Today, the Caspian Policy Center (CPC), in coordination with the embassies of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan, convened senior experts from the Department of State, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the economic policy officials from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan to discuss the current COVID-19 pandemic in the Caspian region and its potential implications for the economic policies of regional governments.
CPC’s Executive Director Efgan Nifti opened the event with welcome remarks that were followed by introductory comments from the panelists.
“Strong cooperation, coordination, and assistance on both global and regional scale will be important to the Caspian region’s recovery – as will policies based on sound economic principles,” said Mr. Nifti.
David Meale, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Trade Policy and Negotiations at the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs in the U.S. Department of State; Caleb McCarry, Counselor to the Chief Executive Officer at the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation; Ajmal Ahmadi, Acting Governor of Central Bank and Senior Advisor to the President of Afghanistan; Rovshan Najaf, Deputy Minister of Economy of Azerbaijan; Beka Liluashvili, Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister of Georgia; Baur Bektemirov, Chief Economist at the Astana International Finance Center in Kazakhstan; Fuat Kasimcan, Deputy Director-General at the Ministry of Trade of Turkey; Shukhrat Vafaev, Deputy Minister of Investment and Foreign Trade of Uzbekistan; Natalia Tamirisa, Advisor for Middle East and Central Asia and Mission Chief for Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan at the International Monetary Fund; and Esmira Jafarova, Deputy Chairman of the Center of Analysis of International Relations in Azerbaijan were among the webinar panelists who talked on the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Caspian region, a range of policy actions to support enterprises in dealing with the impacts of the pandemic and response measures, and actions to enable business continuity and assist enterprises in laying the grounds for recovery.
“Do supply chains evolve in a way that gives rise to the fair and value-added economic development of countries that have the most to offer to them? In the United States, we’re looking ahead to emerging technologies, and we know that the way countries approach to trade and investment will shape access to those chains and how those chains are developed,” said David Meale, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Trade Policy and Negotiations at the State Department.
“Our interests move forward when they’re connected with shared interests,” said Caleb McCarry, Counselor to the CEO at the DFC. “Sustainability and having a good chance for the investment to yield returns are important aspects for the DFC and any other finance and development institution,” he added.
“We quickly created a food distribution program that partners with local bakeries. Rather than supplying the bags of wheat ourselves, we came up with a relatively innovative approach where we partnered with wheat wholesalers to provide flour to these bakeries and then ask them to cook for people on the distribution list. This allowed us to go from project conception to project implementation in only two weeks and helped to make sure that food security issues are being dealt with during the early stages,” shared Ajmal Ahmadi, Acting Governor of Central Bank and Senior Advisor to the President of Afghanistan.
Many countries in the Caspian region managed to contain the spread of the virus by implementing strict social-distancing measures and introducing a comprehensive multi-sector program to address any negative externalities resulting from these measures. The webinar, moderated by the CPC Board Member Ambassador (ret.) Robert F. Cekuta, promoted fruitful exchanges amongst the webinar speakers on the COVID-19 recovery and mitigation efforts, specifically on the local economic policies in the Greater Caspian Region, to mitigate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Construction, mining, petrochemicals, digital economy, transportation and logistics, telecommunication, agriculture and agribusiness, and domestic and regional tourism are our main priorities for economic policies in dealing with the pandemic’s impacts,” said Rovshan Najaf, Deputy Minister of Economy of Azerbaijan.
“The current situation in the Georgian tourism industry affects other sectors of our economy, including construction and real estate,” said Beka Liluashvili, Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister of Georgia.
“Agriculture is becoming increasingly important. It is about food security, new opportunities for growth and trade, and diversification of our economies,” said Baur Bektemirov, Chief Economist at the Astana International Finance Center in Kazakhstan.
Many countries in the Caspian region launched new initiatives to help with cash burdens and support enterprises struggling from quarantine regulations due to the pandemic. Several countries implemented tax breaks and holidays, utility subsidies, and interest rate subsidies to ensure that businesses can cope with a decline in economic activity spurred by the pandemic. During the webinar, the speakers highlighted the importance of regional collaboration among the Greater Caspian Region countries and the United States to support these initiatives designed for economic relief. Several panelists highlighted the efforts to maintain cross-border trade while instituting new regulations to mitigate the spread of the virus, utilize international institutions, facilitate regional cooperation, and ensure essential supply lines remain open throughout the pandemic. The speakers also talked about the digital space and how it can be used to facilitate beneficial trade negotiations, secure supply lines for essential products, and sustain economic activity despite the current quarantine regimes in many countries in the Caspian region.
About Caspian Policy Center
The Caspian Policy Center (CPC) is an independent, nonprofit research think tank based in Washington D.C. Economic, political, energy, and security issues of the Caspian region constitute the central research focus of the Center. CPC aims at becoming a primary research and debate platform in the Caspian region with relevant publications, events, projects, and media productions to nurture a comprehensive understanding of the intertwined affairs of the Caspian region.
With an inclusive, scholarly, and innovative approach, the Caspian Policy Center presents a platform where diverse voices from academia, business, and policy world from both the region and the nation’s capital interact to produce distinct ideas and insights to the outstanding issues of the Caspian region.