February 1, 2018
Wealthy in natural resources, Central Asian economies are poised for a positive economic development in the coming years. Major countries in the Central Asia have the resources to expand their economies, along with adequately large domestic markets, and can use reforms and transit potential to attract investment. Although the region was largely ignored throughout the Cold War, its vitality and importance was quickly rediscovered.
Today the Central Asian economies have some key advantages to offer, chief among them being proximity to major markets like South Asia, Europe, East Asia and Russia. They also boast of a stable and peaceful environment backed by a young and growing population.
Kazakhstan is the largest economy in the Central Asian region. Equivalent in size to Western Europe, it constitutes more than half the surface area of all Central Asian countries combined. It has a population of just 17.8 million. As per the Asian Development Bank, growth forecasts for the country are raised to almost 3.0 per cent for 2018.
Among other central Asian countries, Uzbekistan has an area of 447,000 km and a population of 31.9 million. Turkmenistan, with a population of 5.7 million and an area of 488 sq km and Krygz Republic has an area of 200 sq km and a population of 6.1 million. Tajikistan has a surface area of 141 sq km and a population of 8.7 million people, as per the 2017 World Bank report.
As for the average income of the central Asian countries, Tajikistan and Krygz Republic are lagging behind on their gross national income (GNI) per capita, while Kazakhstan is leading on this economic indicator. The GNI of Kazakhstan is $8,710 while that of Turkmenistan is $6,670. Uzbekistan’s GNI is the third highest at $2,220, Krygz Republic and Tajikistan both have the same GNI of $1,100.
Uzbekistan’s FDI inflows are the lowest in the region, mostly due to restricted access to foreign currency, trade constraints and widespread corruption among others.
Kazakhstan generates the maximum FDI inflows of US$17,647, followed by Turkmenistan (US$4,522) and Tajikistan (US$344 million). Uzbekistan’s FDI inflows stand the lowest at just US$ 67 million. The country possesses one of the world's top three gas fields.
When it comes to natural resources, Turkmenistan is known for its rich gas resources and it remains a key holder in Central Asia. The country has 17.5 trillion cubic metres of natural gas, making it the fourth largest holder of natural gas reserves in the world, after Iran, Russia and Qatar. Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have 1.1 and one trillion cubic metres of natural gas reserves. Kazakhstan also contains the world's largest offshore oilfield.
Uzbekistan also consumes the bulk of natural gas compared to its neighbouring countries. The country consumed 50.5 billion cubic metres of natural gas in 2016, compared to 29.5 billion cubic metres by Turkmenistan and 13.4 billion cubic metres by Kazakhstan in the same year.