Emomali Rahmon. According to The Economist, "Each year, TALCO produces hundreds of millions of dollars in profits that are routed to a shell company in the British Virgin Islands.” Tajikstan's GDP per capita has risen from $496 in 1990 to $1,037 in 2013.

 

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