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EITI in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and possibly Tajikistan

Photo of Karybek Ibraev, National Coordinator, Kyrgyzstan EITI.

Comprehensiveness and dissemination key for Kazakhstan

The government of Kazakhstan’s commitment to the EITI was strongly reaffirmed last week.

This became clear when country manager Dyveke Rogan and I visited Astana, and also Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Since the beginning of implementation in 2007, Kazakhstan has produced five EITI reports disclosing some US$ 70 billion in revenues from oil, gas and mining.

Despite great efforts to issue regular reports containing recent revenue data, it has been difficult to establish whether the EITI Reports gives citizens a holistic picture of all payments and revenues collected by the state. 

The next EITI Report, covering 2010 and possibly also 2011 figures, is being prepared. Their comprehensiveness and dissemination will be key as the country prepares for a second validation in mid-2013.

More than a technical exercise

Our conversations in Astana quickly revealed that most people regard EITI as a technical exercise and we wondered at times if people had forgotten why they are implementing the EITI in the first place.

Many that have been involved in the process are quite rightly frustrated by the lack of progress in achieving compliance.

It is not surprising that the focus is on getting through validation and not on how to shape a better EITI Report and use the data to create a debate. It was therefore welcome when on the way from one technical meeting to another I got a call from a senior party official, Aigul Solovyova, who has recently joined the EITI multi-stakeholder council. She asked if I could speak at a seminar about transparency and the EITI with party members the following morning.

Once at the seminar, she opened it by talking about a social explosion in mining-affected communities and how transparency can help address the situation. It felt as if we had finally met someone who not only saw the EITI as a numbers’ exercise that may help improve Kazakhstan’s reputation internationally. 

Based on her own experience representing workers in the mining industry, she could see how the EITI could contribute to building trust and stability in the regions.

Before leaving Astana, we met with Deputy Prime Minister Kairat Kelimbetov. He was clear about his government’s ambition to see the EITI successfully implemented and he recognized that the government needs to staff the national EITI secretariat better. 

The EITI has probably not done enough in maintaining a dialogue with the Kazakh government and we were grateful for the opportunity to finally meet with a senior representative.

Towards reform

After a day in Astana, Dyveke, our colleague from the World Bank Yerlan Akishev and I travelled onto Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. During our stopover in the commercial centre of Kazakhstan, Almaty, we had the opportunity to have dinner with our old friend Anton Artemyev. Anton has for years been actively involved with the EITI and has recently been appointed as the head of the Soros Foundation Kazakhstan.

There is a lot that needs to be improved in Kazakhstan and it is great with people like Anton who has long experience of slowly building civil society capacity and contributing towards reforms where and when these are possible.

Kyrgystan EITI - small but ambitious

Despite the proximity and a common language, there are few similarities between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. The EITI process is also strikingly different.

Kyrgyzstan, is a relatively small country in the Tian Shan mountains with borders to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China.

The country experienced a second revolution in 2010 when the increasingly autocratic President Bakiyev overseeing a corrupt administration was eventually ousted and succeeded by the reformer and long-standing EITI supporter Roza Otunbayeva.

The EITI has been implemented since 2007 and there is a large and active multi-stakeholder group (MSG).

From left: Nurlan Djakubov, Program coordinator, Open Society Foundation Kyrgyzstan and Karybek Ibraev, National Coordinator, Kyrgyzstan EITI.
Kyrgystan hav published three EITI reports and became compliant in 2011.

Local communities demanding transparency

Disaggregation is the main issue of debate in Kyrgyzstan, with local mining communities demanding to see how much money is paid by the companies operating in their area.

The MSG is trying to maneuver around secrecy clauses in the tax code and convince small operators that are reluctant to disclose disaggregated data.  

The dominant gold miner in the country, the partly state-owned Centerra Gold/Kumptor is setting an example by unilaterally disclosing all its payments to the government, including social contributions.

Embedding EITI in government

Revisions to mining legislation aiming to create a more investment friendly environment and improve the existing bureaucratic and opaque licensing procedures are currently under consideration by the Parliament. Stakeholders who have lobbied for EITI provisions in the law are disappointed that the draft law has been reduced to exclude any reference to EITI.

The political situation in Kyrgyzstan is uncertain and the EITI Secretariat remains totally funded through the World Bank. So it seems important to better embed the process within government institutions.

The lack of progress with these issues was contrasted by the First Deputy Prime Minister Dzhoomart Otorbaev, who strongly shared our view that the EITI process should be more ambitious and be part of the broader mining and economic reforms in the country.

We are certainly taking him up on the offer of writing to him with a range of different proposals of possible and ambitious ways of linking EITI to other reforms in the sector.

Tajikistan EITI - exploring the potentials

Having spent a wonderful evening with the EITI team in Bishkek, we early Thursday morning flew Southwest across the mountains to Tajikistan. With borders to Kyrgyzstan, China, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, Tajikistan is up to 93 per cent covered with mountains.

The country opens up to the Southwest, with strong lingual and cultural links to Afghanistan and Iran.

So far the mining sector is relatively limited, but there are high expectations and a strong interest in attracting major mining companies.

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, a civil war followed 1992-97, and since 1992 Emomali Rahmonov has been the president. Tajikistan is hardly considered an open democracy and corruption is perceived to be endemic.

From the left: Timur Avganov, Head of Economic Department,  Ministry of Finance Tajikistan, EITI's Dyveke Rogan, Yerlan Akishev, World Bank

Tajikistan expresses interest 

At the same time, reforms are under way, and the government is working together with civil society organisations on for example preparing to implement the EITI. A multi-stakeholder group has been formed and Deputy Prime Minister Matloubkhon Davlatov and Finance Minister Safarali Najmiddinov welcomed us warmly. They were both familiar with the EITI and confirmed their intention to implement the standard. We were told that we should soon expect a candidacy application from Tajikistan.

From closed to open

In all three countries we visited there is a clear need for continued and in many ways quite urgent reforms. It is difficult to know when an international effort like the EITI is suitable along the journey from closed undemocratic societies to more open ones.

Even if Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are very different countries, it was our impression that the EITI, if well implemented, can indeed and in different ways, be a relevant platform for those seeking improvements.