Invest in Central Asia! If You Have a Hedge Fund!

by Joshua Foust on 10/6/2008

No author on this site will ever argue that Central Asia is critically ignored by people who really should know better. But it is rare any of us would also look at Central Asian economies (and Caucasian economies) and think: this is a safe, healthy way to invest in a promising region and get a great return. Alisher Djumanov would disagree:

Djumanov says those seeking “strong economic fundamentals” will find them in Central Asia and the Caucasus, where seven of the 20 fastest-growing economies are located.

Much of that growth reflects the region’s endowment of vast natural resources. Its riches are in great demand among nations including the so-called BRICs — Brazil, Russia, India and China. That, Djumanov argues, bodes well for Eurasian stocks.

“Economies in the region are set to continue to grow rapidly in coming years,” he says.

He’s on to something, to be sure. Both Georgia and Azerbaijan have received awards for being reformers, and Kazakhstan’s economy—despite pressure on its banking sector—has been performing adequately. Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan, however, are puzzling choices for investment: the business environments are highly corrupt, and growth potential is almost nil given the current political leadership.

So why would Djumanov be advocating this kind of investment? His company—Singapore-based Eurasia Capital Management—has about $200 million in investments across the region. He has a vested interest in selling its benefits to other investors.

But I have a deeper question: Why is William Pesek, a Bloomberg columnist, writing an entire essay based solely on talking with a single investor? It is nothing more than free advertising for ECM. That is a curious decision for a journalist to make. ECM was a co-sponsor of a recent event in Ulaan Baatar, and one of the main panels featured Pesek interviewing Djumanov in front of the assembled guests. Is that all this is? Pesek got a free trip, so he offered up column space? Who knows. But it doesn’t sit well with me.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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