The telecommunications sector in Kyrgyzstan has been generally characterised by an open market that welcomes both foreign and domestic investors. This has been effectively done in accordance with the requirements set down by the WTO. Despite the market being ‘fully competitive’ there remained more to be done on the regulatory front to take full advantage of the reforms already in place. There also remains a culture of poor transparency in some aspects of corporate behaviour; this needs to be addressed if the telecom market is to reach its full potential. In the meantime, private operators, which actively function in the mobile market and in the provision of internet services, have been actively investing in the necessary infrastructure.
Kyrgyzstan is a poor, mountainous country with an economy dominated by minerals extraction, agriculture, and reliance on remittances from citizens working abroad. Cotton, wool, and meat are the main agricultural products, although only cotton is exported in any quantity. Other exports include gold, mercury, uranium, natural gas, and – in some years – electricity. The country has sought to attract foreign investment to expand its export base, including construction of hydroelectric dams, but a difficult investment climate and an ongoing legal battle with Canadian investors in the nation’s largest gold mine deter potential investors. Remittances from Kyrgyz migrant workers in Russia and Kazakhstan are equivalent to about a quarter of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP.
Following independence, Kyrgyzstan rapidly carried out market reforms, such as improving the regulatory system and instituting land reform. The government has privatized much of its ownership shares in public enterprises. Despite these reforms, the country suffered a severe drop in production in the early 1990s and has again faced slow growth in recent years as the global financial crisis and declining oil prices have damaged economies across Central Asia.
Kyrgyz leaders hope the country’s August 2015 accession to the Eurasian Economic Union will bolster trade and investment, but slowing economies in Russia and China, low commodity prices, and currency fluctuations continue to hamper economic growth. The keys to future growth include progress in fighting corruption, improving administrative transparency, restructuring domestic industry, and attracting foreign aid and investment.