Ambassador Donald Lu Addresses Bishkek Investment Forum

October 11, 2019

The Honorable Minister of Economy Mr. Mukanbetov, Mr. Adilbek uluu, JIA Chairman Omoshov and our host Mr. Mamashov, ladies and gentlemen,

Why is there so little American, European, Japanese and Korean trade and investment in Kyrgyzstan?  The answer is simple:  Fear of corruption. Allow me to offer some suggestions about how the Kyrgyz Government could address this issue and attract more international investment. First, how do we do know the perception of corruption is preventing investment?

Every year Transparency International conducts a survey of experts and business people in 180 countries to ask them about perceptions of corruption.  Kyrgyzstan ranks in the bottom one-third at number 132, lower than Kazakhstan, but higher than Russia.  The World Bank Governance Index gives Kyrgyzstan a score of 13 out of a possible 100 in control of corruption.

I do think the President’s campaign against corruption is helping. Kyrgyz citizens and international investors do see the prosecution of cases involving the Chinese company that worked on the ТЭЦ power plant, the Kyrgyz passport tender, and the corruption scandal over the Chinese company that built the Issyk-Kul road.

But these investigations are not enough.  Major investors want good communication and access to senior leaders. They want to see fair and independent courts. This will give them confidence they can work here without paying bribes or giving gifts.

For example, 17 years ago then-U.S. Ambassador John O’Keefe worked with the President and Prime Minister to establish a quarterly business and investment council, chaired by the President.  This council included major investors from around Kyrgyzstan, including international investors like the Hyatt, Coca-Cola, and Kumtor.  The council discussed specific business reforms and USAID paid for a secretariat to work with the government to implement the decisions of the President.

In closing, we support more American trade and investment here. We support Kyrgyz democracy.  And we support Kyrgyz economic growth.  We stand ready to support all the reforms necessary to attract new international investment.

I want to thank all of you here today for your commitment to an improved business investment climate that will promote prosperity in this beautiful and unique country.