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Post-Pandemic Central Asia: Moving Beyond ‘Helicopter Money’

Social and economic upheaval at such a scale as experienced amid the COVID-19 pandemic unavoidably entails political effects.

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva described the scope and scale of the COVID-19 pandemic challenge bluntly: «COVID-19 has disrupted our social and economic order at lightning speed and on a scale that we have not seen in living memory.» The recent announcement by the IMF that it would provide $375 million in emergency assistance to Uzbekistan demonstrates the commitment of international financial institutions to address the economic upheaval created by the pandemic in the Central Asian region.
Unlike some other regions of the world, the Central Asian countries have developed in such a way as to become highly dependent upon neighbors for trade and employment. To a very high degree, the Central Asian countries are reliant on export earnings, particularly for fuel and mineral exports. Also, the Central Asian countries, particularly Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, have developed extraordinarily large, foreign-employed migrant workforces.
At the end of 2019 there were about 3.8 million Central Asians officially at work in the Russian Federation. One example is the decision of Kazakh officials in summer 2019 to clear books and start anew by simply forgiving debt it had previously extended to help households. Can the Central Asian banks simply pay all salaries and forgive all debts without fueling runaway inflation in Central Asia today?
Financial measures like the COVID-19 emergency response in the European Union and the United States are not available to the Central Asian states.

This article was written by Gregory Gleason

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