Maksatbek D. Dyikanov, State Secretary under the Ministry of Transport and Communications, discusses major international transport corridors and other key projects his ministry is currently overseeing.
European Times: What are the current priorities for the Ministry of Transport and Communications?
Maksatbek D. Dyikanov: This ministry plays a crucial role in Kyrgyzstan’s economic development because all sectors depend on high-quality transport and communications infrastructure. Our country had a fairly undeveloped infrastructure in the Soviet years and we have made many major improvements since that time. We are currently involved in a number of ambitious transport projects, including building and improving the international transport corridors which pass through Kyrgyzstan and connect it to China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia and other markets. Concerning communications, we are steadily improving our ICT systems and services as well as our telecom infrastructure, and we have built a high-technology park designed as the ideal base for ICT companies.
European Times: What are your priorities concerning transport-infrastructure projects?
Maksatbek D. Dyikanov: Thanks to the country’s mountainous geography, around 95% of passenger and goods transport in Kyrgyzstan is by road, so road development, particularly of the main corridors, is our top priority. One key transport corridor is the one linking China, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan; we have budgeted the work we need to do on our section of this corridor at around €1.93 billion.
We are financing our transport-infrastructure projects with government funds as well as with the support of international organisations and investors. We have received support from China to launch several transport-infrastructure projects and the Ministry of Transport and Communications recently signed a contract with a Chinese company to rehabilitate the Bishkek-Naryn-Torugart road.
We are planning to implement a concession system as well as tenders to attract private investment which will help the government complete various initiatives in the transport sector. We have also received assistance from international organisations, including the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the EU, and a group of five banks in the Middle East. Our transport-infrastructure projects represent outstanding opportunities for international investors and companies and we welcome their participation.
European Times: In addition to road projects, what are some other current initiatives for the ministry?
Maksatbek D. Dyikanov: We want to improve our airports, attract more international carriers to offer flights to and from Kyrgyzstan, and upgrade our airline fleets. Improving our air-transport services will play a big role in boosting the country’s international trade as well as our tourism industry. We also need to invest in our railway system, including in new rolling stock. One project which is now moving forward is the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway, which will greatly improve conditions for trade-oriented companies. The World Bank is providing advisory assistance to Kyrgyzstan for this project.
In the communications sector, one of our goals is to bring Internet connections to every village and school in the country. We have already equipped 470 villages with Internet service and we continue to drive this project forward. We are working with mobile operators to offer Internet connections in isolated rural areas. Another communications initiative for the ministry is to complete the transition to digital television. In all our transport and communications projects, we aim to bring new services to rural areas as well as to our cities.
European Times: What kind of investors are you looking for?
Maksatbek D. Dyikanov: Kyrgyzstan has created the right conditions for investors in transport and communications and this country offers a wealth of opportunities. We welcome know-how and technologies as well as financial support. We also need lower prices for calls within the region; it costs more to call a neighbouring country than to call the US. We would like operators to adopt a regional strategy for mobile communications which would lower prices for consumers in Central Asia.
We particularly encourage European investors who can help us build a bridge between Kyrgyzstan and Europe. Along with other countries in the region, Kyrgyzstan is working to revive trade along the Silk Road between Europe and Asia. Kyrgyzstan can be a gateway to Central Asia and China for European companies.
European Times: Why should international investors target Kyrgyzstan?
Maksatbek D. Dyikanov: This country has a number of advantages for investors, including our young, well-educated, multilingual and technically knowledgeable workforce. Kyrgyzstan also has beautiful natural areas and great tourism potential. In addition, Kyrgyzstan’s people are very friendly and hospitable, and the government, including the Ministry of Transport and Communications, is doing its best to provide the best possible protection and support for international investors.
I know that Kyrgyzstan’s international image has not always been the best, but investors should know that great progress is being made here every day and no one should be afraid to come here. Kyrgyzstan offers tremendous potential in many areas. I personally welcome international investors to visit us and see for themselves everything that this country has to offer.