06 October 2011

Atambayev, Gas Prices, and Other Kyrgyzstan Stuff

I ought to at least do a brief bio of Almazbek Atambayev since he's expected to be the next president of Kyrgyzstan.  Like nearly all the candidates, he's been around for a long time, mostly as the leader of the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan since 1999 and a member of Parliament.  He's currently Prime Minister and was Prime Minister in most of 2007 under Bakiev, although the position meant something very different at that time.  He's run or considered running for president several times in the past.

He's from the north and was born in Arashan, south of Bishkek in the Chui region, so he's a northerner. Based on his website, he's either the youngest son in the family or one of the youngest.  And he likes to read. 

Moscow likes him which is an advantage for him and not necessarily a disadvantage for US interests in Kyrgyzstan, although Atambayev's campaign is unquestionably pro-Russia.  Personally, I think Kyrgyzstan could do a lot worse than Atambayev and I hope that if he is elected, he'll be a good president.  Still, he's definitely recycled and old-school. 

About that website- it's in English as well as Kyrgyz and Russian and is one of the better websites I've seen for Kyrgyzstani politicians.  Some of it just looks like Google Translate stuff, but other parts of it have better English.

In other news, it's been announced that (natural) gas prices will be dropping here soon since  Kyrgyzstan will now buy most of its gas from Kazakhstan instead of Uzbekistan.  It's supposed to be a fairly significant drop, although I won't see much difference in Bishkek because I just pay a few dollars a month for cooking (when it's on). 

For more rural families who have been able to install gas heating, this could make a big difference.  Our house in Tokmok had gas heating, but the owner was happy to move out in the winter because heating with gas was difficult to pay for.  Even more, I hope that gas heating becomes affordable for more families in Kyrgyzstan. I've mentioned before than heating a typical home in Kyrgyzstan with natural gas costs about $100/month compared to about $60/month to use coal.  The projected price drop could make the costs much closer, and, since gas is so much cleaner and easier, it might be possible for more families to switch to gas heating. 

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