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Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan

Population 6.3 million
GDP 1,208 US$
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Country risk assessment
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Synthesis

major macro economic indicators

  2016 2017 2018 (e) 2019 (f)
GDP growth (%) 4.3 4.6 2.8 4.5
Inflation (yearly average, %) 0.4 3.2 3.5 4.1
Budget balance (% GDP) -6.3 -4.7 -4.1 -4.3
Current account balance (% GDP) -11.6 -6.5 -9.2 -8.8
Public debt (% GDP) 55.9 56.0 55.0 56.6

(e): Estimate. (f): Forecast.

STRENGTHS

  • Significant resources of gold and other metals (copper, uranium, mercury, iron)
  • Support from bilateral and multilateral donors
  • Strategic pivotal position between Asia and Europe
  • Member of the Eurasian Economic Union since 2015 (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Armenia)

WEAKNESSES

  • Poorly diversified economy remains reliant on gold, agriculture, and remittances from expatriate workers
  • Landlocked country with high energy dependency
  • Difficult business climate
  • Political and social instability associated with high poverty rate and inter-ethnic tensions
  • Difficult relations with its neighbours over issues such as water management and borders

Risk assessment

Accelerating growth

After decelerating in 2018 following the contraction in gold production, growth is expected to pick up again in 2019. Production from the Kumtor gold mine (10% of GDP in 2017) will recover and is expected to continue in the longer term, as its operator – Centerra Gold Inc. – is looking to begin new exploration activities to extend the life of the site. The industrial sector (30% of GDP in 2017) will benefit from this and will also be driven by an increase in iron ore production. Other sectors of activity, notably agriculture (15% of GDP and 27% of jobs), will continue to play a significant role in growth. Nevertheless, the main economic driver is still private consumption (80% of GDP), which is chiefly linked to substantial remittances from expatriate workers in Russia. A new wave of migration to Russia (about 250,000 migrants in 2018) could increase expatriate remittances and thus raise household consumption. Public investment will also contribute to economic activity, supported by aid from international organisations, in particular the World Bank, which has allocated €300 million over 2019-2022, of which €55 million will be earmarked for upgrading infrastructure. Conversely, foreign investment, which is concentrated in the mining industry, could be put off by the difficult business climate and the ongoing conflict between the government and Centerra Gold Inc. over the distribution of profits from the Kumtor mine. Inflation could accelerate following an increase in the price of food and, to a lesser extent, electricity. It is worth noting that the government plans to raise the price of electricity to close the gap with the cost of service.

 

Fiscal rigour and vulnerability to external shocks

In 2019, the government deficit could widen slightly, despite further fiscal consolidation. The government's austerity policy remains hampered by the informal economy and major corruption in the public sector, which is causing substantial resource losses (in 2018, misappropriation of budget funds amounted to KGS 423.3 million, or 0.3% of GDP). Nevertheless, the government will step up its fiscal consolidation efforts to reduce the deficit by 2020 through improved tax collection, reduced tax exemptions, better management of state-owned enterprises and control of current expenditure. Public debt could go up due to an increase in its external component (89% of the total or 51% of GDP in May 2018), which is fuelled by bilateral and multilateral concessional loans and vulnerable to exchange rate risk.

The current account deficit could be narrowed with a reduction in the trade deficit. Gold exports, which were down in 2018, will increase again with the rebound in production, and exports of agricultural products (cotton, tobacco) and textiles to Uzbekistan will intensify as trade links strengthen. The country remains dependent on food and energy imports, but these are expected to remain stable. The increase in transfers (30% of GDP) from Russia (98% of total transfers) will largely offset the trade deficit. Public aid, external loans, and one-off FDI inflows will finance the current account deficit. Foreign exchange reserves (5.6 months of imports in November 2018) will allow the central bank to continue to intervene in the foreign exchange market.

 

Structural reforms and strengthening of external relations

Originally plagued by political instability, having gone through two revolutions since independence, Kyrgyzstan finally experienced its first democratic transition of power with the October 2017 elections, which saw former Prime Minister Sooronbay Jeenbekov elected President with 54.3% of the vote. He now has to deal with a new Prime Minister, Mukhammedkaliy Abylgaziyev, who was appointed in April 2018 following a no-confidence motion by Parliament against the government, which was dismissed by President Jeenbekov. Aware of the country's structural problems, notably the poor business environment and high level of corruption, the government is planning structural reforms to improve the functioning of administrations, customs regulations, and competition laws. The reforms will extend to the country's development, through the Strategic Plan for Sustainable Development (2018/40), which includes measures to promote digitisation of the economy and education.

In terms of its external relations, the country maintains strong ties to Russia, which has a military base near the capital. These links will be bolstered with new trade partnerships (scrapping of customs duties on oil imports). Relations with Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, which used to be strained, are set to improve. In addition, China is set to continue investing in Kyrgyzstan through its Belt and Road initiative.

 

Last update: February 2019

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