Category Archives: Economics/Business

Author interview: 30 Years since the Fall of the Berlin Wall: Turns and Twists in Economies, Politics, and Societies in the Post-Communist Countries, edited by Alexandr Akimov and Gennadi Kazakevitch

Editor’s note:  In this post, we are pleased to present Alfinura Sharafeyeva (University of Adelaide), who interviews Alexandr Akimov (Griffith University), one of the editors of the volume 30 Years since the Fall of the Berlin Wall:  Turns and Twists in Economies, Politics, and Societies in the Post-Communist Countries, published by Palgrave Press (Palgrave Studies in Economic History). Akimov also authored a chapter in the volume, titled “Why Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan Are Not Singapore: Comparing the First 25 Years of Reforms”.  Here Sharafeyeva and Akimov discuss the impact of issues such as the legacy of communism, authoritarianism, and intraregional cooperation, in the economic development and reform of Central Asia.

What was the key idea of putting the book together, who are the authors, which countries and key topics covered in this book?

The idea of putting together a book came about at the bi-annual conference of Australasian Association of Communist and Post-communist Studies (AACAPS), which we hosted at Griffith University early in 2019. As conference took place in the year when we marked the occasion of 30 years since the fall of the Berlin wall, it was natural that marking the occasion became the main theme of the event. Our goal was to bring together researchers from the Australia, New Zealand and the rest of the world to share their research on Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, Central Asia and North Asia. With a diverse paths communist and post-communist countries took since the collapse of the Berlin wall, we were interested to hear the stories across the region on how communism and post-communism have been tracking.  We had a good turnout at the conference with a range of topics of our interest representing all major communist/post-communist countries. There, at the conference, Dr. Gennadi Kazakevitch from Monash University proposed that we prepare a submission for a book volume. I should note that this as not the first book volume, which came out from one of the conferences. Our colleagues, Stephen Fish, Graeme Gill and Milenko Petrovic a few years back published the volume A Quarter Century of Post-Communism Assessed. We thought it was a good idea continuing this nice tradition.

Fig 1  Alexandr Akimov speaking at the AACAPS 2019 conference

Fig 2 Book contributors and other conference participants at AACAPS 2019 conference (photo credit Griffith University)

The book itself, published by Palgrave Macmillan, have a good coverage of disciplines and countries. First section has a focus on common themes for post-communism or broader regional issues, with papers from our distinguished colleagues, such as Leslie Holmes, Richard Pomfret, Gennadi Kazakevicth and Milenko Petrovic. Dr. Kazakevitch starts the book with the taxonomy of post-communist countries, Prof. Pomfret and Dr. Petrovic discuss the transition in Central Asia and South-Eastern Europe, whereas Prof. Holmes talks about the cross -border issue of organized crime in the whole region, including the largest countries in the region – Russia and China.

The second section was dedicated to the largest country in the region – Russia, and examines topics in international relations, media and energy security. We had a combination of established and emerging scholars contributing to this section. The fourth section of the book dug deeper into the history with parallels drawn in Russian revolution and perestroika, migration to Australia by Vietnamese and Yugoslav communities, Chinese and Soviet economic reforms and sociological journey of Zygmunt Baumann. Yet again, there has been a good mix of contributions from prominent and emerging scholars to this section.

The third section that would be of the most interest to the CESS members was dedicated to Central Asia. This region remains relatively under-researched in comparison to its European peers, therefore I was personally very happy that we had four papers in this section, three of them were looking at the various economic aspects of transition and one looking at language and ethnical aspects of legal reforms. Not surprisingly, the largest two countries in the region, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan were dominant countries of focus in those papers. In particular, Alisher Ergashev investigated potential reasons for the lack of nutrition in Uzbekistan in his chapter ‘Money can’t buy me love but it can buy apples: an analysis of fruit and vegetable demand in Uzbekistan’. Jakhongir Kakhkharov and Muzaffar Ahunov, in their chapter ‘Squandering remittances income in conspicuous consumption?’, used household level data to examine the impact of remittances from Uzbek workers abroad on the household expenditure on food, consumables, health, education and traditional ceremonies. Aziz Ismatov, in his chapter ‘Equal citizenship, language, and ethnicity dilemmas in the context of the post-socialist legal reforms in Central Asia’ discussed whether citizenship law in Central Asian countries aimed at excluding or including ethnic minorities from the citizenships and thus reduced their rights and freedoms in these countries. Finally, there was my humble contribution to the book where I analysed why Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have not become Central Asian ‘Singapores’.

Your book has been published after 30 years of the fall of the Berlin wall, and in the book’s preface Graeme Gill states that the consequences of the fall of communism in 1989/91 are still with us today. What are the main passes and achievements that have been reached by the post-Communist countries globally? What are the key trajectories of the former members of the USSR and the Soviet bloc after three decades?

Graeme Gill is right that the consequences of communism are still with us. Many in the West, in the first decade of post-communism in Eastern Europe and ex-USSR, thought the communism is done and dusted and we will see the gradual dismantling of communist outposts in countries like China, Vietnam, Cuba and North Korea. As we know it has not happened. In China, communist party retained and strengthened its grip on power since the Xi Jinping became a leader. In many countries of ex-USSR, early free market reforms were partially reversed, and countries are run by some authoritarian and semi-authoritarian rulers. Even in the largest democracy in the world, USA, under Donald Trump, we saw a reversal of liberal free market ideas and push for protectionism and to a degree – authoritarianism.

The struggles between liberal democracy and authoritarianism, free markets and protectionism, individual rights vs society interests are still there.

In terms of achievements, we can say countries of Eastern Europe, who were able to join European Union, were the major beneficiaries. They were generally able to improve their standards of living, gain more economic and political freedoms, and opportunities for self-realisation. Those countries are generally committed to that Western liberal values, although we saw some reversals of those in countries like Hungary and Poland.  For people in former Soviet Union, it was a bit more of a mixed bag with opportunities for entrepreneurs, access to education and travel abroad for a part of population. However, there have been some inferior outcomes for more vulnerable communities with higher levels of inequality and poverty. Some post-communist countries have settled on the model with a combination of market forces and strong state intervention.

One phenomenal outcome among the communist/post-communist group was China. We all know that market reforms allowed China to leap forward in terms of economic development and improved social outcomes even without liberalisation in the political scene. The system proved to be rather liveable and may stay around for years to come.

Gennadi Kazakevitch shares a Cluster Analysis of the post-communist countries transition from planned to market economy. Could you briefly explain the concept of the clustering? We can find that Central Asian economies are spread across different clusters. What are the key reasons for such a trend?

The concept of clustering in Dr. Kazakevitch’s analysis is an attempt to form groupings of countries that share certain characteristics. In this work, indicators from the Economic Freedom survey, such as property rights, government integrity and corruption, government spending, business freedom, monetary freedom, international trade freedom, investment freedom and financial freedom are used as criteria for forming the clusters. Using statistical methodology, Dr. Kazakevitch was able to narrow the number of clusters to five. Central Asian countries were spread over three cluster. Kazakhstan was the only country from the region to appear in cluster 2, which represent countries that ‘more or less successfully built market economies, albeit with some limitations’. The limitations may include significantly higher proportion of grey and black economy, as well as corruption and tax evasion in comparison to developed Western economies. Cluster 3 contained many post-Soviet republics, including Central Asian republics of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. These group is described in the chapter as either authoritarian states or imperfect democracies with quasi-market economies. Finally, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan were placed in Cluster 4, which is characterised by strong authoritarianism and a strong intervention of the state in most aspects of economic activity, apart from small business.

This classification is not surprising; Central Asian republics never really declared a goal of becoming liberal Western democracies. They modelled their economic management more in line with countries like Russian and China, both of which are in Cluster 3.

None of the Central Asian countries had previous history as independent states. A common perception in the 1990s was that their prospects for long-term survival were poor. Nevertheless, they have survived for over a quarter of a century. According to Richard Pomfret, what are the key factors that benefitted Central Asian countries? What are the key economic shocks that newly independent countries faced while in transition?

It is hard to pin a set of uniform factors for the whole region. The story of each country is unique. One reason might be that these newly independent countries were largely left to themselves. There have been no strong disruptive forces from major global and regional players. In four out of five republics, local elites were consolidated around the country leaders. The only exception is Tajikistan, which faced problems of Islamic fundamentalism and a civil war until Emomali Rakhmonov came to power. Economically, three out of five countries, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan had enough easily tradeable commodities to sustain themselves, such as oil, gas, other mineral resources, agricultural commodities, such as grain and cotton. The economies of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan were hit harder. They had to rely on economic support from Russia and to a degree from Kazakhstan and try to develop strong economic ties with China.  Culturally, in four out of five Central Asian republics the population was rather homogeneous, with large ethic majorities of indigenous people. That, to a degree, helped to reduce the probability of ethnic conflicts. The only exception was inter- ethnic conflict in Southern Kyrgyzstan where large Uzbek community resides. Finally, some credit should be given to skillful leadership in countries like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and in Kyrgyzstan, particularly in difficult 1990s.

The major economic shocks were the immediate years of post-independence when economic ties between the republics of ex-USSR were cut. It took few years for the policy-makers in the countries to get a firm grip on economic management and set reform agendas. Further challenges accompanied Russian and Asian crises at the end of 1990s, where we saw some reform reversals. In 2000s, GFC was certainly a significant test for all economies in the region. Interestingly, closed economies such as Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan weathered the storm better than more open Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Finally, current Covid-19 pandemic provides even greater economic challenge to the global economies, including economies in the region. We know that political career of Kyrgyz president Sooronbayev became a first casualty of the pandemic induced economic crisis in the region.

Despite the geographic closeness, cultural and common historic ties there is still weak intra-regional cooperation among Central Asian economies. Why and what could be done to improve the situation?

There are several objective and subjective reasons for relatively low level of intra-regional cooperation. For economic relations and trade, the key driver is complementarity of goods and services countries produce. In other words, if two countries are to trade, they should be able to offer to each other something that the other wants but does not have. Historically the regions have developed somewhat similar economic structures, which limit opportunities to trade, and even make the countries competitors. For example, Tajikistan agricultural produce is also grown in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, South Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and on a smaller scale Uzbekistan sell oil, gas and other mineral resources to the world market. Still, there are many opportunities that remain untapped. This includes potential for more cooperation in energy, transport, smaller scale manufacturing and construction, food processing and textiles. On a political level, the key condition for stronger ties in the region were arguable relationships between two largest countries in the region – Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. However, political rivalry between two ex-Presidents might have played a role why the region has never spoke in a unison. There are some positive emerging trends though, particularly after Mirziyoyev took over leadership in Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan’s relationships with its neighbors have been gradually improving in the last few years, which is promising for intra-regional cooperation.

In the chapter that you authored, you are exploring why Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan did not reach the level of Singapore’s development, as it was the benchmark set up by the heads of these two countries. Could you please explain what made these two countries prefer Singapore’s way of transition to market economy in the first place, and not the traditional “Western” path? What are the conditions that pre-existed in Singapore to become successful in their transition and was not present in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan?

In my chapter, I have never asked a question why the countries aspired to follow Singapore’s development path rather focusing on how they tried to achieve it and what have been achieved.  It is a very good question though, which I will try to answer. A good way to start with is to look what Uzbek and Kazakh leaders said early in their presidency.  Karimov in his 1992 work Uzbekistan: Its Way of Revival and Progress argued for gradual transition to market economy and democracy and emphasized a strong executive power as key for successful implementation of reforms.  Thus, he was dismissive of Polish style shock therapy and liberal democracy, suggesting that people are not ready for this and it will take long-time for mentality to change. Nazarbayev in his autobiographic 2006 book The Kazakhstan Way argued that post-communist transition after the dissolution of the USSR has been a unique process, with no similar historical precedents. The closest experience, he argued, was post-colonial independence of South-East Asian countries, where Singapore stood as a best example of success in building a developed independent state. Both those points, I believe, are the valid points. Eastern European countries that chose rapid transition to capitalism and democratic reforms had an experience of being capitalist countries before World War II with appropriate institutions to support market economy. In contrast, neither Kazakhstan nor Uzbekistan, had a historical experience to lean on. There has been no history of protection of private property rights, no independent courts or legislation that would enforce it, the population with no knowledge on how to exercise its democratic rights. In those circumstances, rapid democratization and shock therapy could lead to a chaos and/or the ‘wild west’ style of capitalism we saw in Russia. Therefore, gradual transition with strong central powers were much more acceptable among the population. In addition, personal ambitions of both leaders to become historical figures also played an important role. One of the advantages Singapore had over both countries was the fact that they did inherit functioning institutions to support the market economy. Lee Kuan Yew and his team had to skillfully use those institutions to promote the strategic development. Another advantage Singapore had over both countries was its geographical location. As a city port, it could relatively smoothly re-focus its trade relationship in line with its priorities. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan do not have access to a seaport. Considering the Afghan conflict, they had no choice but to work with Russia and China as logistical transits for their import/export operations. Since Russia was itself in disarray and west-east infrastructure in China was relatively underdeveloped, the diversification was a rather challenging task. Finally, the fact that Singapore is a small city-state also mattered. The transformation process was much more manageable.

Despite the failure to become “Central Asian Singapore” in 25 years, could you highlight what has been achieved relative to this “benchmark” and what could be done to improve the situation?

Neither Uzbekistan nor Kazakhstan were able to achieve level of socio-economic progress and prosperity we saw in Singapore for a range of objective and subjective reasons. However, some achievements worth highlighting. Linking to your early comment, the fact that both countries have survived the difficult years without major confrontations or civil unrest is already an important achievement. Both countries have recorded impressive economic growth rates since 2000s with a resultant higher average level of economic prosperity, especially in Kazakhstan. Citizens in both countries acquired certain level of civil liberties, including starting their own business and an opportunity to travel/study/live abroad.

What could have been done better? Neither of the countries were able to move away from corruption, cronyism and nepotism. Coupled with relatively low and ineffective investments in education in both countries, this led to much less competitive workforce critical in the modern global economy. We know that Lee saw a strong system of meritocracy in Singapore to be a key ingredient of success. The proper functioning institutions for market economy are also yet to be established, although Kazakhstan is more advanced in this regard. Political interferences are still endemic, especially in Uzbekistan. Notably that current Uzbek leadership highlights the issue as one of the priorities that need fixing. Finally, the economic strategies both countries adopted can also be questioned. Kazakhstan has over-relied on its natural endowment and was largely unable to build any internationally competitive industries apart from mining. Uzbekistan has erroneously focused on import-substitution policy, which also led to creation of some inefficient and government subsidized industries and enterprises, which would not survive the test of time. More open economic policy together with structural reforms should help to change the tides.

Report Announcement: Central Asia’s Horticulture Sector: Capitalizing on New Export Opportunities in Chinese and Russian Markets, by Kateryna Schroeder and Sergiy Zorya

(Editor’s note:  We are happy to re-share this blog with permission, which was originally posted at World Bank Blogs in both English and Russian, the links are here.  There are links here below to the original report on fruit exports in Central Asia.)

English   https://blogs.worldbank.org/europeandcentralasia/how-fruit-can-boost-economic-development-central-asia

Russian  https://blogs.worldbank.org/ru/europeandcentralasia/how-fruit-can-boost-economic-development-central-asia

Ask any tourist visiting Central Asia what they love about the region and, among other responses, you are likely to hear about their mouth-watering experience eating fresh, tasty fruits and berries. This is not surprising, as the region is home to some 300 wild fruit and nut species.

What is surprising is that the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan currently realize only about one-third of their export potential in cherries, grapes, apricots, and plums—fresh fruits in which they hold a comparative advantage.

There is enormous potential to increase Central Asian fruit exports, thus boosting economic growth, generating employment (horticulture requires at least twice as much labor as cereal crops!), and creating opportunities for income generation in rural areas. All of these would be very welcome developments amidst dwindling GDP growth across the region.

Exporting to China: large market, many hurdles

Chinese markets create a particularly lucrative opportunity for Central Asian fruit suppliers to grow their exports. The country’s increasingly more affluent and educated consumers continue to shift their dietary preferences to include more protein, fruit, and vegetables. This contributes to a rapid growth in fruit import demand, which by 2030 is expected to reach $2.7 billion——a huge opportunity for Central Asian farmers.

Although the Central Asian countries are well placed to be more competitive in satisfying China’s growing demand for fruit imports, entering the formidable Chinese fresh fruit markets is not  easy.

China has rather stringent food safety standards. Imported produce must be consistent in both quality and volume, which requires sophisticated quality and logistics systems that the Central Asian countries have yet to develop.

Moreover, Chinese fruit markets are highly fragmented and competitive, so importers need to have a close relationship with a Chinese counterpart on the ground. And Chinese consumers value attractive packaging and products with recognizable brands.

Most Central Asian fruit producers are small farmers with limited access to financial and knowledge resources, which results in constrained production volumes and inconsistent supply quality. Although perfectly adjusted to trading domestically, Central Asia’s small-scale producers lack the capacity necessary to meet the bureaucratic and procedural conformity of international markets.

At the government level, the quality and capacity of the region’s food and safety systems, customs control, and inspection bodies do not meet the requirements of Chinese markets, putting its exporters at a disadvantage vis-à-vis major suppliers to China, such as Chile or the United States. Moreover, Central Asian exporters are often unaware of the available opportunities provided by Chinese markets and of the requirements to enter them.

As a result, China still accounts for only a tiny, albeit growing, share of total Central Asian fruit exports. And those Central Asian exporters that do enter Chinese markets face significantly lower price premiums compared to their competitors.

Similar hurdles are emerging in the traditional markets

Currently, more than 85 percent of Central Asian exports of cherries, grapes, apricots, and plums are shipped to Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union. However, even in these traditional markets, Central Asian exporters are losing out on existing opportunities, receiving prices 30 percent less than those enjoyed by the competitors.

Why is this happening?

Most Central Asian fruits are largely sold in open-air markets. Yet, sales of fruits through modern grocery store chains in Russia have been growing at an accelerated pace, often at the expense of traditional retail markets. Central Asian fruit suppliers are scarcely present in Russian formal retail stores, as they are often unable to provide produce with the quality, assortment, and packaging that is in accordance with Russian retailer needs and volumes.

Other factors that impede Central Asian farmers from receiving better prices in traditional markets are the high fragmentation of production, the informality and non-transparency of the region’s fruit supply chains, and both producers’ and exporters’ lack of knowledge of, and compliance with, retail requirements.

So what is the way forward?

To be competitive in Chinese and other evolving global fresh fruit markets, in which large modern retail chains play an ever-increasing role, Central Asian exporters need to be able to supply large volumes of fruit of consistently high quality in a timely manner.

National governments have a role to play in creating an enabling environment for the increased production and export capacity of horticulture products by tackling the most binding constraints that exist in the sector.

First, governments can provide a policy environment that facilitates cooperation among Central Asian smallholders. This way, the farmers will be able to consistently supply the large volumes of quality fruit required by importers.

Second, governments need to focus on promoting private investments in cold chain storage and post-harvest processing capacity and on investing in public goods, such as food safety and quality control systems, R&D, and export promotion.

Finally, the rapid growth of e-commerce around the world offers an opportunity for Central Asian exporters to penetrate new and growing markets in their region and beyond. Governments should do more, therefore, to promote the digital development of their respective agriculture sectors.


To learn more, read the World Bank report “Central Asia’s Horticulture Sector: Capitalizing on New Export Opportunities in Chinese and Russian Markets,” which analyzes opportunities for Central Asian fresh fruit exports in Chinese and higher-end Russian markets, and provides policy recommendations on how to take advantage of these opportunities.

The report is available in both English and Russian languages.

Rural women in Kazakhstan: double vulnerability, by Kamila Kovyazina (Independent Scholar)

This blog presents some of the results of the study of rural women’s economic possibilities in Kazakhstan, conducted by the Applied Economics Research Centre in April 2019. The basic method of research was a mass survey of the target group;  the number of respondents amounted to 1400 women in five mega-regions, including southern, northern, western, eastern and central parts of the country. The study used a stratified multistage territorial randomized sample, representing the target group by age and region. Additionally, in-depth interviews were held with rural women from different social groups, such as independent workers, housewives, businesswomen.

The main hypothesis of this study was that rural women are extremely limited in their economic possibilities (including labor possibilities), compared to rural men as well as to urban women. In Kazakhstan on the whole, the average woman is poorer than the average man. This is proved by the size of average salary – women are paid 38% less than men. At the same time, the rural population has less income on average than the urban population. The Committee on Statistics of the Ministry of National Economy of Kazakhstan provides the following data: in the fourth quarter of 2019, city dwellers’ had a monthly income per capita on average  67 971 tenge, while rural population received on average 47 306 tenge per capita. The difference is almost 20 000 tenge! This all brings us to a conclusion that rural women may face a double economic vulnerability, because of their gender and place of living.

The results of the above-mentioned study confirm the hypothesis. Rural women tend to be in poor economic situation and have low labor opportunities. A quarter of rural women are housewives, and around 29% of respondents have only secondary education. Half of the respondents report to have a household income per capita less than the normal living wage. There are two significant factors contributing to women’s limited economic possibilities which should be considered:  on one hand, this is associated with the narrow labor market in the countryside. On the other hand, rural women are the ones who take care of the household chores and infants or children, which predetermines their lower opportunities to get education and better job.

Economic conditions

The survey showed that half of rural women have less income per capita than the normal living wage in Kazakhstan in 2019, which was 29 698 tenge.

Graph 1. Household income per capita of respondents

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

The survey also demonstrates that most rural women have a low level of purchasing power – only about 18% of them are easily able to buy durable goods, such as utilities or a TV.  Only 49% of rural women get enough income for food and clothing. Every fourth rural family faces challenges to buy clothes, including those 4% of respondents, who don’t have enough income even for food.

Table 1. Purchasing power self-assessment

                                                                              Purchasing power Share
We do not experience financial difficulties and, if necessary, we may acquire a car or apartment Higher than the average 3,2
We get enough income for everything, except very expensive acquisitions, such as a car or apartment Higher than the average 14,5
There is enough money for food and clothing, but buying durable goods is difficult Average 49,0
There is enough money for food, but buying clothes is difficult Lower than the average 22,2
Not enough money even for food Lower than the average 4,1
N/A 7,0

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

Economic conditions differ according to the number of family members in a household, but one general rule applies: the bigger the family, the worse the situation. A larger family size presupposes more children, including infants, which causes forced unemployment of rural women. Because they are primarily responsible to look after children, as well as for household chores, women are limited both in work and education possibilities, which leads to durable unemployment.

Graph 2. The purchasing power of respondents, according to the size of family

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

However, according to the results of the survey, rural women can not be rightly called dependents. Only 37% of rural families have a man as a main earner. This is true mostly for the previously-mentioned large-sized families. Husbands are named the main earner in families with bigger number of children. Respondents, who chose this option, are mostly Kazakh-speaking, with secondary education only. In another 21.1% of homes,  both spouses contribute equally to the total household income. In every fifth rural family, the main earner is a woman, and another 10% of families live off their wife’s allowance or pension.

Table 2. Sources of income

                                                                              Share, %
Husband’s earnings, income (works in the countryside) 25,6
Husband’s earnings, income (works in the nearby town/city) 11,2
Equally, my husband’s earnings and my earnings 21,1
My earnings, income (work in the countryside) 15,6
My earnings, income (work in the nearby town/city) 4,3
Husband’s pension, social benefits 1,7
My pension, social benefits 9,8
We are financially helped by relatives, adult children 3,5
The main income comes from our farm, etc. 3,2
Parents’ earnings 1,1
Other 1,9
Difficult to answer 1,0

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

Rural women may serve as a main earner before getting married for their natal families and/or before the birth of their first children, usually, after getting education in the city. Respondents at the age of 18-24, who have higher education, and are usually bilingual, more frequently report that their earnings are the main source of income for their household. Respondents at the age of 35-44, who are bilingual and who have a higher education, tend to earn at an equal level with their husbands. After their children got old enough to take care of themselves, educated women get a chance for self-realization later in life.

Lower labor possibilities

According to the survey, two key features of rural women’s employment can be distinguished. Firstly, the proportion of those who are not part of the workforce is high: a full quarter of the respondents are housewives, and 12,4% are retired. Secondly, women tend to work in a limited number of spheres; wage employment prevails in organizations funded from the state budget (23% – state employees, 5% – civil servants). These are mostly schools, medical institutions, or akimats of rural districts.

Graph 3. Type of employment

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

The leading sphere of employment of rural women is, apparently, education (27% of respondents work as tutors, or teachers, 5% of rural women are preschool workers). Around 30% of employed rural women, on the whole, earn their money providing services (financial, cleaning, social, beauty services and other).Another popular sphere for the employment of rural women is trade and warehousing; 16% of respondents are engaged there. In traditionally agricultural spheres only about 6% of the women surveyed are employed: 5,3% of respondents are engaged in growing seasonal crops, 0,9% – are raising sheep, cattle, pigs and rabbits. This is the sign of crucial changes in rural economy, which becomes, on one hand, more complex, on the other – more urban-like.

Table 3. Field of activity

  Share, %
Tutoring, education 27,2
Wholesale and retail trade, warehousing 16,0
Financial services, consulting, marketing 7,0
Cleaning services (room cleaning) 6,0
Medicine (traditional and non-traditional) 5,6
Government worker 5,5
Growing seasonal crops – vegetables, fruits, gourds 5,3
Preschool worker 5,1
Production of bakery and confectionery products 3,9
Beauty industry (cosmetology, hairdressing, manicure, etc.) 3,0
Tailoring 2,7
Private carriage – taxi and cargo delivery services 2,7
Social services (caring for children, the elderly, sick people, etc.) 2,0
Construction, repair of premises, interior design 1,3
Self Employed Entrepreneur 0,9
Livestock – breeding sheep, cattle, pigs, rabbits 0,8
Unemployed, temporarily not working, maternity leave 0,8
Photographers, artists 0,7
Repair of clothes, shoes 0,4
Other 2,9
No answer 0,1
Difficult to answer 0,1

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

Taking into account that in 15% of rural families either husband or wife earn money outside their village (see Table 2), the countryside provides an extremely narrowed labor market.

Opportunities for education

As mentioned above, women can participate in the workforce and serve as income earners when they are educated enough. However, rural women assess their education possibilities as being quite low. Answering the question on how much time they may spend on education, almost every second woman says she has no time at all. What’s more, the less educated women are, the more rarely they are ready to spend time on this type of activity.

During in-depth interviews rural women also exposed the problem of a poor education infrastructure in villages. While in villages with the status of district centers there are several schools, colleges and even development centers, in remote smaller villages there are no school and colleges at all, not to mention development centers.

Graph 4. How much time per day can you devote to yourself?

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

 One of the barriers for rural women’s higher education and training and, as a consequence, worse labor possibilities, is their basic level of education. Almost, a third of them obtained only secondary education, and around 40% have vocational education.

Graph 5. The level of education

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

According to the study, trend is changing. Among younger rural women the share of respondents with higher education is 20% bigger, than among the elder ones.

Table 4. Level of education, by age

Secondary education Vocational education Higher education Not finished higher education N/A  Total
Aged 18-24 20,8% 34,0% 31,9% 12,5% 0,7% 100,0%
Aged 25-34 17,2% 36,6% 42,5% 1,9% 1,9% 100,0%
Aged 35-44 31,4% 36,7% 29,3% 0,8% 1,9% 100,0%
Aged 45-54 32,3% 39,8% 25,2% 1,6% 1,2% 100,0%
Aged 55-65+ 42,4% 44,3% 12,9% 0,4% 100,0%

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

However, their style of life doesn’t seem to give them a chance to self-develop and build new opportunities, which creates a new level of problems, as outlined here below.

Awareness and effectiveness of state programs

In recent years Kazakhstan’s government has created a number of labor programs, one of the main target groups of which was the country’s rural population. Most of these programs were merged into one complex State Program “Enbek” (2017-2021), which included program for relocation citizens from labor-deficient to labor-surplus regions, business development, providing micro-loans, and other measures.

However, the survey shows that these measures don’t have any effect on rural women for three primary reasons. First, all of the state measures require spare time and full involvement, which rural women don’t have.  Second, most of the rural women were not informed about the availability of these programs, due to a narrow circle of information sources. Almost every second respondent had never even heard of state employment measures. Though the target groups of employment programs are unemployed and self-employed people, the level of awareness about these programs among such women is even lower than among other groups of rural women. Third, even those who participated in state programs were not sure about their purpose or effectiveness. Among the 4-9% of respondents who participated in some of state programs, only half of them think they were useful. In-depth interviews show that most of the trainings were designed for people with higher qualifications. Rural women simply didn’t understand some of the themes they were taught.

Graph 6. Did you participate in the following measures to improve employment?

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

One of the key directions for governmental programs, the implementation of which is expected to improve employment in rural areas, is the development of entrepreneurship. In this area, it is planned by State Bodies to educate those who wish to do the basics of business and to provide microloans. However, as rural women report during in-depth interviews, business start-up trainings, conducted by employment centers, are not adapted to their needs. Recall that almost 30% of rural women have only secondary education!

As for loans for opening or developing a business, 40% of rural women are interested in them, but only 13% of them believe that they would actually be able to obtain a loan.  Over a quarter – 27% – believe that these opportunities are very small or that they do not exist at all.The more educated and wealthier are respondents the higher they assessed their chances to get a business-loan. The main reason why banks are most likely not to give them a loan, in respondents’ perception, is that women have low income and In this regard, self-employed and unemployed rural women, who have the highest demand for a loan for business development, are less likely to get one.

Graph 7.  Self-assessment of their chances to get a business-loan

Source: The study of economic possibilities of rural women, AERC, 2019

Conclusions

The study conducted by the Applied Economics Research Centre in 2019 demonstrates that rural women, on the one hand, are very poor. On the other hand, they are extremely limited in terms of opportunities for education and employment, although they show a high willingness to work.

However, in my opinion, women can become a new driver for development of rural area, and this perspective is supported by several factors from the data.  The study shows the inevitable changes in gender roles and primary earners for households. There are many cases in which a man ceases to be the main earner in the family; he plays such a role only when a woman is busy caring for young children and doing domestic labor. As soon as a woman is freed from these obligations, she often seeks to find a paid job. Additionally, in the countryside there is a changing perception of the value of education, a change which led to the fact that among younger respondents the share of respondents with higher education was larger. This is one of the main factors, which affects the labor opportunities of respondents, their earning potential, and the perception of their chances to get a loan for the business.

Rural women also demonstrate their ability to adapt to the changes in rural economy:  around 30% of employed respondents work in service sphere, including financial, beauty, social services. Thus, rural women need to be considered as one of target groups for  labor programs, which presupposes a more specialized and narrow approach when creating state measures. Further research is required for understanding the business-potential of rural women in each region and for developing such employment and business measures, which would correspond to their needs.

Framing the Impact of Remittances from Labour Migrants in Central Asia, by Jakhongir Kakhkharov (Flinders University, Australia)

Labour migrants’ remittances are a rapidly growing phenomenon in the countries of the former Soviet Union (please see Figure 1). The size and growth of remittances in the countries of the recipients have brought the issue under the scrutiny of both researchers and policymakers alike. How can we use economic research to contribute to a deeper understanding of the interaction between the financial system, investment, remittances, household and firm behaviour, and migration? A focus on the determinants and economic impact of remittances from labor migrants allows us both to generate insights to inform theory as well as to inform real world decision makers in the areas of public policy. There may be a number of reasons why migrants send remittances, such as  ‘pure altruism’, ‘pure self-interest’, and ‘tempered altruism or enlightened self-interest’ (Lucas and Stark 1985). The case studies show that in various regions and countries different motives for sending remittances may dominate.

Figure 1. Inflows to Central and Eastern Europe, Mongolia, and the former Soviet Union (% of GDP), 2001-2012

Data source: World Development Indicators (World Bank)

The New Economics of Labour Migration (NELM), developed by Stark (1991) and others, links remittance behaviour to migration decisions. According to the NELM, migration decisions are a ‘calculated strategy’ of households aimed at improving the well-being of the whole family, and not an ‘act of desperation or boundless optimism’ (Stark, 1996, p. 26). According to the NELM, by sending a member of a household to migrate, the household aims to maximize joint income and status, and minimize risks. Thus, the NELM offers an important insight into migration decisions by linking labour migration with public policy and capital market failures in the labour-source countries. In making the decision on migration, households design their own strategy to cope with the absence of appropriate credit, insurance instruments and public protection. Remittances from a family member abroad provide an additional source of funding, insurance if the main source of family income falters, and financial protection in case of a rainy day. As such, migration and remittances associated with it can be viewed as a result of risk aversion on the part of a household that has insufficient income.

Applying NELM and testing its conclusions is difficult because frequently data on remittances is not segregated in terms of sources/origins of remittances. Therefore, having data on bilateral remittances flows from the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) is helpful. This CBR bilateral remittances dataset provides detailed information on remittances originating from Russia and flowing to countries receiving remittances from Russia. How can data on bilateral flows help us to understand the Central Asian remittance economy?  In order to answer this question, it is possible to analyse the relationships between formal remittances sent via Money Transfer Operators (MTOs), e.g. Western Union, MoneyGram, Contact and etc. alongside the fees for remitting money for a number of years using various empirical econometric approaches. In addition to macroeconomic, demographic, and financial data from World Development Indicators (World Bank), World Governance Indicators (World Bank), International Financial Statistics (IMF), and Balance of Payment Statistics (IMF) frequently employed in this area of research, this hand-picked dataset[i] used by Kakhkharov, Akimov, and Rhode (2017) includes statistics on annual transfers from Russia via MTOs to each of the remittance recipient countries, the flows of labour migrants from each country in the former USSR to Russia, the number of branches of money transfer operators in Russia, and money remittance fees charged by MTOs.

The econometric estimations show that the main factors behind the growing volume of remittances in the post-Soviet space are an income differential between Russian and post-Soviet states, a reduction in remittance transfer fees, and a depreciation of the Rouble in Russia The inverse relationship between remittance transfer fees and official remittances suggests that migrants switch from informal channels of transferring their hard-won earnings to formal/official channels to send remittances when remittance fees are low. Thus, lower remittance fees may help curb the proportion of informal flows (private, unrecorded channels) and lead to increased use of remittances in the formal/official economy. In contrast, if remittances flow through informal channels, the likelihood that they will end up in underground/informal economy increases. This is not beneficial to the society as most businesses that operate in underground economies are concealed from authorities to avoid paying taxes and meeting official market standards (e.g. safety, minimum wage) (Abdih and Medina, 2013; Buehn, Andreas, and Schneider, 2012). In addition, part of the shadow economy involves illegal activities, such as narcotics, prostitution, smuggling, and trafficking.

Despite trailing behind the top regions in the total volume of total remittances, transition economies of Europe and Central Asia lead the world in terms of remittances per capita as illustrated in Figures 2 and 3.

Figure 2. Inward remittances per capita, 2014

Source: World Bank, Migration and remittances factbook 2016, third edition.

Figure 3. Inward remittances per capita, 2014

Source: World Bank, Migration and remittances factbook 2016, third edition.

It is also important to understand the link between remittances and the financial system in transition countries, in particular, the link between remittances on one side, and bank credits and deposits on the other side. This issue is important for the region, as economic and finance theory documents the growth-enhancing and poverty-reducing effects of financial development. Recent research demonstrates a robust, significant, and positive link between remittances and financial development, a link that is especially strong in the Central Asian countries. This means that remittances do facilitate positive changes in the financial systems of migrant sending countries (Kakhkharov and Rhode 2019). In order to understand the broader national economic context of which remittances are a part, it is also important to consider the performance of financial systems in the less developed post-Communist economies of the former Soviet Union in fulfilling their vital functions, and to  compare this performance with more advanced transition economies, such as Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia as it is done by Bonin, John, and Wachtel (2003). In general, there is significant progress being made toward building contemporary financial systems in all groups of transition economies across Central Asia, although the gap between financial systems in the less-developed post-communist countries which include Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, and their above mentioned advanced counterparts in Eastern Europe remains very large (Kakharov and Akimov 2018). Given these results, the governments in the region should undertake further actions to strengthen the ability of financial systems to deliver their core functions. This will aid the economic growth in Central Asia and close the gap between the levels of development among transition economies.

Another major question related to the consequences of remittances on Central Asian economies is how remittances impact entrepreneurship in the region. As a matter of fact, transforming the remittances and savings of labour migrants into a source of financing for entrepreneurship and other development projects is the focus of many governments’ policies in migrant-sending countries. In the case of Uzbekistan, labour migrants’ remittances and savings facilitated the development of the country’s financial sector, but the degree to which these flows finance the needs of business enterprises is unclear (Kakhkharov 2018). This is a crucial issue because access to finance remains one of the most daunting obstacles to the growth of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the developing world. Inquiries into this issue show that financial constraints are one of the biggest obstacles to the development of entrepreneurial activities among remittance-receiving households in Uzbekistan (Kakhkharov 2019).  The empirical investigation shows that households receiving remittances invest in family business only when this inflow is supplemented with sufficient income or savings (which remittances can provide) as illustrated in Figure 4. This graph shows that, at low levels of income, receipt of remittances does not increase the probability of a households’ engaging in a family business, possibly because household savings are not sufficient, and remittances must be used for necessities. This effect becomes statistically significant only at higher levels of income. In addition, a comparison of households with similar financial constraints at higher levels of income shows that remittance-recipient households are more likely to own a family business than are those that do not receive remittances. A possible explanation for this phenomenon is that remittance senders target their funds to be invested in a family business. This serves as evidence that part of remittance income goes to finance entrepreneurship. Therefore, by financing small businesses, remittances also facilitate for job creation and economic growth in Uzbekistan. Since other Central Asian countries share many of the economic conditions and parameters of Uzbekistan, perhaps this conclusion is relevant at the regional level as well.

Figure 4. Interaction effects of remittances and income vis a vis probability of having a family business in Uzbekistan at marginal means of control variables.

To sum up, one of the attractive characteristics of remittances is the fact that these transfers are unilateral and do not require an explicit payback. However, another broadly accepted consensus – that remittances are a relatively stable source of foreign exchange flow – may not hold. The recent drastic cutback in remittances as a result of the Russian economic slowdown hurt Central Asian economies that were dependent on the Russian remittances especially badly. This observation should warn against complacency among economic policymakers in the transition economies. As remittances might be rather volatile, policymakers should support remittances with sound macroeconomic policies and a favourable business environment in order to maximize the potential benefits of this inflow.

Another policy implication is that governments in transition countries of Europe and Central Asia may want to focus on financial sector development impact of remittances instead of viewing remittances as a survival strategy for households. Particularly, policymakers may consider facilitating and encouraging the flow of remittances to enhance their positive impact on development of the financial system. This could be done by encouraging further decreases in transactions costs associated with transferring remittances through financial system. Finally, given the noted weaker effect of remittances on deposits compared to credit instruments, policies that seek to improve institutional development and depositors’ trust may improve how recipients use the benefits of remittances in deposit expansion.

Framing the impact of remittances in Central Asia shows that remittances have the potential to be a vital investment source for MSMEs if they augmented with bank credit and/or an increase in the amount of remittances. To increase the positive effect of remittances, policymakers should consider strategies to reform the banking sector to boost its role in financing micro- and small businesses, encourage migrants’ families to invest remittances into MSMEs by educating them on how to run a business, and improve the business environment.

Dr Jakhongir Kakhkharov during the Research Seminar on “Remittances and Informal Sector” at Westminster International University in Tashkent in January 2020.

References

Abdih, Yasser, and Leandro Medina. (2013) Measuring the informal economy in the Caucasus and Central Asia. No. 13-137. International Monetary Fund.

Bonin, John, and Paul Wachtel. (2002) “Financial sector development in transition economies: Lessons from the first decade.” Financial Markets, Institutions & Instruments 12.1 (2003): 1-66.

Buehn, Andreas, and Friedrich Schneider. (2012) “Shadow economies around the world: novel insights, accepted knowledge, and new estimates.” International tax and public finance 19.1 (2012): 139-171.

Kakhkharov, Jakhongir. (2019) “Migrant remittances as a source of financing for entrepreneurship.” International Migration 57(5): 37-55.

Kakhkharov, J. (2018) “Remittances as a Source of Finance for Entrepreneurship in Uzbekistan,” in M. Laruelle, & C. Schenk (Eds.), Eurasia on the Move. Interdisciplinary Approaches to a Dynamic Migration Region. The George Washington University, Central Asia Program, 150-159.

Kakhkharov, J., & Akimov, A. (2018) Financial development in less-developed post-communist economies. Problems of Economic Transition60(7): 483-513.

Kakhkharov, J., Akimov, A., & Rohde, N. (2017) Transaction costs and recorded remittances in the post-Soviet economies: Evidence from a new dataset on bilateral flows. Economic Modelling 60: 98-107.

Kakhkharov, J., & Rohde, N. (2019) Remittances and financial development in transition economies. Empirical Economics, 1-33. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00181-019-01642-3

Lucas, R.E.B., Stark, O. (1985) Motivations to remit: evidence from Botswana. Journal of Political Economy 93 (5): 901–918.

Stark, O. (1991) The Migration of Labor. Basil Blackwell, Cambridge, MA.

Stark, O. (1996) On the Microeconomics of Return Migration. Universität Wien, Vienna.

[i] The research presented here uses data from the World Bank, IMF, Central Banks, and household surveys to test the impact of remittances and migration on various economic and financial parameters in the context of transition economies of the former Soviet Union and Central Asia.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: The Central Asian Economies in the Twenty-First Century: Paving a New Silk Road, by Richard Pomfret

In this post we welcome Alfinura Sharafeyeva (University of Adelaide), who interviews Professor Richard Pomfret (University of Adelaide) about the course of his work and career, including his most recent book, The Central Asian Economies in the Twenty-First Century: Paving a New Silk Road, where “Pomfret considers the enhanced role of the Central Asian nations in the global economy and their varied ties to China, the European Union, Russia, and the United States. With improved infrastructure and connectivity between China and Europe (reflected in regular rail freight services since 2011 and China’s announcement of its Belt and Road Initiative in 2013), relaxation of United Nations sanctions against Iran in 2016, and the change in Uzbekistan’s presidency in late 2016, a window of opportunity appears to have opened for Central Asian countries to achieve more sustainable economic futures” (Princeton University Press).

This is the third book where you provide analysis of the economic transition in Central Asia.  Do you remember how you started your work on Central Asia?

In July 1992 the new independent states of Central Asia joined the United Nations and had to elect which of the UN’s regional bodies they would participate in.  The Central Asian countries and Azerbaijan joined the UN Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).  The ESCAP Secretariat had little idea how to interact with these formerly centrally planned economies and appointed me in December 1992 as a Regional Advisor.  The story that I was told was that, because I had worked on Poland and on China, I should be able to understand economies halfway in between.

In 1992 the Central Asian economies were unexpectedly in transition from central planning but had little conception of what they were transitioning to.  There were no economists with training in or experience of how market-based economies functioned.  Governments received advice from international bodies, but ministers and officials had little capacity to evaluate the advice.

In the fifteen months that I was with the UN, my role was often as an educator rather than as a policy adviser, and with more success when talking to younger policymakers than to ministers and deputy ministers.

Professor Richard Pomfret and his class during the course on Economic Development of post –Soviet Central Asia organized  by the Structured doctoral programme on Sustainable Agricultural Development in Central Asia (SUSADICA) in Tashkent, June 2019. Photo credit ©SUSADICA

 As an example, on the 1992-3 big issue of the ruble zone, it was difficult to convince senior policymakers, who believed that hyperinflation was due to monopolies increasing prices, that monetary policy was the driver of hyperinflation.  Either the ruble zone had to be reformed so that monetary policy could address the hyperinflation or countries should issue national currencies.  Only Kyrgyzstan learned this lesson in early 1993, while the other four countries did not control hyperinflation until the second half of the decade.                               

What was the most challenging aspect of researching and writing about the Central Asian economies? There are some statements in your book that probably may not sound plausible to the officials of these countries. Have you ever received any criticism with this regard?

My biggest challenge has been linguistic.  Having to conduct most meetings through an interpreter creates an inevitable element of incomplete communication.  It also emphasizes outsider status fuelling the criticism that I do not understand the special circumstances/history/culture of a country.

Good economics applies to all economies.  However, on almost all issues application needs to take into account the particular setting.  The criticism that I misunderstood the setting is hard to refute because it may be true on many points.  However, that does not justify the extreme position that “foreign” economics does not apply to country x.  Too often that criticism is used to justify bad economic policies.  To return to the money example; it was much easier to blame monopolists for hyperinflation than to work seriously on avoiding budget deficits that could be covered by creating more money – reducing budget deficits meant higher taxes or lower government spending, either of which would trigger opposition.

The key questions you attempt to answer in the book are related to the economic systems adopted in the newly established states of Central Asia after the collapse of Soviet Union and their consequences, as well as the challenges of development for resource-rich countries. Have you found a unique answer for all five countries to the questions you pose in your book, or each country should be treated individually? How does your work on the Central Asian economies contribute to our understanding of broader theories and themes in the development economies studies?

After returning to academia in 1994 I wrote my book The Economies of Central Asia, which introduced the five countries, their economic background and the initial construction of national economies after dissolution of the Soviet Union.  In 1992, they could be treated as components of a common region with minor variations, although already in 1993-4 economic differences were strengthening.  By 2020 national differences are much stronger, although shared geography, history and culture continue to provide a common background.

The 2006 book The Central Asian Economies since Independence took the story up to the early 2000s.  A big issue in the 1990s had been the choice of transition strategy: shock therapy or gradualism, sequencing of reforms, and so forth.   The Central Asian economies had been seen as a natural experiment with five countries starting from similar initial conditions and adopting different transition strategies.  An important lesson from the 1990s was that successful transition was not simply a matter of creating a market economy, privatizing and restructuring state enterprises, having good trade and macroeconomic policies and so on. It also depended on institutional factors, widely defined.  Uzbekistan benefited from Tashkent having been the administrative centre of Tsarist and Soviet Central Asia.  The Kyrgyz Republic introduced good reforms, but suffered from lack of the institutions needed for markets to flourish (property rights and rule of law more generally, and limited trust of third parties) as well as a paucity of efficient uncorrupted administrators.

The natural experiment was never completed because, more or less coinciding with the completion of basic transition in 1999 and before long-term consequences could be observed, the resource boom began.  Kazakhstan’s economy pulled away from the rest and the countries that were poor in oil and gas, Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz Republic, fell behind.

The title of the book mentions the new (ancient) Silk Road. Do you find the answers why, being a cross-roads of Eurasia, and liberalizing their markets by joining WTO and other trade agreements, the countries’ trading potential remain realized not in full? Do you agree with the common believe that it is a landlockedness that prevent countries from boosting their trade, or there some other factors that potentially play a greater impediment rather than the region’s geographical position? How do your findings support the active involvement of Central Asian states in the China’s One Belt One Road initiative? What are the key policy recommendations you could draw based on your findings?

Landlockedness can be a boon or a bane depending on a country’s neighbours, and its own policies.  After independence the Central Asian countries were suspicious of trade and of global markets, apart from as outlets for their cotton, oil and gas, or minerals.  Most importantly, this applied to Uzbekistan, which is potentially the major transit country but until 2016 imposed large transit costs.  The situation appears to be changing after the end of the resource boom as the countries seek economic diversification and, given the small domestic and regional markets, exports are a promising destination of new goods.

My 2019 book The Central Asian Economies in the Twenty-first Century: Paving a New Silk Road  discusses the prospects for export diversification, emphasizing the need to reduce policy-imposed costs of international trade.  There is a “window of opportunity” as Eurasian rail connections have been improved, which predates the Belt and Road Initiative but can easily be linked to the Belt and Road Initiative.  Chinese investment is helping to upgrade infrastructure, although there remains an element of anti-Chinese sentiment in the region that could easily be triggered.

A PhD student at Adelaide University is working on the reason why the costs of doing international trade are especially high in Central Asia.  Such research is important to understand the nature of the main trade costs before making policy recommendations for governments to facilitate trade and hence encourage the economic diversification that they wish to promote.

The road from Nukus.  Fieldwork photo credit R. Pomfret.

Would you agree that the economies of Central Asia receive relatively little attention by researchers? What are the remaining unexplored aspects of the Central Asian economies? What sorts of research do you see being done in the near future on this subject?

Yes, although this is changing, especially with the increasing number of Central Asian scholars now producing good research.  Coverage remains patchy and incomplete, but I am constantly positively surprised by seeing a specialized article, thesis or monograph on a previously unaddressed topic.