This week I have temporarily returned to my former life as an economic policy trainer to work with 60 economic officials from Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan. While development contracting used to be a full-time gig for me, I left the field about five years ago and these days only take on a handful of very worthwhile projects.
For two weeks I am in Kyrgyz on the shores of Lake Issy-Kul. For those considering Silk Road tourism, Kyrgyz looks like a combination of Mars and Kamloops.
Before I left Canada, I was working in the 21st century economy: patent licensing, energy exports, internet regulations, and trusted traveller programs. Today, I am struck by the challenges of largely pre-industrial societies seeking to leap-frog to the digital economy. The countries we are working with produce (for the formal economy) minerals, energy, agriculture, and migrant workers. The informal economy produces returns that rival formal exports.
How can we use the returns from the global demand for commodities to provide an equitable standard of living, education, safety, and self determination for the people of Central Asia? Seems as though good (and stable) governance has something to do with it.
This program is sponsored by the good folks at the Aga Khan Development Network and DFAIT and is produced by Carleton University, Ottawa.