Kazakhstan Chamber of Commerce in the USA

KazCham


Kazakhstan should get WTO membership in 2015 0

Posted on April 21, 2015 by KazCham

UPI

On January 1, the World Trade Organization, responsible for 97 percent of world trade, celebrated its 20th anniversary. On its website the WTO defines its role as “the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations.” The WTO polices free trade agreements, settles trade disputes between governments and organizes trade negotiations and, most significantly, WTO decisions are absolute and every member must abide by its rulings.

Of the 15 independent nations that emerged from the breakup of the USSR in 1991, only Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan remain outside the WTO, a situation that Kazakhstan, the ninth largest country in the world, the second-biggest former Soviet republic and the largest economy in Central Asia, hopes to rectify later this year.

There are many yardsticks to evaluate Kazakhstan’s changes. When the USSR collapsed in December 1991, Kazakhstan inherited the fourth largest nuclear arsenal in the world after Russia, the United States and Ukraine as well as a centrally planned economy emphasizing armaments production, directed from Moscow. Kazakhstan’s government renounced nuclear weapons and by April 1995 had transferred all of its nuclear warheads to Russia, winning international plaudits. The nation’s efforts to move away from its inherited centrally planned economy to a free market model globally integrated have been no less impressive, if much less heralded, which membership in the WTO is intended to crown.

It has certainly been a long process, as Kazakhstan’s application to join the WTO was submitted on January 29, 1996, less than five years after achieving full independence from the Soviet Union. The WTO on February 6, 1996 established a Working Party for Kazakhstan’s admission to the organization.

But, 19 years after Kazakhstan expressed its desire to join the WTO, the country is still waiting to see its membership approved, while Kyrgyzstan (1998), Latvia (1999), Estonia (1999), Georgia (2000), Lithuania (2001), Moldova (2001), Armenia (2003), Ukraine (2008), Russia (2012) and Tajikistan (2013) have all joined the trade organization ahead of it.

Kazakhstan, along with Belarus and Uzbekistan, remain “Observer governments” with pending applications, leaving only Turkmenistan as the sole post-Soviet state uninterested in WTO membership. In contrast to Kazakhstan’s prolonged WTO application Kyrgyzstan, from WTO application to membership, took only two years and four months.

The Kazakh economy is rich in natural resources including oil, natural gas, and minerals. With its significant geopolitical location, Kazakhstan also serves as a strategic entry point to the rest of Central Asia and borders regional powers such as Russia and China.

Such opportunities would be welcome as the recent dramatic fall in global oil prices has inflicted substantial economic hardship. Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov has emphasized how important WTO membership is to Kazakhstan, remarking, “This is a balancer of our global economic relations. Through the WTO, we will get access to an extensive global trading system, to its standards, rules and regulations. These same rules and regulations will apply to Kazakhstan in its trade with other countries. So, for us the WTO is a signifier of growth, which we are consistently working towards.”

The Working Party on Kazakhstan’s accession to the WTO consists of 39 WTO member-states with the 28 European Union (EU) member states involved as a single entity. Kazakhstan has already signed bilateral trade protocols with 30 WTO member-states, including the U.S. and the EU and by the end of 2011 had completed bilateral negotiations with all of its Working Party members.

Since the WTO was created in 1995, the U.S. administration has used the Geneva-based group to help resolve a growing number of disputes, rather than attempting to impose sanctions unilaterally, an option that in many cases is illegal under WTO regulations. To become members, candidate countries must agree to cut tariffs and change their laws to guarantee the rights of importers and exporters under WTO rules.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has long been sanguine about what WTO membership would mean for Kazakhstan. Speaking on Feb. 27, 1999 about the World Trade Organization he commented about the aspirations of post-Soviet nations, “We are all holding talks, and we all want to join. But anyone who joins accepts certain conditions. He opens his own borders up fully and paves the way for a flood of Western goods into that country. In other words, regardless of whether we want to develop our own industries inside our own countries, Western goods will fill our markets up very cheaply, and our enterprises will stop producing. In that case, agreeing to open up fully — let anyone who wants to bring his goods into our country — threatens to cause unemployment and the shutdown of our enterprises.”

While a number of WTO members welcomed progress in Kazakhstan’s accession negotiations they still expressed serious concerns about the absence of inputs and progress in tariff adjustment, regulations and practices governing sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures and WTO-inconsistent trade-related investment measures (TRIMS), including those in state-owned enterprises.

Another stumbling block for Kazakhstan’s WTO admission is its commitment to the Customs Union (CU) that it formed in 2010 with Russia and Belarus, which on January 1, 2015 became the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). The CU led to a rise in some trade tariffs disputes with other nations, subsequently requiring new discussions about the conditions of its WTO entry. In June 2010 EU foreign policy chiefCatherine Ashton warned that the CU might harm international trade and pose “an additional barrier fencing Astana, Minsk and Moscow off from the WTO.”

It is difficult to see these objections as anything other than a stalling tactic, however, as the activities of other international regional trading entities, including the EU and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) do not preclude or inhibit WTO activity. Despite this, seeing darker ulterior motives in the EEU beyond mere economics, a September 29, 2013 Washington Post editorial warned that the “Moscow-led customs union… would be an E.U. rival – and a means of realizing Mr. Putin’s dream of recreating something like the Soviet Union.”

More recently, objections have arisen among Kazakhstan Working Party members even though, in a rare display of bilateral accord in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis, both the U.S. and Russia support Kazakhstan’s accession as soon as possible, along with the EU and China. On a visit last month to northeastern Kazakhstan Deputy Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev remarked, “We have almost completed all the preparations and the negotiation processes for the accession into the WTO. But we still have some unresolved issues with Mongolia and Ukraine.” As a WTO Working Party has to make a unanimous recommendation to the General Council for admission, Kazakhstan’s admission is being sidetracked yet again.

These delays do not only impact Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is situated in the heart of the Eurasian continent so it could serve as a transit route from East to West and from South to North and has spent billions on developing its railways and roads with the aim of Eurasia transit hub, which will benefit all of its neighbors – China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, transforming the country from “land-locked” to “land-linked.” Looking at the future, Kazakhstan has launched its new Strategy 2050 to become one of the 30 most competitive nations in the world by 2050.

On November 25, 2014 WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said that negotiations with Kazakhstan “are at an advanced stage of maturity and on the threshold of conclusion,” adding that a formal decision should be announced in early 2015. Given Azevêdo’s comments and the fact that it is now early 2015, Kazakhstan’s long effort to join the WTO seems on the verge of being fulfilled, an event that will not only benefit Kazakhstan, but all nations along the reviving Silk Road.

Dr. John C.K. Daly is a non-resident Senior Scholar at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington DC.

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Ambassador Umarov takes a Tour of Silicon Valley companies 0

Posted on April 18, 2015 by KazCham

Palo Alto Online

Kairat Umarov, Ambassador of Kazakhstan in the U.S., went on a tour of the Tesla car company’s headquarters, along with 34 other foreign ambassadors.  He was on a three-day tour, from March 29 to April 2, of Silicon Valley to learn how emerging technologies in the area might help their countries. In his meetings with business executives, he told about the vast opportunities for American high-tech companies in the context of Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy and “Nurly Zhol” infrastructure modernization program and EXPO 2017 with the theme “Future Energy”.

The Diplomatic Corps members visited incubator 500 Startups, the Khan Academy, Airbnb and  the Napa Valley Vintners among other organizations.

Several ambassadors were interested in Tesla’s energy-storage innovations, which enables its electric vehicles to charge quickly within a half hour. Most of them were curious about the potential of clean energy in their country and how Bay Area companies could lead to more jobs in their own countries.

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US and Kazakhstan Agree on Removal of Highly Enriched Uranium 0

Posted on April 17, 2015 by KazCham

Mining Weekly

Semiautonomous US government agency the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) plans to work with Kazakhstan, Russia and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to return about 50 kg of highly enriched uranium (HEU) to Russia, thereby removing all HEU research reactor fuel from Kazakhstan.

The DOE/NNSA on Jan 7, 2015, announced that 36 kg of HEU spent fuel had been removed from the Institute of Nuclear Physics (INP), in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

The HEU was transported by means of two air shipments to a secure facility in Russia for permanent disposal.

This complex operation was the culmination of a multiyear effort between the US, Kazakhstan, Russia and the IAEA, with the countries sharing a long history of cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation issues.

DOE/NNSA deputy administrator Anne Harrington states that the removal of this HEU is yet another example of how the international community continues to work together to prevent the threat of nuclear terrorism.

“This cooperation reduces the [possibility] that such material can fall into the hands of terrorists.”

Meanwhile, in September, about 10 kg of HEU fresh fuel was returned to Russia from the INP. The HEU was shipped to a facility in Russia where it will be downblended to low-enriched uranium (LEU).

The DOE/NNSA and the INP have also cooperated to return more than 70 kg of HEU spent fuel to Russia and to downblend more than 30 kg of HEU fresh fuel at the Ulba metallurgical facility, in Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan.

Further, the DOE/NNSA and the INP are also working together to convert the INP’s research reactor from using HEU fuel to running on LEU fuel.

Additional cooperation between the US and Kazakhstan includes improving security for nuclear and radiological materials, constructing a nuclear security training centre at the INP that will serve Kazakhstan’s entire nuclear industry, developing nuclear security curricula, providing radiation detection equipment at Kazakhstan ports of entry as well as associated training and support for the sustainment of equipment, and cooperating on the implementation of safeguarding and training for Kazakhstani officials on export controls.

 

Ambassador Umarov takes a Tour of Silicon Valley companies under State Department’s Experience America Program

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2015 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS 0

Posted on April 15, 2015 by KazCham

An interview with Jonathan Aitken on Kazakh Elections

The Times of Central Asia

Jonathan Aitken (in the photo) has given an exclusive interview to The Times of Central Asia about his books on Kazakhstan; British trade with the natural resource-rich Central Asian country; government reforms; and media reporting of the region.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan is right to hold a snap election in April this year instead of 2016, his biographer Jonathan Aitken has said.

The former Minister of State for Defence Procurement and Chief Secretary to the Treasury said that most British governments of the past 30 years had called elections well before their expiry, and referred to how US president Ronald Reagan had been in office during his seventies.

Mr Aitken said: “President Nazarbayev wants to see a stable Kazakhstan and [an early election] is probably right, it’s not necessary to allow every presidential term run out to its full limit. As it comes to the end of the term people ask what’s going to happen next with the succession, you get speculation which can lead to some instability. The father of this country has got a few more miles to go yet. Most Kazakhstanis would give three cheers that he’s not cutting and running.”

The author of “Nazarbayev and the Making of Kazakhstan”; “Kazakhstan and Twenty Years of Independence”; as well as a biography of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, added that Central Asia had a recent history of instability, citing the 2005 and 2010 revolutions in Kyrgyzstan.

Mr Aitken added that media reporting of Central Asia, and particularly Kazakhstan, often displayed an ignorance of the region.

He said: “The British media is lazy and often quite unjustifiably hostile to all Central Asian countries, and Kazakhstan in particular. To call President Nazarbayev a dictator is just irresponsible reporting. He’s a strong leader, at times an autocratic leader, and largely these qualities are what Kazakhstan needs.”

Mr Aitken said that the United Nations (UN) had also made errors when reporting on Kazakhstan. He gave the example of a draft UN report that claimed a prison allegedly masquerading as a tuberculosis (TB) hospital was in reality a torture chamber – an allegation that he saw to be false when he visited the institution, having contracted TB himself as a child and spending three years as an inpatient on a TB ward in a hospital in Dublin, Ireland. The allegation was later removed from the final UN report, he said.

Prison reform is a subject particularly close to Mr Aitken’s heart — he served a seven month prison sentence in the UK for perjury and now also works as a prison reformer both in Britain and abroad. He said that under President Nazarbayev Kazakhstan’s prison population had halved, through moves such as putting offenders on probation rather than suspended sentences.

Mr Aitken said that, contrary to media portrayals of the President as a dictator, in reality he listens to and acts on public opinion – and that many of his reforms had received the approval of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), though to a lesser extent with international think tanks.

Turning to British-Kazakhstan trade, Mr Aitken pointed to success stories such as the creation of the country’s principal airline, Air Astana, and London-based auditors PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ work in Kazakhstan, but said that the global fall in oil prices would affect trade.

According to the UK government, British business with Kazakhstan centres on the service sector, providing expertise in the oil and gas industries; financial and legal sectors; healthcare; architecture; and education – with British teachers and schools such as Haileybury establishing themselves  in the country — and was worth over half a billion GBP in 2013.

Mr Aitken said: “British business has done a lot in Kazakhstan, but could have done a good deal better with hard exports sales. The Kazakhstanis and the British get on rather well and now trust each other after a while, it’s quite a good relationship. The fall in oil prices has led to a belt-tightening — I expect British-Kazakhstani trade to be good, but not spectacular, and think we’ll do better in the agricultural sector; the medical field; civil engineering; education; and in the professional services sector in law and accounting.”

He added that, if he was back in the British government, the first thing he would do would be to get to know Kazakhstan even better and find out what its people wanted, and match that to what British businesses are good at providing – EXPO 2017, scheduled to take place in Astana, would also be a good opportunity.

While researching his books on Kazakhstan, Mr Aitken said that he had been tremendously impressed by the many young people he had met and talked with all over the country, such as students and recent graduates.

He said: “One of the most exciting things about Kazakhstan is that it’s a young country. President Nazarbayev has invested in the brains and talents of the rising generation through the Bolashak scholarships, new universities and schools.

“I particularly like Astana, where everyone seems to be the same age as my son or grandson, and from many different backgrounds. Astana is a huge creation of President Nazarbayev, right up there as a capital with Washington DC, Ottawa, Canberra, or Brazilia.”

Mr Aitken said that while at the Ministry of Defence in the early 1990s he had been impressed by the statesmanship President Nazarbayev had shown during nuclear disarmament negotiations following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and which first stirred thoughts of a potential biography subject.

He said: “We knew from intelligence that the likes of Gadaffi were approaching governments for their nuclear weapons. President Nazarbayev didn’t want to be doing a sinister deal and instead made arrangements with either the US or Russia – he considered all this with a vision which really said: ‘I want Kazakhstan to be a partner, a member of the international family, I don’t want us to be a rogue state’. He played a straight bat, a fair game of cricket.”

Kazakhstan’s first President is the only leader of the former Soviet states to create a successful economy and society from scratch, Mr Aitken added, a triumph of nation-building in the face of difficulties that was comparable with the achievement of Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew.

Would Mr Aitken consider writing a biography of another Central Asian leader? He responded that, with the potential for another term as President, an update to his biography might be necessary.

He said: “President Nazarbayev is the greatest figure to emerge from Central Asia. He’s making it work, and he’s going to keep on making it work, and deserves the title of father of his country – he had the vision, and energy, and political will, to secure Kazakhstan’s borders with Russia and China, and I can’t think of anyone else who could have done the deal with Yeltsin on Caspian oil.

“I think Kazakhstan, with the huge markets of Asia on its doorstep, is a country with a golden future.”

This article does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Times of Central Asia

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Renewed U.S. Policy on Central Asia 0

Posted on April 13, 2015 by KazCham

Astana Times

Over two days last week, three events – academic and political – in Washington D.C. addressed geopolitics and strategy in Kazakhstan and Central Asia, following the news that the United States had recently completed an interagency review of its policy for the region.

Both Richard Hoagland, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, speaking at Georgetown University on March 30, and Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, addressing the Brookings Institution on March 31, reassured listeners of their country’s plans to remain engaged in the region as international troops leave Afghanistan and stressed that increasing Chinese investment in the region complements U.S. goals.

Also on March 31, three academics from Almaty’s Al-Farabi University spoke at a Johns Hopkins University Central Asia-Caucasus Institute panel about their nation’s security in a complex geopolitical context.

In his remarks, Blinken dismissed fears that Central Asia would be less important to the U.S. after the troop withdrawal, and said instead that the U.S. “wants to broaden and deepen our bilateral relationships with each of the states in Central Asia.” American Central Asian policy today is based on two ideas, he said: that a stable, secure Central Asia engaged in battling extremism enhances America’s security, and that the region will achieve stability through the development of individual strong, sovereign, connected, accountable states.

“Today, we have three important objectives for our engagement with each of the Central Asian states: strengthening partnerships to advance mutual security; forging closer economic ties; and advancing and advocating for improved governance and human rights,” Blinken said.

The U.S. is supporting efforts around the region to enhance border security and anti-trafficking efforts, Blinken said. He highlighted the new Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty the U.S. signed with Kazakhstan in February as a security milestone, and praised the country for its nonproliferation efforts, as well as for funding the Afghan National Security Forces and police and providing scholarships for 1,000 Afghans to study at Kazakh universities.

Economically, he said, the U.S. supports Kazakhstan’s efforts to join the World Trade Organisation, along with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which are already WTO members, a goal he said he expected to be realised this year. He also noted that Kazakhstan would host an investment forum for U.S. companies in the summer.

The region still has a long way to go toward creating “open, cooperative and connected” markets, Blinken said. The U.S. is helping this process along through its New Silk Road initiative, which has so far supported business contact programmes, streamlining border procedures, building or rehabilitating roads, developing energy infrastructure connecting Central and South Asia and other efforts, according to the State Department website.

Hoagland described American-Central Asian engagement similarly, referencing “four critical areas of cooperation and concentration in Central Asia – security cooperation, economic ties, promotion of human rights and good governance, and efforts to bolster each country’s sovereignty and independence.” He also noted that the U.S. does not see Central Asia as a monolith, a viewpoint Kazakhstan has repeatedly challenged in global strategies dealing with its neighbourhood, most recently advising a more country-specific EU Strategy for Central Asia.

Both speakers addressed Chinese, Iranian and Russian involvement in the region. Iran was noted as a country with significant cultural connections to the region and also with an interest in cooperating on trade, water and other issues. Both officials said China’s involvement was not viewed “in zero-sum terms,” but on the contrary, as complementary to U.S. efforts. Hoagland commented that the U.S. was consulting with China on ways to collaborate in the region.

“We see an important role for China in supporting the transition in Afghanistan and advancing its own integration into the broader Asia region,” said Blinken.

The U.S. is “committed to leveraging our own economic tools to help Central Asia diversify their economies and interlink their markets,” to help offset the impact of Russian and Western sanctions, he said.

“We do not ask any country to choose ties with the U.S. to the exclusion of anyone else. We reject the false choices imposed by anyone else. We fully support the aspirations of Central Asian states to pursue a multi-vector foreign and economic policy,” Blinken said. Hoagland also went out of his way to state that American soft diplomacy does not have as its goal so called “colour revolutions.”

Both U.S. officials said that they would not tell countries not to join the new Eurasian Economic Union of Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, simply that the union should be open and non-politicised.

At the Johns Hopkins CACI forum, speakers Karimzhan Shakirov, dean of International Relations at Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, and professors Fatima Kukeyeva and Kuralai Baizakova of the same school, addressed security issues, primarily events in Ukraine, the development of Afghanistan and the impact of the new EAEU.

“[A]nti-Russian sentiment in Kazakhstan has spread very little, despite the negative assessment of the public opinion of the civil war in Ukraine,” Kukeyeva noted, saying, “Kazakhstan is an example of peaceful coexistence and cooperation of Muslim and the Slavic population in its northern regions of Akmola, Pavlodar, Kostanai and Northern Kazakhstan … .” Government support for ethnic and linguistic diversity supports this coexistence, she said. The main problem Ukraine presents for Central Asian nations is economic, she pointed out, with Russia’s troubled economy affecting its neighbours.

What is perceived as a more serious threat is the possible emergence of a new wave of radicalism as a result of refugee and migration flows, Baizakova noted, as well as the possibility of Central Asian extremist religious movements finding fertile ground in an unstable Afghanistan.

Solutions to Afghanistan’s problems must be historically and culturally rooted, she said, and the rest of the world should show restraint and not intervene directly in internal Afghan affairs. Instead, socio-economic cooperation programmes supported by the U.S., the EU, Japan and China as well as countries with fewer resources, are needed. “Central Asian countries should develop friendly bilateral relations not only with the central government, but also with local authorities,” she said, and develop a regional dialogue on Afghanistan with China, Pakistan, India, and Iran.

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BIKE AWAY THE ATOMIC BOMB 0

Posted on April 12, 2015 by KazCham

BIKE AWAY THE ATOMIC BOMB

Monday, April 20, 2015 from 5 pm to 7 pm

(Reception at 5 pm followed by the Main Program at 5:30 pm)

The Embassy of Kazakhstan in Washington, D.C., and Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) are proud to announce the “Bike Away the Atomic Bomb”, a community bike ride event in Washington, D.C., to raise awareness of the horrors and dangers of nuclear weapons and testing.

“Bike Away the Atomic Bomb” is organized by “The ATOM Project”, “Mayors for Peace” and “Bike for Peace”. These organizations share a common goal – reduce (preferably eliminate) the greatest threat to mankind: nuclear weapons.  “Bike Away the Atomic Bomb” aims to bring attention to the nonproliferation issues by cycling trough US cities starting from Washington, DC to the Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference at the UN Headquarters, New York.

The “Bike Away the Atomic Bomb” project is a continuation of last year’s bike ride by “Mayors for Peace” which peddled the world in 72 days metting with civic leaders and activists from different countries, as well as Pope Francis and Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

The D.C. ride includes Honorary Ambassador of The ATOM Project and recognized armless painter Mr. Karipbek Kuyukov, Mr. Thore Vestby, Mayor of Frogn, Norway, Mr. Svein Arne Jorstad, Mayor of Kvinesdal, Norway, Famous Kazakh skier and 1994 Winter Olympics Champion Vladimir Smirnov, and Vice President of “Mayors for Peace”.

The keynote address will be delivered by Ambassador Kairat Umarov.

The event will be moderated by Armen Sahakyan, SAIS Vice President of Russia and Eurasia Club.

Please register here.

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President Nazarbayev Announces Five Key Reforms 0

Posted on March 22, 2015 by KazCham

Astana Times

Incumbent Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on March 11 accepted the Nur Otan party’s nomination to be the party’s candidate in the April 26 early presidential election and laid out his policy priorities for another term.

In accepting the nomination, Nazarbayev noted the achievements of independent Kazakhstan and presented new approaches and policies, including those in the new Nurly Zhol economic policy, which is aimed at addressing global challenges.

“Firstly, avoid negative impacts from external factors on state-building. Secondly, maintain the momentum of development. Third, provide the conditions for further development. Fourth, continue advancing toward joining the 30 [most-developed] countries in the world,” he said.

Amid economic crises, falling oil prices and geopolitical instability, Nazarbayev stressed the need for non-standard and strong responses to global challenges to Kazakhstan statehood, putting forward institutional reforms in five key areas: establishing a modern, professional and autonomous state apparatus; solidifying the rule of law; achieving industrialisation and economic growth based on diversification; unifying as a single nation for the future; and functioning as a transparent and accountable government.

He underlined that in conjunction these reforms would strengthen the state and facilitate its entry into the 30 most-developed countries in the world.

“The five institutional reforms are the five steps, which the country should take in that order. Only in this case, our reforms will be effective and the society and the state will be united and stable. All successful states went through this path,” Nazarbayev said.

“It is a way to implement the Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy. Each of the five institutional reforms is a huge task and [important] for the country. The success of these reforms can be achieved only with the firm will of the government and the people. The proposed measures will radically change the system of social relations. To carry them out, I propose to establish a National Commission on Modernisation under the President. It will coordinate the implementation of the whole set of reforms. Thus, our central task in the forthcoming years is to start and gradually implement these five institutional reforms,” he added.

Elaborating on the reforms, he underlined the significance of overhauling the civil service, noting that it should be “professional and autonomous” and based on a career model rather than the current positional one. Nazarbayev also highlighted the need to toughen requirements for judges and increase the responsibility of police officers toward the people as it would create conditions for implementing economic reforms to establish a solid middle class.

“The middle class should be considered as the basis of the Kazakhstan nation and the source forming a professional state apparatus. It is the driving force, the most interested in the rule of law, accountability to the people and the country’s stability. Therefore, it is a broad middle class that is the core of the formation of national identity,” he said.

Addressing industrialisation, Nazarbayev underlined existing distortions in the system of state support for agriculture and proposed implementing approximately 10 large-scale projects involving multinational companies in the processing industry.

Other transformations will affect simplification of the tariff policy in the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union, diversification of the economy, development of small- and medium-sized businesses in the service sector and introducing legislation of the special status of Almaty as a regional and international finance centre.

The President also touched upon intercultural and inter-ethnic accord, a highly relevant issue for the country, which includes more than 130 nationalities. In Mr. Nazarbayev’s opinion, the simultaneous use of Kazakh, Russian and English were a key to success in preserving harmony and enhancing the competitiveness of the multinational society of Kazakhstan.

 

New Run in Kazakhstan?

Eurasia Review

On April 26 Kazakhstan will vote to choose the next president, as a way to respond to global economic and regional socio-political crisis. On February 25 Nursultan Nazarbayev took the decision to hold advanced poll, one year before the natural end of term of office, after that many state officials called for new election.

The proposal came from the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan (APK), an institutional body that represents ethnic groups of the country. Soon after, it was the presidential party Nur Otan to back the idea, followed by the Prime Minister and by the two houses of Parliament. Almost all political spectrum supported the initiative, with the declared intention to extend Nazarbayev’s mandate as president of the country, in order to let him, according to APK, “successfully steer the country in this period of global trials”.

Nazarbayev, indeed, still enjoys a widespread popularity in the country. In 2011 he was re-elected with an overwhelmingly majority and no real alternative from opposition emerged during the last years, due to the fact that the presidential bloc is still united.

However, even if at a first glance the call for early election seems to say nothing new about the Central Asian country, the events of the last days reveal much about the political choices of the last months.
With the decision to hold an advance poll, Kazakh political establishment intends to prevent the deterioration of national social climate and to breathe new life into economic reforms.

Modernization and political stability are key issues for Kazakhstan, especially if we consider that these two elements act as forces of consolidation of a society characterized by a broad ethnic and religious diversity.

For this reason, the negative economic outlook expected for the next years is seen not only as part of difficult times that will come, but as a potential source of social and political destabilization for Kazakhstan.

In 2014 Kazakhstan’s economy grew less than expected and with a rate much lower than those registered in previous years. For 2015 national GDP is going to grow even slower, between 1% and 2%.

Kazakhstan has cautiously promoted a moderate stance in inter-ethnic issue. In fact, since the gaining of independence, the aim of Nazarbayev was the strengthening of social concord, in order to avoid the disintegration of a country which is home of 130 nationalities and 17 religious communities.

With the decision to hold a new election, Kazakh élite is giving a response to all speculations about its future, in particular those regarding territorial integrity and ethnic concord, put into question by foreign media and politicians during 2014. Moreover, election is aimed to assure the continuity of a policy directed to build a multi-ethnic and secular state and, at the same time, to send out a signal about the will to protect the political and territorial unity of the country.

So, it isn’t surprising that Nazarbayev, during his annual speech to the nation on November 11, confirmed that stability political and social concord are fundamental factors for Kazakhstan in order to overcome the next years. Without them – according to Kazakh president- even economic development could be at risk. It’s for this reason that in the speech of February 25, when he announced the new election, he talked of “unity” and “stability”.

Economic development and social concord have been priorities present in the actual Kazakhstan, but now they acquire a new and stronger significance. The last year was marked by events that are part of world economic and geopolitical crisis that can produce their effects even in the internal affairs of the State.

In the past, economic development has been a mean to assure the survival of the country in a difficult post-soviet transition and to achieve the fundamental national interests. Nazarbayev has been successful in realising a huge economic growth, elevating the quality of life of Kazakhstani people and as a consequence, granting stability.

Therefore, election is seen as the opportunity to continue the programmed economic reforms and to implement the new ambitious plan Nurly Jol, announced last year, a comprehensive program of investments aimed to revitalise and diversify country’s economy.

Thanks to its “multi-vector” foreign policy, Kazakhstan succeed to impose itself as a reliable international player, acting as protagonist in Eurasian integration projects, cultivating strategic partnership with Russia and China and establishing closer ties with West and EU, as confirmed by the recent Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement signed in Brussels.

In a period of political and economic turbulence, the maintenance of stability could be an important result not only for Kazakhstan and its ruling class, but also for the entire region.

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Golovkin vs Murray results: GGG batters, stops Murray in 11th round 0

Posted on February 25, 2015 by KazCham

Bad Left Hook

Gennady Golovkin took a while to get the stoppage, but he made it 19 in a row against a very tough Martin Murray.

Gennady Golovkin [of Kazakhstan] stayed undefeated and ran his stoppage victory streak to 19 fights in Monte Carlo, putting away an incredibly durable and game Martin Murray in the 11th round, scoring three knockdowns and inflicting heavy punishment over the fight.

Golovkin (32-0, 29 KO) dropped Murray two times in the fourth round, and once more at the end of the 10th round. Referee Luis Pabon stepped in to stop the contest 50 seconds into the next frame, when Murray (29-2-1, 12 KO) was once again staggered on a right hand from Golovkin. It was the right call — overdue if anything — and a good decision by Pabon, a referee who has been criticized plenty over the years, but stepped in when nobody else would to save a fighter from himself and his own pride.

Murray really has nothing to be ashamed of with this performance, as he had some nice moments of success, and stood up pretty well to Golovkin overall, even with the knockdowns. He never gave up on himself in this fight, as he was battling until the very end. But unlike his prior world title fights, where he left without a belt under debatable circumstances, he was thoroughly beaten in this bout, and Golovkin left no doubts in anyone’s mind.

Golovkin, 32, retained his WBA middleweight title with this win, as well as the interim WBC title. Miguel Cotto, the lineal champion of the division, is still surely his target. Cotto also holds the full WBC title, which he won last June against Sergio Martinez.

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Scholarship Program for Afghan Students: Successful Contribution to Development and Peace 0

Posted on February 15, 2015 by KazCham

Astana Times

Kazakhstan’s $50 million scholarship programme for Afghan students is now almost five years old and, with 827 students having enrolled, nearing its final goal of educating 1,000 Afghan students in Kazakhstan’s educational institutions.

Since the programme began in 2010, when the first 158 students landed in Kazakhstan on Sept. 28, only four students have dropped out, Gulshara Tastemirova, senior coordinator working with Afghan students at Al-Farabi National University, told The Astana Times in a November interview. She considers the programme a great success so far.

In 2014, the first graduates – 15 from graduate programmes and 20 from bachelor’s or certificate programmes – returned to Afghanistan. “There was a big event [for their graduation] in the Ibn-e-Sina University in Kabul last August. Our graduates are proud of having earned their degrees from the universities of Kazakhstan.” Tastemirova said.

Tastemirova says she keeps in touch with the scholarship students she works with. “I do keep in touch with them. They send e-mails and call. Sometimes they ask for advice,” she said. Students at post-secondary schools – the equivalent of American community colleges – often want to stay and do second degrees, she said, though the terms of the scholarship programme means the Kazakh government can’t finance them.

The scholarship students receive stipends in addition to accommodation and tuition. “The students don’t pay tuition and accommodation in dormitories. “We receive twice the stipend of local students,” Ahmad Wali Ahmad Yar, a scholarship student who began his language studies in 2010, told The Astana Times in February.

Ahmad Yar works as a volunteer in the Ariana Social Centre, a nonprofit organisation working for social support and upliftment of the Afghan diaspora in Kazakhstan, he said. He also helps out as an interpreter for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee’s office.

Ahmad Yar began his journey to Kazakhstan after finishing high school in Kabul, when he was among 20,000 students out of 100,000 who were granted the opportunity to go on to receive higher education in government institutes and universities, he said. “I was among those who successfully passed the exam for higher education in one of the best state universities. Soon after entering university, we were informed about Kazakhstan scholarships by university officials.”

In 2010, he said, there were 3,000 candidates and 154 were given scholarships, mostly for medical studies, civil engineering, computer science, agriculture and journalism. “I was the only student in the field of international relations,” he said. Most Afghan students in Kazakhstan have chosen to study scientific majors, especially engineering and medicine. Law is also popular, Tastemirova said.

“From childhood, I was interested in politics and international relations: that is why I chose this particular speciality. It is challenging but very interesting for me,” said Ahmad Yar. “Since my schooldays, I’ve been thinking on how I can help in building a new Afghanistan, which will have good relations with its neighbours and will become the main bridge and transport hub between Central and South Asian countries.”

Before beginning their studies, Afghan students also get language training at Al-Farabi Kazakh National University in Almaty. “It was decided that they will study in the Kazakh language since it is a government scholarship,” Tastemirova said. With the help of another Afghan student, they have created a Kazakh-Russian-Pashtun conversation book, she noted.

“A student who studies in Kazakh will understand our people’s mentality better,” Tastemirova explained. “For example, he or she will learn Kazakh culture, traditions, et cetera.” Undergraduate scholarship students learn Russian and Kazakh, and from their second semester begin studies in the history of Kazakhstan, mathematics and other subjects depending on their majors, she said. Those who pursue a graduate degree study in Russian.

It can take some time to get up to speed on the new languages, Ahmad Yar admitted. “I mostly concentrated on Kazakh because it was the official language of Kazakhstan and we were studying in a government programme,” he said. “In June 2011, when I finished language preparation course … I was fluent in Kazakh but not in a university level. In the first year I faced slight language problems; then everything became normal in the second year.”

The scholarship students are ethnically diverse, but women are still not well represented among them. Their numbers have grown somewhat, however, Tastemirova said. “The number is growing every year. For example, in 2010 at the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, 77 students were enrolled in foundation programme and all of them were males. In 2011 there was one woman, in 2012 one woman, in 2013 seven women and in 2014 nine women already. I raised this particular issue over my last visit to Afghanistan,” she said.

Among the scholarship students are ethnic Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras, as well as a few ethnic Turkmen and one or two ethnic Kazakhs from Afghanistan, Tastemirova said.

Ahmad Yar says he’s never faced discrimination as a foreigner in Kazakhstan. “In the first year of the preparation course, we were studying and living with students from different countries and backgrounds, but then in the first year of university, I was the only foreign student studying in the Kazakh group in my faculty,” he explained. “I was worried that I may face problems, but my group mates and the behaviour of our teachers were very friendly, and they became the reason for me to go ahead.”

He has enjoyed being able to tell curious classmates about his country, Ahmad Yar said. “Usually, students and friends were asking me about the situation in Afghanistan because most of them had very negative ideas about Afghanistan. I tried to show them the reality about Afghanistan through presentations, participation in conferences and publishing articles.” The scholarship student says he has participated in conferences held by the UN and USAID and the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, as well as other nongovernmental organisations and universities.

Ahmad Yar says he plans to continue his education and do a master’s degree in world economics, political science or international relations. “Afghanistan is rising. After four decades of war and instability, it needs educated and well-trained people to work and it is for us to prepare ourselves as the best educated alternative for the wider society, instead of the uneducated warlords who once again want to turn Afghanistan into their personal fiefdom,” he notes.

The student says he wants to contribute to Afghanistan through institutional reform, democratic principles and the elimination of bureaucracy, which he says will lead to stability and autonomy.

He can also envision returning to Kazakhstan and says he is grateful to the government and the people of the country for the scholarship. “During the last years of study, I have gotten significant knowledge about Kazakhstan and Central Asia. I am quite sure that I can contribute toward straightening relations between Afghanistan and Central Asia … I will never forget Kazakhstan, and it will remain as my second home in my heart,” Ahmad Yar said.

Kazakh officials have said that the possibility of extending the programme is being considered.

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Kazakhstan seeks presence in potash market with $3.8 billion China investment 0

Posted on January 31, 2015 by KazCham

Business Intelligence from Colibri Law Firm: Issue #100

It is planned to establish three new ventures on production of potash fertilizers with a total capacity of over 7 million tons per year in Aktobe and West Kazakhstan regions. China would invest $3.8 billion in the development of Kazakhstan’s potash deposits and in fertilizer output, aiming to increase production to 7 million tonnes in 2025 from a current 1 million.

The total investment in the project is estimated at more than 3 billion US dollars. It is planned to create 5,100 new jobs until 2022.

The construction of the first complex in Aktobe region will begin in the second half of 2015, in the West Kazakhstan region — in 2016.

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