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President wants Kyrgyzstan to be an ‘Asian dragon’
By Asker Sultanov
BISHKEK – Preserving territorial integrity, economic growth and improved international relations were the Kyrgyzstani government’s main achievements in 2011, President Almazbek Atambayev said in a televised speech December 29.
But he said the country must become more independent of Russia and still faces threats posed by terrorism and drug trafficking.
“We conclusively ended the process of legitimising (our) authority,” he said. “We were able to consolidate forces in parliament. A ruling coalition was formed in parliament on our first try. I hope it will work constructively.”
A new cabinet has been formed too, he noted. “This is a positive moment; however, some might see something negative in it and might behave that way. Some agencies and ministries are going to be eliminated soon,” he added, referring to a cost-cutting move.
Among the achievements of 2011, Atambayev pointed to 8.5% GDP growth in the first 11 months, limited inflation and punctual payment of welfare benefits. Healthcare workers, teachers and retirees saw their annual salaries or pensions increase by an average of US $100 (4,700 KGS) in the past year, he said.
“Some would say: that’s not much,” he said. “But it’s the first time in Kyrgyz history that pensions have equalled the monthly minimum cost of living, which is 3,500 KGS (US $75),” he said.
The government will establish an anti-corruption agency, he said. “We need to prosecute the big shots in corruption, not the little fish,” he said. “Any minister, deputy or official involved in corruption needs to go to jail.”
Russia a strategic partner
Russia is Kyrgyzstan’s fundamental strategic partner, Atambayev said.
“Even though we declared independence 20 years ago, Kyrgyzstan is dependent,” he said. “All the same, work to fix this situation needs to proceed, and in the next five years, we must achieve energy and economic independence. Our country has the resources to do this. However, good relations with our neighbours must remain a priority.”
Among accomplishments in foreign policy, Atambayev cited Turkey’s forgiveness of US $51m (2.4 billion KGS) in debt and an agreement to buy Uzbek gas.
“It wasn’t easy to overcome the distrust toward the (Kyrgyz) government that several countries formed during (Kurmanbek) Bakiyev’s rule,” he said. “All the same, we’ve restored a sense of partnership to our relations with them.”
Areas for improvement
Still, Atambayev said Kyrgyzstan faces challenges.
“Security, terrorism and drug trafficking are acute problems,” he said. “Security depends on us, the people. Going forward, we can’t allow inter-ethnic discord. From now on, politicians and journalists who make pronouncements provoking inter-ethnic hostility will be prosecuted.”
Law enforcement hasn’t stopped looking for the organisers of the June 2010 ethnic conflict in Osh and Dzhalal-Abad oblasts, he said. “(Convicted fugitive ethnic-Uzbek leader) Kadyrzhan Batyrov and the other defendants were just doing someone else’s bidding,” he said.
“In the New Year, the Year of the Dragon, I don’t wish to become a dragon, but I wish for our country to become an ‘Asian dragon,’” he said.
Former foreign minister Alikbek Dzhekshenkulov said 2011 was a trying year for Kyrgyzstan.
“Despite the sceptical pronouncements of various political scientists, we passed the test; we succeeded in preserving national stability,” he said. “We took one more step toward democratisation and conducted presidential elections. It’s very important that the economy also held up.”
Dzekshenkulov said Atambayev’s political goals appear to be unifying the country’s peoples while combating crime and corruption.
“Despite all the upheavals ... Atambayev is striving to preserve the unity of the people and is conducting a dialogue with all political forces,” Dzekshenkulov said. “He’s trying to integrate justice and rule of law into society, create the conditions for a decisive struggle with corruption and organised crime, restore the economy and inspire people to be creative.”
All of Kyrgyzstan’s forces were concentrated on the task of preserving stability in 2011, political scientist Aida Alymbayeva said.
“It was also a year for establishing relationships between the political elites: between the president and parliament, between parliament and the government,” she said. “All throughout year, the power was not concentrated in a single pair of hands.”