Kyrgyzstan, 1 November 2023 (TDI): During recent visits to the United States and Germany, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov encouraged investors to participate in the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan (CKU) railway project.
The railway project aimed at traversing and connecting China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan, also called the CKU railway is facing underfunding barriers to its successful completion.
The CKU railway project is a part of Thailand’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) also known as the One Belt One Road. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is the country’s plan to connect China with the rest of the world by developing two international routes.
One of the challenges Kyrgyzstan currently faces is its precarious economy which is why the country needs funding to support the billion-dollar railway project which will bring great revenue to the cash-strapped economy. This has led to uncertainties regarding the sources of funding by the CKU participating countries.
Gennady Bessonov, the secretary-general of the International Coordinating Council for Trans-Eurasian Transport in a statement, appropriately described the financial challenges the project faces.
Bessonov mentioned that while the project has been prepared already, mutual agreement is lacking on who is going to fund the project between Beijing, Bishkek, and Tashkent.
Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are both financially constrained in their ability to fully fund the project without external help.
While China can support and complete the project successfully, it is not the country’s priority at the moment. Deputy Prime Minister Bakyt Torobaev of Kyrgyzstan has stated that negotiations are ongoing for the financing of the project.
However, another challenge for Kyrgyzstan is that the country is currently under a $2 billion debt from China.
Rayimkul Mendekeev, the director of the Scientific and Technical Center at Kyrgyz State Technical University mentioned that borrowing another loan to finance the CKU project would not be good for the country’s economy.
Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov has already described debt as a “significant threat” to Kyrgyzstan’s sovereignty.
The railway project represents an ambitious venture spanning approximately 454 kilometers, crossing the demanding terrain of western China and Kyrgyzstan. This region is marked by altitudes varying from 2,000 to 3,500 meters.
Furthermore, the project entails the construction of over 50 tunnels and 90 bridges, navigating through Kyrgyzstan’s towering mountain ranges.