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President Tokayev focuses on economic diversification and greener economy at Foreign Investors’ Council

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Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (pictured) spoke about the need for greater economic diversification and greener solutions in the economy at the 33rd session of the Foreign Investors’ Council hosted June 10 by the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan, reported the Akorda press service, writes Assel Satubaldina in Business.President Tokayev and senior officials during the meeting. Photo credit: Akorda press service

The session was attended by senior Kazakh officials, heads of large multinational companies, heads of government agencies and representatives of international organizations.

The council that consists of heads of 37 large transnational companies and international organizations as well as heads of key ministries has served as an important platform for connecting major foreign investors in Kazakhstan and the government and helping the nation to improve the investment climate.  

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This year’s meeting focused on boosting noncommodity exports as well as post-crisis tax incentives, human capital development, subsoil use and digitization. 

“Kazakhstan, as an economic system, cannot rely only on domestic investment, domestic demand and export of raw materials. Our country will continue the policy to ensure the most favorable environment to attract quality foreign investments. We are determined to maintain our leadership in the region and in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS),” said Tokayev in his opening remarks. 

He stressed the need to develop exports of processed products, which, as he described, is a guarantee against volatile prices for raw materials, an indicator of the economy’s capacity to produce quality demanded goods and services.

Over the past year, global trade suffered from dramatic losses. Kazakhstan’s foreign trade turnover was down 13 percent last year amounting to $85 billion. 

Despite this downward trend, Kazakhstan’s noncommodity exports showed a lesser decrease of 2.8 percent to $15 billion and foreign direct investments made $18 billion. 

Last year saw the implementation of 41 investment projects worth $1.6 billion and involving foreign investors. 

“As the global economy recovers, Kazakhstan is also on its path to economic recovery. Our government forecasts the growth to be at least 3.5 percent and we expect the possibility of higher growth,” said Tokayev. From L to R: Kazakh PM Askar Mamin, Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi and Minister of Trade and Integration Bakhyt Sultanov. Photo credit: Akorda press service.

Exports remain a priority for the Kazakh economy, said Tokayev, noting that the utmost potential is yet to be unlocked for Kazakhstan. 

The target for Central Asia’s largest economy is $41 billion of noncommodity exports by 2025. To support this target, Kazakhstan allocated nearly $1.2 billion. 

Tokayev agreed with the Asian Development Bank proposal to digitize the export support system.

“We have to agree that digital transformation reduces trade costs, especially for small and medium-sized businesses. The Ministry of Trade (and Integration) and Digital Development (Innovations and Aerospace Industry) should formulate proposals together with the Asian Development Bank,” said Tokayev.

Boosting agricultural exports

The participants noted Kazakhstan could benefit from developing and promoting agricultural exports. Vast natural resources allow the country to be a world leader in the exports of agricultural products, but more could be done. 

Ashok Lavasa, Vice-President for Private Sector Operations and Public-Private Partnerships at the Asian Development Bank, said that the sector could serve as a driver of economic growth. Ashok Lavasa from the ADB during a video conference. Photo credit: Akorda press service

“The agribusiness sector is crucial to enabling more economic growth, job creation, and economic diversification. While agribusiness has enjoyed substantial government subsidies, this has yet to lead to substantive gains in productivity. The sector’s competitiveness and access to market-based financing with suitable tenors should be enhanced,” he said. 

Greater railway connectivity 

During the session, Tokayev also spoke about the need to boost Kazakhstan’s railway system. In 2020, the volume of transit rail transportation grew by 17 percent.  

Five international railway corridors pass through the territory of Kazakhstan, which gives an opportunity to the country to capitalize on its strategic geographic location.

91 percent of containers transported in 2020 through the territory of Kazakhstan accounted for the China-Europe-China route. 

“We can surely say that Kazakhstan has really become a key link in overland transportation between Asia and Europe. Kazakhstan is an important and reliable partner in implementing China’s Belt and Road project,” said Tokayev. 

But the efficiency and quality of transport and logistics services should be improved, including at Khorgos. 

Greener technologies 

Tokayev reaffirmed the country’s commitment to introducing cleaner technologies and accelerating the efforts as the country transitions to a green economy. 

Kazakhstan has great opportunities in this area, according to Andy Baldwin, EY Global Managing Partner – Client Service.

“In the context of the inevitable decarbonization and reorientation of investments in «clean» technologies, Kazakhstan has a unique opportunity to create and boost non-commodity exports. With the right modeling and development strategy, you can turn the changes taking place in the world to your advantage and be ready for them in order to remain competitive in the coming decades,” he said. The meeting participants. Photo credit: Akorda press service

Paving a way to sustainable goals could help Kazakhstan in its effort to boost non commodity exports, according to Joerg Bongartz, Deutsche Bank CEO for Northern and Eastern Europe, which could be done through the implementation of the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles.

“ESG principles are key components of long-term value and business resiliency, as they are implemented in the strategy and measured on long-term development. In the last few years, investors around the world are increasingly paying attention not only to the financial and production performance of a company but also to the extent to which its activities correspond to the ESG principles,” said Bongartz.

Renewable energy

Last week, President Tokayev revised the country’s target – bringing the share of renewable energy in the nation’s total energy grid to 15 percent by 2030 – instead of the previous ten percent.

To achieve this goal, the national legislation should be changed, said Eurasian Resources Group Chair Alexander Mashkevich. Exempting power-generating organizations that use renewable energy sources and their direct consumers from power transmission services payments could be a solution. 

“This will not have a significant impact on the power transmission organizations and KEGOC (Kazakhstan’s major electricity operator), but it will give a significant boost to renewable energy development. In the future, given our country’s wealth of renewable energy resources (such as wind and solar), clean energy in various forms may become an export product of Kazakhstan, especially as part of the creation of a common energy market within the Eurasian Economic Union,” said Mashkevich

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Artwork of young Kazakhstanis presented in Luxembourg

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The Kazakh diaspora gathered recently for the meet-up of friends of Kazakhstan and for the exhibition of artworks by young Kazakhstanis called 'The world through the eyes of the children of Kazakhstan'. The event is part of the celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the Independence of Kazakhstan and was attended by representatives of the ministry of foreign affairs of Luxembourg, business and culture circles, public organizations of Luxembourg, as well as Kazakhs living in Luxembourg.

It was organized by the Embassy of Kazakhstan, the Kazakhstan-Luxembourg Association, and the Ayalagan Alaqan, a Public Charitable Foundation from Kazakhstan. Taking into account the importance of preserving and developing ties of the diaspora with Kazakhstan, the meetings of Kazakhs in Luxembourg are becoming a tradition.

During the meeting, Nurgul Tursyn, the president of the Kazakhstan-Luxembourg Association, spoke about the contribution of the Association in promoting the image of Kazakhstan abroad, as well as other events, aimed at enhancing cultural and humanitarian ties between the two countries.

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In his welcoming speech, Miras Andabayev, the Minister-Counsellor of the Embassy, noted that the Ayalagan Alaqan Foundation is carrying out very important work, demonstrating the creativity of Kazakhstani children who are distinguished by special talent, as well as a positive energy coming from their paintings.

The exhibition of drawings of young Kazakhstanis made a strong impression on the guests of the event, who noted that the works of children embody the state of their inner world and the desire to learn. "Looking at these drawings, we can say that these children love their country, city, the animals. They strive to learn about the world around them, and even space," one of the guests noted.

The Ayalagan Alaqan Foundation, led by Rada Khairusheva, has been organizing similar exhibitions around the world in cooperation with the Еmbassies of Kazakhstan in India, the UAE, Armenia, Latvia, France, and is currently working on other exhibitions to familiarize the international community with the creativity of young Kazakhstanis with disabilities and special educational needs.

Source – Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Kingdom of Belgium

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Kazakhstan

Nur-Sultan and Brussels step up dialogue in the human-rights sphere

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At the initiative of the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Belgium, Kazakhstan Human Rights Commissioner H.E. Elvira Azimova, held video talks with H.E. Mr. Eamon Gilmore, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights. During the conversation, the two parties discussed a broad range of issues of mutual interest for Kazakhstan and the European Commission.

Azimova informed Gilmore and his colleagues in detail about the work carried out by her office to protect civil rights and freedoms in Kazakhstan, as well as about interaction with official agencies and NGOs. In this regard, the two sides discussed various forms of co-operation between the offices of the Commissioner for Human Rights in Kazakhstan and the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, including within the framework of the existing EU-Kazakhstan and EU-Central Asia dialogue mechanisms in the human dimension.

The colleagues also exchanged views on the results of Azimova’s first working trip to Brussels in mid-July 2021, including her bilateral agreements with the leadership and members of the relevant structures of the European Parliament.

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Source – Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Kingdom of Belgium

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Kazakhstan

Voters go to rural polls for first time in Kazakhstan

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Voters in Kazakhstan's rural districts went to the polls at the weekend in keenly-awaited local elections that are seen as a further step in the country’s road to a fully functioning democracy, writes Colin Stevens.

For the first time ever, people in villages, settlements and small towns got the chance to elect  local leaders, or akims (mayors).

A total of 2,297 candidates competed for 730 mayoral seats. The final list was reduced from an initial 2,582 candidates. The formal results are expected to be announced later this week.

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Under a new system introduced by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, any citizen aged 25 years and over could run for the post of local mayor.A total of 878 of candidates, or 38.2 per cent, represented one of the country’s mainstream political parties but, crucially, more than 60% of the candidates, a total of 1,419, ran as independents rather than with the backing of a political party.

According to experts, the most active residents were from the East Kazakhstan and Zhambyl regions, where the voter turnout exceeded 90 percent. Whereas, the lowest number of voters was in Almaty region. The voting was monitored by more than 2,000 observers. However, they did not report any serious violations.

Observers say that the elections have created additional opportunities for active citizens to realize their potential and that the presidential political reforms have sparked keen interest in Kazak society.

The elections are seen as a key step in efforts to gradually liberalise Kazakhstan's political system, which has for almost three decades been dominated by the presidency.

Tokayev came to power in 2019 after the surprise resignation of Nursultan Nazarbayev who had run the nation of 19 million since independence and the elections honour a key pledge he made at the time.

A well placed source at the Kazakhstan embassy to the EU told this website the elections of rural akims was “a very important moment which opens a new stage of political modernization in our country.”

The election campaign had partly focused on both the health and economic implications that arise from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Much of the campaigning took place online on social media, as the current situation is subject to pandemic restrictions. But it is also hoped that this can give a real new impetus of digital political democratisation for the young generations as half of the Kazakh population is under the age of 30.

The president announced the initiative to hold local elections in his address to the nation last year and less than a year has passed to this becoming a reality.

The Kazak source went on: “The elections of rural akims opens up new opportunities for citizens to directly influence the development of their settlements. They form new long-term principles in the functioning of the public administration system and qualitatively change the nature of relations between state and society.”

The election campaign had reportedly aroused wide interest among citizens and cultivated increased political competition. The high number of independent candidates was particularly notable.

“In general, these local elections will contribute to the further democratization of the country,” added the source.

The source stressed the “strategic importance” of the elections, saying they marked “serious institutional changes” in the system of local government in the country.

“Along with the adoption of a new law on peaceful assemblies and the liberalization of legislation on elections, the introduction of direct election of akims contributes to an increase in the political culture and political participation of Kazakhstanis.”

It is also hoped, he said, that the elections will also pave the way for a new generation of civil servants and improvements to the state apparatus.

“All this together will provide positive impetus to the further development of the local government system and is a progressive change in the country.They clearly show that the president’s initiatives and decisions are gradually being implemented and enjoy broad support in society.”

He points out 10 new laws on political reforms have already been adopted since the president came to power and several more are in the pipeline.

Further comment comes from Axel Goethals, CEO at the Brussels based European Institute for Asian Studies, who believes the elections  “will continue the steady progress towards a more coherent democratic structure in the nation”.

Goethals told this site the elections should be seen as a process of ‘controlled democratisation’ and it was encouraging to see “signs of improvement” which include a “fledgling multi party system and the move towards more complete representation and political competition”.

Goethals added: “Kazakhstan under President Tokayev has also made very positive inroads into increasing general representation and civil society participation in its democratic process.This election and voting process must be considered in a broader context of a country still evolving. As a former Soviet state, Kazakhstan is slowly moving towards a more open democratic system. This is a process which cannot happen overnight and requires a more gradual approach to avoid abrupt or forced changes which could result in instability, as it is also part of a learning curve of democratisation for the voters, the candidates, the political parties as well as for the institutions in Kazakhstan.

“President Tokayev has shown real commitment and determination in order to improve the socio-economic fabric of Kazakhstan through political modernisation. This has been built upon by the legacy and reforms initiated by his predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev, the first President of the Republic of Kazakhstan.”

Elsewhere, MEP Andris Ameriks, Vice-Chair of the Central Asian delegation in the European Parliament, told EU Reporter:  “The results of the elections are highly important for Kazakhstan.

“At a time when the whole world is still struggling with a pandemic that has caused great social turmoil and provoked national governments, it is vital that these elections provide a real example of mutual trust between the people and the authorities.”

Fraser Cameron, a former  European Commission official and now director of the Brussels-based EU/Asia Centre, agrees, saying that the elections “should mark another step forward in Kazakhstan’s  steady progress towards a more open and democratic society”.

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