Kyrgyzstan - Infrastructure, power, and communications

The main components of Kyrgyzstan's physical infrastructure include roads, rail, electric grids, gas pipelines, and a telecommunications system. The country's road system consists 16,854 kilometers (10,467 miles) of paved roads. The rail system consists of 1 major rail line of a length of 370 kilometers (299 miles) linking the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, with Kazakhstan. The fixed (copper wire) telephone system and microwave relay stations dating from the Soviet period (consisting of 357,000 lines) are rapidly being overtaken by new, decentralized mobile phone services. Of the country's 14 airports, only the capital airport is capable of accommodating international flights.

Mountainous Kyrgyzstan has abundant low-cost hydropower but only very limited amounts of oil, gas, and coal. Consequently, Kyrgyzstan is dependent upon the other Central Asian countries for much of its gas and petroleum. Kyrgyzstan trades hydroelectric energy for natural gas with both Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. With the urging of international donors, Kyrgyzstan is seeking to adopt an energy policy that will reduce the role of the state, increase private sector involvement, and explore the potential for energy exports, particularly to China. China's recently adopted "Go West" policy has opened a potentially rich market for hydroelectric energy in the adjoining Xinjiang-Uigur Autonomous Province of China.

Communications
Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Kyrgyzstan N/A 384 231 N/A 2 0.1 N/A 1.42 10
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Russia 105 418 420 78.5 5 0.4 40.6 13.06 2,700
Tajikistan 20 142 285 N/A 0 0.3 N/A 0.24 2
a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium ( http://www.isc.org ) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

Since being corporatized (that is, separated from the previous unified Soviet system and turned into a Kyrgyzstan state-owned corporation) in 1994, the Kyrgyz state power company, Kyrgyzenergo, has operated 22 hydroelectric power stations with a combined capacity of over 30 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) annually. Electricity production averaged roughly 12 billion kWh per year. The expansion of electricity output was held back, though, by inadequate transmission equipment and inadequate pricing and cost recovery. Given these factors, Kyrgyzstan commenced the privatization of its energy utility in 1998. The process came to a conclusion in early 2001. The goal of the privatization was to separate regulatory functions from energy production and sales. As a result of the strategy to separate the various energy functions and shift to a cost-recovery basis for energy production, there have been significant increases in electricity and district heating costs. Loans and credits with the World Bank and other multilateral development banks are earmarked to reduce the social costs of the transition to a privatized energy sector.

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