The European Union, together with the OECD and the government of Kyrgyzstan held a webinar on 19 June 2020, as part of the EU Central Asia Invest programme. The event was an opportunity to discuss COVID19-related challenges in Kyrgyzstan and the measures taken by the government to mitigate the impact of the crisis on the country’s private sector, as well as to explore some lessons from OECD experience that might help the government in this endeavour.
The webinar was opened by Deputy Minister of Finance Mr Suerkul Abdybaly Tegin and Ambassador of the EU Delegation to Kyrgyzstan Mr Eduard Auer. Deputy Minister Tegin welcomed the work undertaken by the OECD to support Kyrgyzstan during this difficult period, and outlined a number of measures being taken by the government to help the country’s private sector, despite the restrictive fiscal environment in which the government must operate. The Deputy Minister also noted that a new, expanded packet of support measures is currently with parliament. Ambassador Auer echoed the Deputy Minister’s view that fiscal constraints limited the government’s ability to respond, but noted that the government nevertheless had so far undertaken a considerable number of steps to support the private sector and the economy more broadly, whilst also underlining the need to maintain structural reforms.
Following the opening remarks, Ms Peline Atamer (OECD) gave a short presentation on the impact of the crisis on investment, in Kyrgyzstan and across Central Asia. Ms Atamer took the opportunity to highlight a number of findings from the OECD’s recent mapping of investment promotion agencies in Eurasia. The need to protect investors already in the country, sending positive signals to prospective sources of FDI, was echoed by Mr Robin Ord Smith, Business Ombudsman of Kyrgyzstan. Mr Luke Mackle and Mr Arnault Prêtet (OECD) presented a brief overview of the economic consequences of COVID-19 and outlined a number of policy measures that the government might consider based on OECD experience. Mr Ord Smith likewise stressed the need to address long term structural issues if the private sector is to be able to drive a more sustainable economic recovery.
These interventions were followed by remarks from Ms Charlotte Adriaen, Head of Cooperation at the EUD to Kyrgyzstan, who drew attention to the recent announcement of a third phase of the government’s recovery plan, noting that it was imperative that the government made clear the extent to which the first two phases had been successfully implemented. Ambassador Muktar Djumaliev of Kyrgyzstan to the European Union and to Belgium then took the floor to thank the OECD for its support, drawing attention to the particular need to support returning migrants and mitigate the impact that declining remittances will have for public finances. Concluding, Ambassador Auer echoed Ambassador Djumaliev’s concerns regarding the fiscal pressures facing the government, but reiterated the EU’s readiness to support the Kyrgyz government and the need to press on with the structural reforms necessary to improve the country’s business climate and receive the investment that is so crucial to job-creation.