Ashgabat business forum focuses on strengthening interregional partnership

As part of the Seventh Regional Economic Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA VII) Ashgabat has hosted a business forum, which served as a meeting ground for representatives of state-run institutions and business communities from a number of countries of the region, authoritative international organizations, and the media.

The event is aimed at deepening interregional partnership, stepping up efforts to implement long-term joint investment projects with Afghanistan, strengthening relations among business circles, including among women entrepreneurs.

In their speeches, forum participants, in particular the wife of the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani – Mrs. Rula Ghani, have highlighted that the trade relations established long ago thanks to the caravan routes, which crossed the region’s countries, laid a good foundation for economic ties between the East and the West. Under present-day conditions, closer fruitful contacts and the integration of the region’s countries into world economic relations have taken on paramount importance.

The significance and successful implementation of the large-scale TAPI gas pipeline project received particular emphasis at the forum. The speakers also drew attention to the importance of investment projects in the transport-communications sector, and other spheres.

The forum attendees were acquainted with the key aspects of Turkmenistan’s state policy and the projects ongoing in various fields.

As noted, the country with considerable hydrocarbon resources is successfully pursuing the energy strategy, aimed to increase crude-oil production, oil and gas processing, and to boost energy exports. President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov regards reliable hydrocarbon supplies to international markets as a prevailing condition for sustainable development, and attaches great importance to the implementation of the international Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project. The speakers at the business forum have stressed that the massive project is of enormous economic significance to the entire region.

Special accent was placed on the issues concerning a projected increase in power supplies to Afghanistan. At present, efforts are being made in two directions – Ymamnazar-Andkhoy and Serkhetabat-Herat-Turgundy. Under the earlier agreements, practical steps are being taken to expand electricity exports at concessional rates. The ongoing large projects, aimed to increase the sector’s capability, offer ample opportunities to potential investors and leading foreign companies.

The transport-communications sector was identified as one of the important areas of interregional cooperation. The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway project is a notable example of effective collaboration in this sphere. The participants also emphasized the strategic role of the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway in enhancing productive cooperation between Turkmenistan and Central Asian countries, and attached significance to construction of the Turkmenbashi international seaport, high-speed roads, modern airports, and other infrastructure facilities.

The chemical and oil-and-gas sectors, agriculture, the light and food industries, science and education, healthcare, sport, tourism to name but a few were outlined among the key areas for further closer business contacts.

During the forum, detailed discussions centered on trade-economic cooperation between small and medium-sized businesses. Thanks to all-round support offered to representatives of the private sector, Turkmen entrepreneurs are making a meaningful contribution to dynamic development of the national economy. Today, the non-state sector has a significant share in GDP, and the index is expected to rise to 70 percent by 2020.

Speaking of the Turkmen-Afghan relations, the speakers mentioned that a number of big companies from the neighboring country do their business in the Turkmen market.

Ninety-nine joint investment projects and agreements have been registered in our country. The bilateral trade turnover has shown a 22-percent increase. Opened in the city of Mazar-e Sharif, Balkh province (Afghanistan), Turkmenistan Joint Trading House is intended to play a significant role in promoting the partnership in this area.

Reports made by the event attendees indicated active integration of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan into regional cooperation as one of the determining factor in the country’s sustainable socio-economic development. Specific emphasis was put on the need to exploit first and foremost the economic potential and natural resources of Afghanistan.

Minister of Commerce and Industries of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Humyoon Rasaw has stressed that at present Turkmenistan is a major transport-communications hub in the region. Recognizing the considerable potential for strengthening Turkmen-Afghan cooperation in various areas, including the trade-economic sphere, the guest cited the implementation of a number of projects as an example of successful common efforts.

The forum participants also devoted special attention to agreements reached during the talks between Presidents Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov and Mohammad Ashraf Ghani. Not only will the agreements cement the bilateral relations, they will also contribute to sustainable development of the entire region.

At this stage, Afghanistan’s economic strategy envisages a transition to its own development model, the guest said, introducing the key aspects of his country’s state policy. Given the central theme of today’s business forum, Humyoon Rasaw stressed that small and medium business development acquires enormous significance and importance, particularly the provision of favorable opportunities for women entrepreneurs in different sectors of the economy.

In the course of plenary meetings on the activity of women entrepreneurs, attendees highlighted the need for new mechanisms for establishing contacts, improving export competitiveness, promoting trade and business cooperation. Speaking of vast potential and ample opportunities in this area, speakers emphasized that the Chambers of Commerce and Industry perform an instrumental role in rendering support to small and medium business.

In the afternoon, a joint exhibition of regional producers opened at the Mizan Business Center.

Bilateral meetings were also held as part of the forum to designate new forms and areas of cooperation.