The September 11 terrorist attacks thrust Central Asian states into the spotlight. As Americans and their allies scrambled to establish military outposts in the region in autumn 2001, some economists expressed hope that Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and others would parley the attention into broader trade and sounder economies. That has not happened.
American leaders have not forcefully tied their aid to economic progress, and Central Asian republics have not clearly applied revenue from aid or from foreign visitors toward projects that stimulate foreign investment or improve national living standards. Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan still pin their hopes on oil and gas revenue, Kyrgyzstan still relies on its mature mining and agriculture industries, and Uzbekistan still charges high tariffs on imports and refuses to make its currency convertible. These policies threaten the same economic stagnation that loomed a year ago. While it has provided cash and attention, the antiterrorism coalition has not spurred re-engineering of these young economies.
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Alec Appelbaum is a contributing editor to EurasiaNet.