The Kyrgyz Republic has undergone waves of political upheaval and severe economic downturns since its independence in 1991, resulting in an unfavorable investment climate for investors with low tolerance for risk of political instability. The violent arrest and detention of former President Atambaev by state security forces in August 2019 alarmed potential investors anticipating continued stability and positive investment prospects. Corruption continues to be a major constraint to business development, particularly in the state customs and border agencies, despite President Sooronbai Jeenbekov’s campaign to stamp out corruption in business regulation and to increase transparency in the public procurement process. The country’s judicial system is not fully independent and susceptible to external political influence. While the legal and regulatory framework is set up to be in accordance with international norms, poor implementation and weak enforcement, particularly with respect to intellectual property rights protection, is an endemic problem.
Kyrgyz government officials speak optimistically of factors they say indicate an improving investment climate. The government has identified FDI as a key component to growing the economy in the coming years and has created a strategic roadmap for economic development designed to facilitate this growth. The government is taking steps to streamline the process of starting a business, as well as its tax regime. The newly established Institute of the Business Ombudsman, intended to instill greater confidence in the business community, is charged with advocating for the protection of rights and freedoms of foreign and domestic business entities. Under the “Digitalization Kyrgyzstan” initiative for 2019-2023, the development of information and communication technology infrastructure is aimed at improving the regulatory framework for incentivizing innovation and protecting intellectual property.
Stifled progress in improvements to the business legal and regulatory framework deters foreign investors from entering the Kyrgyz market. The Kyrgyz economy continues to rely heavily on the mining and agricultural sectors. Kumtor Gold Company and the parent company Centerra Gold Inc. completed a new strategic agreement with the government in August 2019 after nearly two years of contentious disputes, further dampening the country’s investment image. The government retains a poor track record in international arbitration cases, and in the last five years, foreign investors have filed twenty different lawsuits against the Kyrgyz government.
The Kyrgyz Republic struggles to meet basic infrastructure needs. Disruptions in the supply of electricity remain a problem, especially outside the capital, Bishkek. Power plants, roads, and canals are dilapidated and in need of major capital investment. Chinese infrastructure projects, primarily implemented with non-market loans from the Export-Import Bank of China, tend to improve market access predominantly for Chinese companies.
The Kyrgyz Republic has yet to reap the economic benefits of membership within the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), following the country’s August 2015 accession into the customs union whose current members also include Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Belarus. Harmonized tariff schedules have left Kyrgyz producers and suppliers struggling to compete with cheaper import goods produced by other EAEU member states, in addition to non-member states that have signed Free Trade Agreements with the EAEU. An increase in non-tariff measures, to which the Kyrgyz government and businesses alike have struggled to adapt, create further barriers for Kyrgyz producers. The slow development of technical infrastructure to ensure compliance with EAEU sanitary and phytosanitary standards and quality control have precluded Kyrgyz goods from target markets within the customs union. Persistent reliance on Russia as a source of remittances, imports, and financial support subjects the economy to Russian influence and makes it vulnerable to external shocks to the Russian economy.
The Kyrgyz government remains very open to foreign direct investment, particularly from U.S. and European countries. Kyrgyz entrepreneurs increasingly are purchasing franchise licenses of major U.S.-based companies, particularly in the food service and retail sectors. The Kyrgyz Republic has also experienced a modest uptick in interest from U.S. corporations seeking to bid on infrastructure development projects funded by international financial institutions.
The COVID-19 pandemic significantly disrupted any positive momentum in the Kyrgyz Republic’s economy over the last year. Assuming that the economic downturn will last for at least the first half of 2020, the IMF assessed that real GDP growth will drop to 0.4 percent in 2020. Nearly all sectors face acute setbacks for recovery with the prolongation of emergency quarantine restrictions for an indefinite period. The closure of regional borders, particularly with China and Kazakhstan, caused mass supply chain disruptions, particularly for intermediary materials and equipment, necessary for agricultural, mining, and construction activities. The collapse of global oil prices coupled with high rates of unemployment among migrant workers, in addition to depreciation of the Kyrgyz som exchange rate against the U.S. dollar, have depressed remittance earnings. Local businesses are struggling to adapt to current conditions, but the domestic information technology sector may experience a boom as more local enterprises aim to transition to e-commerce and online platforms. Despite having accepted close to USD 500 million in concessional loans and grants from international donor organizations in response to COVID-19, the Kyrgyz Republic’s public debt in the long-term is expected to remain at 60 percent of GDP and the risk of debt distress will remain moderate.
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2019||126 of 180||http://www.transparency.org/
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report||2019||80 of 190||http://www.doingbusiness.org/
|Global Innovation Index||2019||90 of 129||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions)||2018||27||http://apps.bea.gov/international/
|World Bank GNI per capita (USD)||2018||$1,221||http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
Despite receiving technical assistance from donors to develop law and regulations are consistent with international best practices, the legal and regulatory system of the Kyrgyz Republic remains underdeveloped. Implementation of regulations and court orders relating to commercial transactions remains inconsistent. In some case, court decisions, which appear to contradict established procedures, have been implemented expeditiously with outside influence. However, heavy bureaucracy, lack of accessibility among government officials responsible for investment promotion hinder the conduct of business.
There have been no known cases of U.S. investors being discriminated against during the reporting period. After the former president Bakiyev was deposed in 2010, the interim government established observation councils in ministries, state agencies, and state committees. These bodies are typically comprised of representatives from non-state actors, including former workers of these entities, business associations, rights organizations, the media, and independent experts in respective areas. The objective of these councils is to provide citizen oversight of policy formulation and execution, though their efficacy remains in question.
Rule-making authority is vested in the Kyrgyz Parliament, which features robust committees that oversees legislation and regulations affecting several areas of the economy, including: the Committee on Economic and Fiscal Policy; the Committee on Fuel, Energy, and Subsoil Management; the Committee on Transport, Communications, Architecture, and Construction; and the Committee on Budget and Finance. The Office of the Prosecutor General is the supreme legal and regulatory enforcement body in the Kyrgyz Republic. The State Service on Financial Market Regulation and Supervision (Financial Intelligence) and the State Service on Combating Economic Crimes (Financial Police) both play important regulatory roles.
Accounting procedures tend to adhere to internationally recognized accounting rules, such as the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), and audits are conducted regularly, often in compliance with agreements with international financial institutions (IFIs). Audit results of state organizations tend to be publicly available, unlike those of private organizations. Draft bills or regulations are posted on Parliament’s web site and are typically open to public comment for 30 days prior to consideration by Parliament and its committees. Parliament often holds public hearings on draft legislation, and is open to the participation of representatives of civil society organizations and the business community in relevant hearing.
The IPPA, under the Ministry of Economy, assists investors with regulatory compliance. However, the efficacy of this office in assisting firms with setting up shop is limited since official bureaucratic procedures comprise only some of the hurdles to opening a business. Investment councils, under the auspices of the Office of the President, Prime-Minister and Parliament respectively, exist to further regulatory improvements for the business climate. Contradictory government decrees often create bureaucratic paralysis or opportunities for bribe solicitation in order to complete normal bureaucratic functions. As often in the Kyrgyz Republic, the legal and regulatory framework is largely sound but implementation and enforcement are weak.
In July 2016, the Kyrgyz government issued a decree to restructure several state regulatory bodies. The decree abolished the State Agency for Geology and Resource Management, replacing it with the State Committee for Industry, Energy and Subsoil Use, and dissolved the State Agency for Communications and Centre for e-Governance, merging its functions into the State Committee of Informational Technology and Communications. The decree also expanded the Ministry of Agriculture’s functions to include food industry development. It has assigned state oversight functions of multiple areas including exploitation of mineral resources to the State Inspection for Environment and Technical Security. Also in July 2016, then-President Almazbek Atambaev approved several reforms aimed at streamlining law enforcement bodies. Among other things, the reforms dissolved the State Drug Control Service and transferred it into the structure of the Ministry of Interior, and transferred authority to investigate economic crimes from the State Committee on National Security to the State Service of Combating Economic Crimes (Financial Police).
International Regulatory Considerations
In August 2015, the Kyrgyz Republic acceded to the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), whose current members also include Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Belarus. The Kyrgyz Republic continues to harmonize its laws to comply with regulations set by the Eurasian Economic Commission, the executive body of the EAEU. However, the Kyrgyz Republic has yet to secure the benefits of increased bilateral trade with EAEU member countries, citing unilaterally-imposed trade barriers restricting the flow of Kyrgyz exports. Numerous Kyrgyz entrepreneurs have criticized non-tariff measures that emerged after the country’s accession to the Union, preventing local exporters from fully accessing the wider EAEU market.
The United States and other international partners provided substantial technical assistance to the Kyrgyz Republic in support of its accession to the WTO in 1998, and the country’s regulatory system reflects many international norms and best practices. The Law on the Fundamentals of Technical Regulation in the Kyrgyz Republic, which provides for standardization principles under the WTO Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement, entered into force in 2004. To Post’s knowledge, the Kyrgyz government notifies all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). In 2016, the Kyrgyz Republic ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
The general principles of the reformed legal system of the Kyrgyz Republic, encourage ideological and political pluralism, a socially oriented market economy, and the expansion of individual rights and freedoms. Major barriers to foreign investment derive from a lack of adequate implementation rather than gaps in existing laws.
The judicial system is technically independent, but political interference and corruption regularly besmirch its reputation and undermine its effectiveness. Resolution of an investment dispute within the Kyrgyz Republic depends on several factors, namely who the parties are and the amount of investment.
The weak Kyrgyz judicial system often fails to act as an independent arbiter in the resolution of disputes. Since most disputes are lodged by foreign investors against the Kyrgyz Government, local courts serve as an executor of the authorities’ political agenda. Regulations and enforcement actions can be appealed and are adjudicated in the national court system. International Court of Arbitration at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Kyrgyz Republic (ICA). mediation services for public-private disputes remain a protracted and often impartial process in the Kyrgyz Republic.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
The Kyrgyz Republic’s main legal framework for foreign direct investment remainsthe “2003 Law on Investments.” with multiple amendments up until 2018. The justice system in the Kyrgyz Republic is inefficient and lacks independence, and cases can take years to be resolved. The Kyrgyz Republic does not have a business registration website. The Investment Promotion and Protection Agency of the Kyrgyz Republic (IPPA) maintains the country’s main website for investment queries, https://invest.gov.kg/ .
Competition and Anti-Trust Laws
The State Agency for Anti-Monopoly Regulation of the Kyrgyz Republic conducts unified state antitrust price regulation in the economy. The main tasks of the State Agency are to develop and protect competition, to control compliance with legislation in the field of anti-trust, price regulation, to protect the legal rights of consumers against manifestations of monopoly and unfair competition, to ensure observance of legislation on advertising. To Post’s knowledge, there have been no developments in any significant competition cases over the past year.
Expropriation and Compensation
According to the Law on Investments in the Kyrgyz Republic, investments shall not be subject to expropriation, except as provided by Kyrgyz laws when such expropriation is in the public interests and is carried out on a non-discriminatory basis and pursuant to a proper legal procedure with the payment of timely, appropriate and feasible reparation of damages, including lost profit.
In April 2016, the government expropriated four Uzbek-owned resorts on Lake Issyk-Kul on the grounds of the claimant’s failure to make payment to the Kyrgyz Social Fund. Post has no information on whether fair market value compensation was offered following expropriation. (Note: The Kyrgyz Law on Investment specifies that the amount of reparation shall be equivalent to the fair market price of the expropriated investment, and that the reparation must be feasible and shall be payable in a freely convertible currency within the term agreed on by the parties. End Note.) In December 2017, the Kyrgyz Government returned the resorts to the claimant and extended the temporary rental of the lands on the basis that the claimant withdrew its claim filed to international arbitration, improved infrastructure at the resorts, and guaranteed that 80 percent of labor force will be Kyrgyz citizens.
On August 27, 2019, the Kyrgyz government finalized the terms of the Strategic Agreement with Canada-based gold mining company Centerra Gold Inc. Negotiations were concluded following a protracted investor dispute over the Kumtor gold mine. In 2016, a Kyrgyz court issued an interim ruling that prevented Kumtor Gold Company, the wholly owned subsidiary of Centerra, from transferring property or assets, declaring or paying dividends, or making loans to its parent company. Citing this action by the Kyrgyz judicial system, Centerra suspended all dividend payments to shareholders. After the parties signed a new agreement in September 2017, which required Centerra to support rural and environmental funds, in June 2018 current Prime-Minister Abylgaziev’s government demanded that the agreement with Kumtor be revised to increase environmental payments. According to the new strategic agreement, Centerra’s obligation to the State’s Regional Development and Nature funds will increase from USD 87 million to USD 150 million.
Both the executive and legislative bodies perpetually discuss how and when to allocate, reallocate, revoke, suspend, and otherwise handle mining licenses. In January 2019 President Jeenbekov called the issuing of mining licenses the most corrupt in the government. Foreign investors have the right to compensation in the case of government seizure of assets. However, there is little understanding of the distinction between historical book value, replacement value, and actual market value, which brings into question whether the government would provide fair compensation in the event of expropriation.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
The Kyrgyz Republic is a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). It signed the ICSID agreement on June 9, 1995, and ratified it on July 5, 1997. The Kyrgyz Republic became a member of the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards on March 18, 1997.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
The Code of Arbitration Procedure specifies that, if an international treaty of the Kyrgyz Republic establishes the rules of court procedure, other than those, provided by the legislation of the Kyrgyz Republic, rules of the international treaty shall apply. The U.S.-Kyrgyz BIT outlines procedures by which parties may consent to binding arbitration.
Post is unaware of any claims made by U.S. investors under the agreement since it entered into force. In January 2019, the local media outlet Tazabek.kg, citing the Kyrgyz Center for Legal Representation, reported that between 2014-2018, twenty lawsuits were filed against the Kyrgyz Republic totaling over USD 2.2 billion in claims. Eleven international arbitration disputes totaling over USD 1.5 billion in claims have been settled to date.
The most well-known investment dispute centers around the Kumtor gold mine. Since the mine began commercial production in 1997, the Canadian company, Centerra Gold, whose local subsidiary Kumtor Gold operates the mine, has renegotiated the terms of their investment with the government more than three times at the request of the Kyrgyz Government. In December 2015, both sides tabled the talks without resolution. In 2016, Kyrgyz law enforcement officials raided the Bishkek headquarters of Kumtor Gold on accusations of financial irregularities, and prevented expatriate officials from exiting the country. A local court issued an injunction to preclude the company from making financial transfers to Centerra, and later fined Kumtor nearly USD 98 million for alleged environmental damages. Shortly afterward, Centerra elevated its dispute with state corporation KyrgyzAltyn over environmental, dividend, and land use claims to a court of international arbitration. In September 2017, based on an agreement with the Kyrgyz Government, Centerra agreed to a ten-fold increase of annual environmental damage payments from USD 300,000 to USD 3 million, a one-off payment of USD 50 million into a fund to support the Kyrgyz economy, and an adjustment to Kumtor’s management structure requiring that Kyrgyz citizens fill several key management positions. In August 2019, following Centerra’s withdrawal of all claims and acquiescence to increase revenue payments to USD 150 million for contribution to the State’s Regional Development and Nature funds, the parties signed a new strategic agreement.
Stans Energy Corporation, a Toronto-based resource development company focused on mining rare earth metals, was involved in a long running, high profile investment dispute with the Kyrgyz Republic. Between 2013-2014, the Kyrgyz government revoked Stans Energy’s mining licenses for two mining deposits, including the Kutessay II rare earth mine, claiming the company had bribed Kyrgyz officials to obtain licensing rights. In 2015 and 2017, the mining company unsuccessfully filed multiple lawsuits in arbitration courts in Canada and Moscow. In August 2019, the UN Commission for International Law and Trade (UNCITRAL) concluded arbitration proceedings, ruling in favor of Stans Energy and awarding it USD 24 million in compensation for improper expropriation. The company has yet to receive compensation and the Kyrgyz government has sought to undo this ruling.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
Code of Arbitration Procedures allows for international and domestic arbitration of disputes. Parties can agree to any judicial institution, including third-party courts within or outside of the Kyrgyz Republic, or domestic or international arbitration. If the parties fail to settle the dispute within three months of the date of the first written request, any investment dispute between an investor and the public authorities of the Kyrgyz Republic will be subject to settlement by the judicial bodies of the Kyrgyz Republic. Any of the parties may initiate a settlement by recourse to: the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes under the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States or; arbitration or a provisional international arbitration tribunal (commercial court) established under the arbitration procedures of the UNCITRAL. Recognition and enforcement of international arbitration awards in the Kyrgyz Republic is carried out in accordance with the New York Convention and Kyrgyz laws. However, there are a number of features related to the recognition and enforcement of arbitration awards. In particular, Kyrgyz law expands a list of the grounds for refusal of recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitration awards in comparison with a list of the grounds referred to in the New York Convention.
The Kyrgyz Republic has a written law governing bankruptcy procedures of legal persons and insolvent physical persons (Law of the Kyrgyz Republic “On Bankruptcy” September 22, 1997 with multiple amendments in December 30, 1998, July 1999, September 2000, June 2002, March and August 2005, January and July 2006, June 2007, July 2009, April 2015, June, July and December 2016, May 2017, and December 31, 2019) which covers industrial enterprises and banks, irrespective of the type of ownership; commercial companies; private entrepreneurs; foreign commercial entities. Bankruptcy proceedings are conducted by the court of arbitration competent for the district in which enterprise is located. The procedure of liquidation can be carried out without the involvement of the judicial bodies if all creditors agree on out-of-court proceedings. Chapter 10 of the law on bankruptcy provides for the possibility of an amicable or peaceful settlement between the enterprise and its creditors, which can be made at any stage of the liquidation process. The World Bank ranked the Kyrgyz Republic 82 out of 190 countries in “Resolving Insolvency” in its 2019 Doing Business report.
4. Industrial Policies
The Kyrgyz Government has reduced the tax burden on repatriation of profits by foreign investors to conform to the tax rate for domestic investors. The Ministry of Economy and IPPA often express the government’s willingness to discuss potential incentives, including access to land, with specific foreign investors.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
There are five Free Economic Zones (FEZs) in the Kyrgyz Republic: Bishkek, Naryn, Karakol (Issyk-Kul province), Leylek (Batken province) and Maimak (Talas province). Each is situated to make use of transportation infrastructure and/or customs posts along the Kyrgyz borders. Government incentives for investment in the zones include exemption from several taxes, duties and payments, simplified customs procedures, and direct access to utility suppliers. The production and sale of petroleum, liquor, and tobacco products in FEZs are banned. Additional information on FEZs can be found at http://invest.gov.kg/en/why-kyrgyzstan/free-economic-zones/
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
While there are no formal legal requirements for local employment, most major international investors are subject to tremendous public pressure to support threshold local employment. New investors may find local employment quotas included in potential investment agreements, mandating numbers for boards of directors, senior management, and/or other employees. The Kyrgyz Government does not enforce any “forced localization” policies. There are no known government/authority-imposed conditions on permission to invest. The U.S.-Kyrgyz Bilateral Investment Treaty ensures that investments are guaranteed freedom from performance requirements, including requirements to use local products or to exports local goods. Foreign investors may freely transmit customer or other business related data outside the country’s territory upon their own need as long as it does not contradict with local law on investments.
There are no known instances of requiring foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption. There is no legislation on maintaining data storage within the country.
5. Protection of Property Rights
In the National Development Strategy for 2018-2040, the Kyrgyz Government identified property rights as one of the priority areas for strengthening investment climate in the Kyrgyz Republic. Inviolability of property rights is also written in the Kyrgyz Constitution and the Civil Code. The Kyrgyz Republic was first among its neighboring Central Asian states to introduce private property rights for land ownership. According to government sources, there are no lands without a clear title. According to the World Bank, the Kyrgyz Republic is among the easiest countries in which to register property, ranking 8th out of 190 countries (just like in 2017 and 2018) in the Bank’s 2019 Doing Business report.
Mortgages and liens are common in the Kyrgyz Republic and operate according to relevant legislation. The State Registration Service is the major operator of a recording system (database) on property under mortgage/lien commitments. When providing mortgages, local banks must request a reference from the State Registration Service that confirms the property is not under lien. However, several have questioned the reliability of the recording system, and the Service itself is frequently subject to allegations of corruption.
There are a number of legal restrictions on the right of foreign persons to own land in the Kyrgyz Republic. The land rights of foreign persons are limited to the following:
- Foreign persons may not own or use agricultural land.
- Foreign persons may not own or use any land except residential land, which has been foreclosed under a mortgage loan agreement in accordance with Kyrgyz Pledge Law. Foreclosed agricultural land may belong to foreign banks and specialized financial institutions but only for the period of three years.
- Foreign persons may use non-residential land transferred thereto by way of universal succession, except agricultural and mining use land, subject to permission of the Kyrgyz Government, for the period of up to 50 years.
- Foreign persons who have acquired ownership of land by way of universal succession (inheritance, reorganization) must transfer such land to a Kyrgyz national or legal entity within one year from the date of acquiring such ownership.
Intellectual Property Rights
Intellectual property right protections are slowly emerging. The State Service for Intellectual Property and Innovation under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic (“Kyrgyzpatent”) is the authorized body of the Executive Branch that issues documents to certify intellectual property. Kyrgyzpatent establishes the Appeal Council that is the primary body to hear intellectual property related disputes. While the Kyrgyz Republic has a robust body of laws, regulations, and rules governing protection of intellectual property, and while the country is a signatory to several international treaties on the subject, enforcement remains problematic. The judicial system remains underdeveloped and lacks independence. Due to the structure of the system, the appeals process can be lengthy and prolonged. Court actions can force the sale of property to enforce payments and other contractual obligations. However, the government does not pay a sum as compensation for these actions.
The Kyrgyz Republic is obligated to protect intellectual property rights as a member of the WTO. The Kyrgyz Republic acceded to both the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty in 2002. The Kyrgyz Republic was not included in the 2019 Special 301 report but was listed on the 2019 U.S. Trade Representative’s Notorious Markets report, due to the availability of counterfeit goods sold at the massive Dordoi bazaar – Central Asia’s largest market. Counterfeit goods imported from China are also re-exported to Russia and Kazakhstan. No specific action has been taken against Dordoi market. The Kyrgyz Republic did not pass any new IPR related laws or regulations in 2019.
IPR-related codes, laws and regulations of the Kyrgyz Republic are listed on Kyrgyzpatent’s website. There are no pending IP bills listed on the Parliament’s website. Criminal liability for violation of IPR is listed in the Criminal Code. Unfortunately, enforcement is lax and according to sources, there have been no successful prosecution for IP violations in the history of the Kyrgyz Republic. The Kyrgyz Republic is not known as a major producer of counterfeit goods. However, the State Customs Service regularly writes alerts and notifications on the recent seizure of counterfeit goods on its official website. However there is no central database of official statistics on the seizure of counterfeit goods. IPPA has a whole chapter on its website dedicated to IP.
Resources for Rights Holders
Contact at Mission:
+996 312 59 76 07
American Chamber of Commerce
Address: 191 Abdrakhmanov Street, Office #123
Phone: +996 312 623 389, 623 395
Fax: +996 312 623 406
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
The Kyrgyz government is generally open toward foreign portfolio investment, though experts from international financial institutions (IFIs) have noted that capital markets in the Kyrgyz Republic remain underdeveloped. The economy of the Kyrgyz Republic is primarily cash-based, although non-cash consumer transactions, such as debit cards and transaction machines, have quadrupled in the last five years. In 2019, Moody’s Investors Services assigned the Kyrgyz Republic a sovereign credit rating of B2. The government debt market is small and limited to short maturities, though Kyrgyz bonds are available for foreign ownership. Broadly, credit is allocated on market terms, but experts have noted that the presence of the Russian-Kyrgyz Development Fund subsidized sources of credit have introduced market distortions. Bank loans remain the primary source of private sector credit, and local portfolio investors often highlight the need to develop additional financial instruments in the Kyrgyz Republic.
There are two stock exchanges in the Kyrgyz Republic (Kyrgyz Stock Exchange and Stock Exchange The Kyrgyz Republic), but all transactions are conducted through the Kyrgyz Stock Exchange. In 2019, the total value of transactions amounted to USD 6.1 billion Kyrgyz soms (approximately USD 87 billion). The small market lacks sufficient liquidity to enter and exit sizeable positions. Since 1995, the Kyrgyz Republic has accepted IMF Article VIII obligations. Foreign investors are able to acquire loans on the local market if the business is operating on the territory of the Kyrgyz Republic and collateral meets the requirements of local banks. The average interest rate for loans in USD is between 10-15 percent.
Money and Banking System
The National Bank of the Kyrgyz Republic (NBKR) is a nominally independent body whose mandate is to achieve and maintain price stability through monetary policy. The Bank is also tasked with maintaining the safety and reliability of the banking and payment systems. The NBKR licenses, regulates, and supervises credit institutions. The penetration level of the banking sector is 42 percent.
According to the IMF, the Kyrgyz banking system at present remains well capitalized with still sizeable, non-performing loans (NPLs). NPLs increased from 7.5 percent to 8.0 percent in 2019, with restructured loans in excess of 20 percent. Net capital adequacy ratio increased from 23.7 percent to 24.0 percent in 2019. Total assets in the Kyrgyz banking system in 2019 equaled approximately USD 3.6 billion. As of August 2019, the Kyrgyz Republic’s three largest banks by total assets were Kyrgyz Investment and Credit Bank (KICB; approximately USD 418 million), Optima Bank (approximately USD 520.7 million), and Aiyl Bank (approximately USD 434.5 million).
There are currently 23 commercial banks in the Kyrgyz Republic, with 323 operating branches throughout the country; the five largest banks comprise 51.7 percent of the total market. No U.S. bank operates in the Kyrgyz Republic and Kyrgyz banks do not maintain correspondent accounts from U.S. financial institutions. There are eight foreign banks operating in the Kyrgyz Republic: Demir Bank, National Bank of Pakistan, Halyk Bank, Optima Bank, Finca Bank, and Kompanion Bank are entirely foreign held. Other banks are partially foreign held, including KICB and BTA Bank, Kyrgyz-Swiss Bank. KICB has multinational organizations as shareholders including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Economic Finance Corporation, the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development and others.
The micro-finance sector in the Kyrgyz Republic is robust, representing nearly 10 percent the market size of the banking sector. Trade accounted for 25.4 percent of the total loan portfolio of the banking sector, followed by agriculture (18.9 percent) and consumer loans (11.7 percent). The microfinance sector in the Kyrgyz Republic is rapidly growing. In 2019, around 140 microfinance companies, 95 credit unions, 220 pawnshops and 401 currency exchange offices operated in the Kyrgyz Republic. Over the last four years, the three largest microfinance companies (Bai-Tushum, FINCA, and Kompanion) transformed into banks with full banking licenses.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
Foreign exchange is widely available and rates are competitive. The local currency, the Kyrgyz som, is freely convertible and stable compared to other currencies in the region. While the som is a floating currency, the NBKR periodically intervenes in the market to mitigate the risk of exchange rate shocks. Given significant currency fluctuations among Post-Soviet countries in 2019, the Kyrgyz som was one of the most stable currencies, with the dollar exchange rate dropping 0.3 percent over the year. In 2019, the NBKR conducted six foreign exchange interventions and in total, sold USD 143.5 million. The NBKR conducts weekly inter-bank currency auctions, in which competitive bids determine market-based transaction prices. Banks usually clear payments within a single business day. Complaints of currency conversion issues are rare. With occasional exceptions in the agricultural and energy sectors, barter transactions have largely been phased out.
Remittances typically account for 25-30 percent of GDP. In 2019 net remittances reached $1.8 billion, a 16 percent reduction from 2018. In July 2019, the Central Bank of Russia lowered the cap on money transfers per month to the Kyrgyz Republic to 100,000 rubles (approximately USD 1,590 based on July exchange rates). The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) assessed that in 2019, the Kyrgyz Republic made “significant progress in addressing technical compliance deficiencies to combat money laundering and financial crimes.”
Sovereign Wealth Funds
The Kyrgyz Republic’s Sovereign Wealth Fund originated from proceeds of the Kumtor gold mine and is composed of shares in the parent company of the gold mine operator, Centerra Gold. The Kyrgyz Republic owns roughly 77.4 million shares of the company, which are currently valued at USD 404 million.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
There are approximately 106 SOEs in the Kyrgyz Republic that play a significant role in the local economy. The State Property Management Fund of the Kyrgyz Republic (www.fgi.gov/kg) is the public executive authority representing the interests of the state. The purpose of the Fund is to ensure the efficiency of the use, management, and privatization of state property. Information on allocations to and earnings from SOEs is included in budget execution reports and is published (in Russian) on the Kyrgyz Treasury’s website.
Information as of 2017 on assets, earnings, profitability, working capital, and other financial indicators is available on the State Property Management Fund’s website (http://finance.page.kg/index.php?act=svod_profit ) The State Property Management Fund also reviews the budgets for the largest SOEs, while the Accounting Chamber reviews the accounts of all SOEs and publishes audit reports on their website (www.esep.kg).
Broadly, the country does not fully adhere to the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance of SOEs. Cronyism and corruption within SOEs as a major obstacle to the Kyrgyz Republic’s economic development. The Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Index of Economic Freedom report noted, elected officials appoint company board members based on political loyalty rather than professional skills and corporate governance knowledge. Positions on boards of directors are frequently used as rewards for political support, and the dynamic has reinforced the patronage system and resulted in poor economic performance and public service delivery. The Foundation also assessed that rule of law remains weak and the state lacks the capacity to enforce contracts and sufficiently protect property rights.
The government has attempted to improve transparency on contracts and bidding processes. Due to widespread corruption, there are common complaints that only individual government officials have access to government contracts and bidding processes. SOEs purchase goods and services from the private firms and usually place the calls for bids either on their websites or in public newspapers, as required. Private enterprises have the same access to financing as SOEs and are subject to the same tax burden. In some cases, SOEs have preferential access to land and raw materials. However, transparency initiatives attempt to hold the government accountable in such proceedings.
In 2019, the Kyrgyz government established the National Managing Company JSC, a central holding company, to manage all 106 SOEs. The National Managing Company is wholly-owned by the Kyrgyz Government with a charter capital of USD 1.3 million. The intention of the centralized management system is to support poor-performing SOEs by facilitating more effective decision-making aimed at attracting management talent, additional resources, and investments in strategic SOE enterprises. Based on government assessments, as of November 2019, 51 companies out of 106 SOEs and 22 JSCs out of 52 were operating at a loss.
The Kyrgyz government periodically auctions rights to subsoil usage and broadcasts tender announcements, including disseminating information to diplomatic missions, in order to attract foreign investors. There are no restrictions on foreign investors participating in privatization programs. The privatization process is not well defined and is subject to change. There is ongoing deliberation on the privatization of other state-owned assets, such as the postal service and the capital’s international airport, but lack of interest by private partners has stalled any potential moves.
The Kyrgyz government is no longer actively pursuing sale of its 100 percent stake in Megacom, the country’s largest telecommunications company. In 2015, the Kyrgyz government agreed to privatize AlfaTelecom (operating as MegaCom). In February 2017, the government authorities arrested the head of Parliament’s leading opposition faction, charging him with corruption based on allegations that he received a bribe from a Russian businessman in connection with the sale of a MegaCom stake in 2010. After years of delays, the Kyrgyz government announced it would auction its 100 percent stake in MegaCom in July 2017. To date, the Kyrgyz government has been unable to divest itself of the telecommunications firm.
Foreign investors – both companies and individuals – are generally able to participate in public auctions of state owned properties unless specifically prohibited in the terms and conditions. There are, however, some land legislation restrictions concerning the property rights of foreigners. Information about terms and conditions of SOE sales are posted on the State Property Management Fund’s website (www.fgi.gov.kg ).
12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs
The United States signed a bilateral OPIC (predecessor to DFC) agreement with the Kyrgyz Republic in 1992. OPIC recently financed part of the campus expansion of the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek and the University of Central Asia in Naryn.
Bank lending and international donor financing remain the primary mechanisms by which businesses in the Kyrgyz Republic seek to fund expansion projects. Few investment funds exist and operate in the Kyrgyz Republic. There are no new DFC-funded projects in the Kyrgyz Republic to date but the lower-middle income country is considered a priority for DFC funding opportunities. The DFC currently supports two portfolio loan guarantees with two local banks to increase lending to Kyrgyz businesses. DFC products have the potential to facilitate social and commercial infrastructure developments, expand small and medium enterprise lending and assist the development of private equity funds in the Kyrgyz Republic, which are currently few in number. 13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
|Host Country Statistical source*||USG or international statistical source||USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
|Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)||2019||$8,453||2018||$8,093||www.worldbank.org/en/country|
|Foreign Direct Investment||Host Country Statistical source*||USG or international statistical source||USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||2019||5.5||2018||27||BEA data available at
|Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions)||2019||1.5||2018||0||BEA data available at
|Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP||N/A||N/A||2018||48.4||UNCTAD data available at
*Source for Host Country Data: National Statistics Committee of the Kyrgyz Republic; http://www.stat.kg
|Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data|
|From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (2018, US Dollars, Millions)|
|Inward Direct Investment||Outward Direct Investment|
|Total Inward||4915||100%||Total Outward||11||100%|
|United Kingdom||333||7%||Russian Federation||1||11%|
|“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.|
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available. The Kyrgyz Republic has limited stock and bond markets for portfolio investors. The country is not listed on the IMF’s Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS) site. It is unlikely the country has any large portfolio investors.