YOU wouldn’t think the charming, erudite founder of one of Kyrgyzstan’s leading think tanks had been arrested, detained and even jailed for peacefully protesting under the Akaev and Bakiev regimes.

But Mirsuljan Namazaliev has crammed a lot into his 25 years, and heady days of student politics which saw him and others demonstrating against shady Parliamentary election results in 2007 – landing them with three days in prison – seem a long time ago.

A writer, producer and host for NTRK television, and long-standing editor and writer for Neweurasia.net online magazine, he has also worked as an expert consultant on issues including agriculture, trade, police reform, infrastructure, and entrepreneurship for the Ministry of Economic Development of the Kyrgyz Republic, GIZ, the Swiss Office for Cooperation, the Soros Foundation, Internews Network and USAID.

In 2009 Mirsuljan graduated from Bishkek Humanities University, majoring in political science. He’s also studying for a PhD at the UK’s University of Buckingham, in political economy. It’s therefore hardly surprising to learn that he has also run for public office, in the local Parliamentary elections of December last year, albeit unsuccessfully as a candidate for the For Life Without Barriers party (now renamed Reforma), polling eighth from 21 parties.

After leaving university he co-founded and remains the Chief Executive Officer of the Central Asian Free Market Institute (CAFMI), an organisation that takes its lead from the days of the Silk Road, and researches policy solutions to promote greater regional and global trade for increased prosperity and stability.

Why? In the post-Soviet era, isn’t free trade what Central Asia inherited overnight? Mirsuljan says that the Soviet Union took over all economic freedoms of the people, but with independence the population has not yet got them back entirely. Thus, red-tape and corruption slow any economic boost. Although Kyrgyzstan has been a member of the World Trade Organisation since 1998, the country itself has not fully liberalised the economy and the investment and business climate remain very poor.

And in print, CAFMI doesn’t pull punches – a Russian-language article last year on Kyrgyzstan government borrowing and spending portrayed the administration as an ailing patient unable to prioritise measures needed for (economic) recovery.

Mirsuljan knows about working for a local success story after all, as a former employee of Kyrgyz Concept, the huge all-under-one-roof travel company, before moving on to concentrate on CAFMI and political analysis full time.

He said: “I will be part of the Reforma political party as I see that my intellectual background and expertise should help to build a classical liberal party, bring some more supporters and after all, bring positive changes to my country. I would like to become an intellectual entrepreneur, and to influence reforms that will be beneficial for all my fellow citizens. I will maybe run for Parliamentary elections in 2015 to support the liberal cause and promote real reforms. I would be very happy to be part of a team which can implement economic reforms in the country and make it prosperous in the region.”

Times of Central Asia,

May 17, 2013

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