: / Strategies / Kyrgyz Republic Country Assistance Strategy (2003)

Kyrgyzstan Review, 10 years ago

Socio-Political Context

The socio-political context in the Kyrgyz Republic is more dynamic than many of its neighboring countries. On the one hand, there is a freer atmosphere, characterized by the growth of over 4,000 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), a Parliament that contains many vocal opposition voices, and an effort to develop rules and regulations in an inclusive manner. The recent National Poverty Reduction Strategy (NPRS) reflects both the importance the government places on inclusive dialogue and the intention of the government to further decentralize decision-making and public services to the local levels.
At the same time, the Kyrgyz Republic has often struggled to live up to these ideals. Ineffective governance and significant levels of corruption have been identified as serious impediments to growth and poverty reduction. Clashes with the opposition in 2001 left 6 dead, and led to a change in the Prime Minister and cabinet. Since then, the government has attempted to cooperate with the opposition in developing a new Constitution for the Kyrgyz Republic that would devolve more power to the Parliament. The constitutional amendments were approved in a referendum on February 2, 2003, although changes were introduced at the very end of the process with limited consultation or time to reflect. The next key test of the openness of the political system will be the Parliamentary and Presidential elections in 2005. President Akaev has indicated that he would not run for re-election. However, the CAS is built on the assumption that the priorities indicated in the NPRS will continue beyond the election.
This political dynamism presents a particular challenge in developing and implementing a program of reform. To date, the Kyrgyz Republic has made good progress on economic reform, despite the fact that there was no clear majority in favor of reform, due to the centralized decision-making process. Most notably, the Kyrgyz Republic has liberalized price, foreign exchange and trade regimes and has instituted a generally equitable land-reform agenda, including transferring about 60 percent of the land to private ownership, which is now available for rent or sale. It has also progressed in the difficult areas of pensions, energy and health reforms. Progress towards political pluralism is necessary to sustainable development. And it may in fact strengthen the governments readiness to introduce some reforms including those related to good governance and decentralization. The potential to obtain further debt relief in the Paris Club will also provide an incentive for the Kyrgyz Republic to maintain reform momentum. However, this political dynamism may also make it more difficult to maintain momentum in areas like health, pension or energy sector reform, where hard policy choices are often required.