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Kazakhstan: EXPO 2017 Hits and Misses

11 Sep

11 September 2017

With Astana’s EXPO 2017 done and dusted, kazaxia is having a look at some of the hits and misses at Kazakhstan’s window to the world, which was on the theme of Future Energy.

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Crowds heading to Nur-Alem aka the Death Star

Top prize, of course, goes to Kazakhstan’s pavilion Nur-Alem, unflatteringly dubbed the Death Star by Foreign Policy. This was the biggest draw of the event with crowds queuing for hours to check out the eight floors of interactive displays on the green energy theme.

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Queueing to enter Nur-Alem at EXPO 2017

kazaxia’s particular favourite was the pedal-powered  race which saw two teams face off to pedal as fast as they could and generate energy.

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Pedal power face off in Nur-Alem

Special mention goes to Uzbekistan, which fully embraced the Future Energy concept with its Chevrolet (formerly Uz-Daewoo) Matiz adapted to run on a hydrogen-powered fuel cell.

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Uzbekistan’s fuel-cell powered Matiz

Turkmenistan seemed more intent on pushing President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov’s books and the upcoming Asian indoor martial arts fest in Ashgabat.

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A warm welcome to Turkmenistan’s pavilion

Georgia’s pavilion predictably focused on wine production, ignoring the Future Energy message, but the kazaxia special prize was reserved for Russia  with its novel take on the theme – it proposed using nuclear-powered ice breakers to crash through the ice cap to get at the fossil fuel deposits lurking in the depths of the Arctic Ocean.

The EXPO circus now moves on to the UAE leaving Astana with the task of transforming the site into a regional financial centre. Nur-Alem will remain as a museum for the general public to keep riffing on the green energy vibe.

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Uzbekistan’s Brave New World?

5 Dec

Lord Venal is just back from his latest election monitoring mission in Uzbekistan. He was part of the unofficial Non-Aligned Observation Missions International (Naomi) group which visited the country as it prepared to anoint Shavkat Mirziyoyev as Islam Karimov’s rightful heir.

He’s kindly contributed this piece to kazaxia.

Ah, Uzbekistan! What a show it put on as the reins of power passed to Shavkat Mirziyoyev. I was part of a group of assorted Lords and bigwigs that were flown in to legitimise the transfer of power. As usual, the Uzbeks pulled out all the stops to make our stay a comfortable and memorable experience.

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A polling station in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

We were kitted out with regulation observer rose-tinted spectacles and whizzed by train to Samarkand to pay our respects to two tyrants. The more recently deceased one was doing a roaring trade compared with the earlier model, Amir Timur aka Tamerlane, who in comparison was receiving a modest trickle of visitors.

The local flower sellers were doing good business – a possible opportunity for Britain’s gardeners to exploit in these post-Brexit times. Indeed, there could be many opportunities in Uzbekistan for Britain’s exporters as the new president looks like a character we can do business with.

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Mr Miriziyoyev has good contacts with figures from the world of alt-business in Tashkent – this enthusiastic alt-businessman even shared a photo of himself on social media,  squeezed into a tee-shirt proudly displaying the president’s image.

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The election saw a campaign to eradicate the ancient local tradition of “one man, all the family’s votes” with the novel concept of “one person, one vote.” Unfortunately, I was feeling a bit under the weather on polling day, after having over-indulged in plov and local  beverages the night before, so I am unable to confirm the success of this initiative as the polling station had closed by the time I got there.

As to the result, once again, in the year of the monkey, the pundits got it wrong  – our very own Gary Kefali had predicted a win for Khatamjon Ketmonov. Instead, Uzbekistan will venture into its brave new world with Mr Mirziyoyev at the helm. Maybe next time Theresa May’s in town, she could pop in for a cup of tea and discuss some mutually-beneficial trade deals with the new boss.

 

 

 

 

Tico Tuk-Tuk

29 Jan

Lord Venal is constantly roaming the world in search of new business opportunities. On a recent visit to Sihanoukville, Cambodia, he finally found a use for his garage of Uz-Daewoo Ticos – some innovative Cambodians have taken the body of the Tico and fitted a raised platform to the back of the car creating the Tico tuk- tuk!

Lord Venal has amassed an extensive collection of secondhand Ticos over the years on his business trips and election monitoring visits to Uzbekistan. This symbol of automotive excellence is considered by many in the know to be the finest car ever to come out of Andijan, Central Asia’s Motor City. Now it can have a new lease of life as the perfect way to cool down on those balmy days of chilla while scooting around Tashkent.

Not to be outdone, Uz-Daewoo’s other famous comapct car, the Matiz, has also undergone  a tuk-tuk transformation at the hands of the Sihanoukville masters. But there was no sign of a Nexia tuk-tuk cruising the beachfront boulevard.