The Economies of Central Asia

The Economies of Central Asia

Richard Pomfret
Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 234
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  • Book Info
    The Economies of Central Asia
    Book Description:

    This book is the first general introduction to the economies of central Asia, specifically the recently independent countries of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan. Richard Pomfret provides a historical and structural analysis of this area of the former Soviet Union, with an emphasis on their economic situation since independence. With the strategic significance of this part of the world growing by the week, this book provides an invaluable source of material for understanding what has been for Westerners a very mysterious part of the world.

    The first part of the book deals with the five countries' common features, determined by geography and their role in the Soviet division of labor, which left many parts of the region heavily dependent on a cotton monoculture and facing serious environmental problems (notably the shrinking of the Aral Sea and contamination from nuclear testing). The author goes on to deal with the countries as national economies. Finally, he examines common problems facing the countries since they gained independence in late 1991. These last chapters focus on the immediate economic problems of 1992 and 1993 (economic transition and the decision whether to remain within the ruble zone), as well as long-term development issues and international economic relations.

    Originally published in 1995.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6418-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-2)
  7. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-11)

    Nineteen ninety-one was a momentous year for Central Asia. In March all of the Central Asian republics (CARs) of the Soviet Union voted in favor of a renewed Union treaty. In August the failure of the coup in Moscow signaled the end of the USSR as it had been, and the Central Asian republics began to declare independence. In December, following the decision of the three Slavic republics to form a new union, the CARs initiated the negotiations that led to the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). By the end of the year, the CIS was in...

  8. MAPS
    (pp. 12-16)
    • CHAPTER 2 History: From Silk Road to Cotton Fields
      (pp. 19-27)

      The political boundaries in Central Asia are fairly arbitrary. Clear dividing lines between states were absent in many parts of the region two centuries ago, and the modern borders have been drawn by outsiders, often with only rough approximation to cultural or natural boundaries. The southern border of the USSR had been set in the late nineteenth century when Russia occupied Turkestan and Britain and China established the limits of this expansion. The borders between the Soviet republics in Central Asia were drawn more or less arbitrarily by Stalin in the 1920s and 1930s. Nevertheless, the post-1991 states are identified...

    • CHAPTER 3 Common Economic Features of the Region
      (pp. 28-40)

      Some economic features of Central Asia cross national boundaries. The most important, determined by geography, is the irrigation-based agriculture, drawing on the waters of the two great rivers. All five Central Asian republics have at least part of this drainage system in their territory, although the irrigation system is most crucial to Uzbekistan and to Turkmenistan. Other agricultural activities are mentioned briefly in the discussion of the structure of production in this chapter, but they can best be dealt with in the individual-country chapters of Part Two, as can primary products, such as energy and mining, even though gas and...

    • CHAPTER 4 The Economic and Political Collapse of the Soviet Union
      (pp. 41-60)

      The drama of the disintegration of the USSR was mainly played out in Moscow. While some Soviet republics participated in the political moves for decentralization and openness (glasnost), the CARs remained apart. The occasional demonstrations were against Mikhail Gorbachev’s anticorruption campaign or were inspired by old ethnic disputes, rather than being in favor of political and economic reform or national self-determination. The CARs were practically untouched by economic reform (perestroika) before 1991.

      Nevertheless, the collapse of the USSR was an event of vital importance for the CARs, since it created them as independent nations. During 1991 and 1992 the CARs’...

    • CHAPTER 5 Uzbekistan: Oriental Despotism
      (pp. 63-74)

      Uzbekistan is the most populous of the newly independent Central Asian nations and occupies a central geographical position. Its territory is more or less defined as the area between the two great rivers, the Amudarya and Sirdarya, from the foothills of the mountains down to the Aral Sea. Most of the historically richest towns of Central Asia (Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, and Kokand) lie within Uzbekistan. Apart from the nonirrigated grain farming, orchards, viticulture, find pasturelands in the piedmont, settlement is concentrated along the rivers and in the areas irrigated from the rivers. About three-fifths of the territory is desert or...

    • CHAPTER 6 Kazakhstan: Wild West in the East
      (pp. 75-97)

      Kazakhstan, the other large economy of Central Asia, is more economically diversified than Uzbekistan. With 17 million people living on over 2.7 million square kilometers of territory, Kazakhstan was the second-largest republic of the Soviet Union and had the fourth-largest population and the third-largest economy (after Russia and Ukraine). The republic’s delicate ethnic balance of roughly two-fifths Kazakhs and two-fifths Russians led Kazakhstan to play a key role in the final year of the Soviet Union as an intermediary between the Slavic and the Asian republics of the USSR, and the agreement replacing the Soviet Union by the Commonwealth of...

    • CHAPTER 7 Tajikistan: Civil War
      (pp. 98-105)

      Tucked in the southeast corner of the USSR, Tajikistan was the poorest Soviet republic. The territory is mostly mountainous, with the two highest peaks in the Soviet Union, and settlement is concentrated in the valleys of the north and southwest. With the fastest-growing population in the USSR (see Table 7.1), Tajikistan suffered from population pressure and high unemployment even in the Soviet era.

      The Tajiks are distinct from the other major ethnic groups of Central Asia. Their language is Persian rather than Turkic. Their history is sedentary, and large Tajik populations still exist in the historic cities of Bukhara and...

    • CHAPTER 8 Kyrgyzstan: The Switzerland of Asia
      (pp. 106-118)

      Kyrgyzstan is a small, mountainous republic with a population of over 4 million. During the Soviet era, the local leadership was considered a byword for conservatism, and the economy was relatively backward. In the 1990s, however, Kyrgyzstan has become the most politically open of the Central Asian republics, and is progressing fastest with economic reforms. After a brief survey of the country’s history, this chapter analyzes economic developments, particularly in the postindependence period, deals with macroeconomic performance in the early 1990s, describes the economic reforms undertaken since 1991, focusing on the privatization program, and analyzes structural aspects of the economy...

    • CHAPTER 9 Turkmenistan: The Kuwait of Asia
      (pp. 119-128)

      Turkmenistan is geographically part of Central Asia, but it is difficult not to think of it as an appendage.¹ Even in the nineteenth century the Turkmen clanspeople were outside the three emirates that nominally ruled the rest of the area south of the Russian Empire. The Turkmen language is more closely related to Azeri and Turkish than to the mutually close Uzbek, Kazakh, and Kyrgyz languages. Turkmenistan is the most ethnically homogeneous of the Central Asian republics (Table 9.1), and few Turkmen live outside the republic (Table 1.2).²

      Turkmenistan is the second-largest of the Central Asian countries by area, but...

    • CHAPTER 10 The Choice of Development Strategy
      (pp. 131-139)

      The problems and challenges facing the Central Asian governments after independence fall into three categories. This chapter analyzes development issues, focusing on the gap between aspirations to emulate the East Asian newly industrializing economies (NIEs) and policymakers’ instincts to repeat the mistakes of import-substituting industrialization. The next chapter considers the more immediate problems of transition, and especially the crucial question of macroeconomic policy and its relationship to the decision of whether to adopt a national currency. Chapter 12 deals with economic aspects of the countries’ international relations. In practice these three categories are likely to be intertwined; in 1992–1993,...

    • CHAPTER 11 Macroeconomic Problems: The Hyperinflationary Ruble Zone
      (pp. 140-151)

      Thinking on both transition and development has come to emphasize the role of macroeconomic stability as a precondition for success. Thus, even if the government adopts an appropriate development strategy and deregulates prices and reforms the enterprise structure, the economy will perform poorly if the government loses macroeconomic control. The prime symptom of lost macroeconomic control is high inflation, which invariably reflects a government budget deficit financed by money creation.

      All transition economies have faced problems of inflation, because changes in tax sources have been associated with declining government revenue while new demands have emerged for government expenditure. Some inflation...

    • CHAPTER 12 Regional Relations: The Great Game, Part Two, with New Players
      (pp. 152-162)

      The strategic interest of the great powers in the region make it a continuing powder keg. The Anglo-Russian conflict in the nineteenth century was known as the Great Game; in the 1990s the Great Game has resumed. Russia’s ultimate aims in the nineteenth century were to break Britain’s hold on India and to control a route to the Indian Ocean. The latter aim was revived with disastrous consequences when Soviet troops moved into Afghanistan in 1979. Since then the Soviet Union has ceased to exist, and Russia initially turned away from the region. Very quickly, it became apparent, however, that...

    • CHAPTER 13 Regional Problems and National Economic Differentiation
      (pp. 163-170)

      Before independence the Central Asian republics of the Soviet Union were considered as a unit. The commonality imposed by geography remains, and some of the shared problems require, to a greater or lesser extent, joint action. On the common problem that has been the focus of this book, the economics of transition and development after the collapse of the USSR, joint action has been minimal and counterproductive when it did happen (notably in retaining a common currency). By the end of 1993 the CARs were clearly differentiated in terms of their progress in transition and in their development strategies.


  12. APPENDIX 1. National Income Comparisons for the Soviet Union and Its Successor States
    (pp. 171-176)
  13. APPENDIX 2. Ten Economic Lessons from the Former Soviet Union
    (pp. 177-180)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 181-206)
  15. References
    (pp. 207-210)
  16. Index
    (pp. 211-216)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 217-217)