The Economic Future of Central Asia

By Pomfret, Richard | The Brown Journal of World Affairs, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

The Economic Future of Central Asia


Pomfret, Richard, The Brown Journal of World Affairs


Economics and politics have always been strongly interconnected in Central Asia. The five Central Asian republics were, together with Azerbaijan, the poorest Soviet republics. Their role in the Soviet division of labor was limited to supplying a small range of primary products, including cotton, oil and gas, and minerals. With no prior history as independent nation states, the five countries faced an uncertain future after becoming independent in December 1991. At that time, they faced three major economic shocks: the end of central planning, hyperinflation, and the collapse of supply and demand chains.

Despite the challenges, three of the countries have been politically stable since independence. In Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, the two most populous countries, the First Secretaries appointed by Mikhail Gorbachev became national presidents in 1991 and are still in power. In Turkmenistan a similar pattern was scarcely disrupted by the president's death in 2006 and the smooth succession by a member of the elite. By contrast, Tajikistan experienced a bitter civil war until 1997, and the Kyrgyz Republic has seen two presidents overthrown during the 2000s. The differing fortunes reflect the ability of the first group to live offtheir natural resources, in comparison with the more precarious resource base of the other two countries.

The first section of this paper reviews the five countries' economic history since independence, with an emphasis on the direct and indirect impacts of each country's resource endowment and variations in the world prices of their resource exports. The second section looks to analyze the extent to which the past can be a guide to the economic future and to ask what other considerations may be important. These considerations include the role of other countries, especially Russia, China, and the United States, and the importance of the national leader's specific qualities in economic policy making in autocratic states.

The Past

The story of the five Central Asian countries' economic development since independence has by now been widely analyzed.1 In the 1990s debate over post-Soviet transition strategy, Central Asia saw a wide range of positions. The Kyrgyz Republic was the most radical of any Soviet successor state in its pursuit of comprehensive price and trade liberalization and extensive privatization between 1993 and 1998. Indeed, it was the first of these states to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), ahead of even Baltic countries. This experience stands in contrast to less thoroughgoing reform found in Kazakhstan, a more gradual approach in Uzbekistan, and an overall lack of reform in Turkmenistan, which remains the least changed economy of any former Soviet republic. Economic performance, measured by real GDP in 1999 as a percentage of 1989 GDP, showed little relation to the transition strategy. Uzbekistan's economy was the best-performing of all former Soviet republics and, unsurprisingly, the worstperforming Central Asian economy was that of war-torn Tajikistan. However, the other three countries had more or less identical performances, with GDP about a third lower in 1999 than in 1989 despite the diversity of transition strategies.2

The main explanations of Uzbekistan's success emphasize the gradual transition strategy, favorable world market conditions for its major export (cotton), and good administration (and favorable inheritance from the Soviet era).3 Gradualism reduced the magnitude of the short-term transitional recession compared to countries adopting rapid reform. Good administration helped to reduce the decline in output (e.g., the maintenance of irrigation channels and ginning facilities kept cotton output up), in contrast to the decline in cotton output in Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. However, what transformed these factors into the best performance in the former Soviet Union was the 1992-1995 upturn in world cotton prices (Figure 1) combined with the relative ease of transporting cotton, a high value-to-bulk commodity, to world markets. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Economic Future of Central Asia
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.