Kazakhstan Chamber of Commerce in the USA


Central Asia: China’s New Silk Road project 0

Posted on January 19, 2015 by KazCham

Presently, almost 90% of the global container trade still goes by ocean, and that’s what China intends to change. Its embryonic, still relatively slow New Silk Road represents its first breakthrough in what is bound to be an overland trans-continental container trade revolution.

Already the Chinese leadership has green-lighted a $40 billion infrastructure fund, overseen by the China Development Bank, to build roads, high-speed rail lines, and energy pipelines in assorted Chinese provinces. The fund will sooner or later expand to cover projects in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and parts of Europe. But Central Asia is the key immediate target.

Kazakhstan plans to become a key transit country in Central Asia in the way of Chinese goods to Europe. Advances in building transit is already there: the volume of container traffic from China to the EU via Kazakhstan grew in 2014 compared to 2012 for 4,5 times.

As per the program “The Bright Way” there will be investments into the following areas:

  1. Building or rent terminals in dry and sea ports of China, Russia and Iran;
  2. Construction and upgrading of roads.

Twenty years later, Kazakhs look far beyond Moscow and the Urals 0

Posted on January 06, 2012 by Alex

Indranil Banerjie, Asian Age, Dec 30, 2011

In December 1991, Central Asia was plunged in gloom as the mighty Soviet Union disintegrated, leaving large parts of the region adrift. The last to formally leave the Soviet system was Kazakhstan, a vast republic in the middle of the Asian continent. Its Soviet era leader, Nursultan Nazarbaev reluctantly declared independence on 16 December 1991, just nine days before the formal end of the Soviet Union.

Last week, however, even as icy Siberian winds sent the mercury below 30 degrees Celsius, there was no trace of gloom in Astana, Kazakhstan’s new capital. It had taken the Kazakhs 13 years to build a vast modern capital in the heart of the Central Asian steppes and last weekend it was time to celebrate two decades of achievements.

The Soviet Union has become a half forgotten memory and Kazakhs have long learnt to look beyond Moscow and the Urals. In Kazakhstan today, there is not the slightest trace of the fear and despair that had marked the early years of independence when food prices had soared and the Soviet welfare system had collapsed overnight, leaving the Republic’s citizens without any safety net.

The first half decade of independence had been chaotic and desperate for most citizens. The country’s sizeable ethnic Russian population uncomfortable with the idea of Kazakh sovereignty had taken to the streets in parts of the country demanding secession. A massive Russian exodus had ensued when the government emphasised Kazakh nationalism, removed ethnic Russians from top government positions and eroded Russian political influence within the republic.

The country’s leadership also decided to shift the capital from Almaty in the south-east to Astana in the north, which was traditionally an area dominated by ethnic Russians. As the proportion of Russians declined and with it their power, the government gradually eased its policies to accommodate Russian interests. While Kazakh remained the state language, Russian was declared the official language and continues to be the dominant language in most urban areas.

Today, Kazakhstan is a successful multi-ethnic, multi-religious society where the majority Kazakhs constitute about 63 per cent of the country’s 16.5 million people, Russians a little more than 23 per cent and the rest include ethnic Koreans, Uighurs, Tatars, Germans and other ethnicities. Ethnic and religious strife has not been reported in the country for more than a decade and Russian outward migration is a thing of the past.

The transformation of Kazakhstan’s economy has been even more dramatic. When the republic had cut its ties with the Soviet command economy, the first result was economic chaos as most factories downed shutters, thousands became jobless and the retired were left without pension.

There was an estimated four per cent contraction of the country’s GDP in the years 1991 to 2000, the sharpest decline being in the years 1991-1995. According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Kazakhstan’s recovery and growth began sometime in 1999. The strong rebound was driven mainly by rising world prices for oil and the market reforms initiated by President Nazarbaev in 1993. Today, Kazakhstan is easily the most prosperous Central Asian republic and dramatic increases in urban wages and profits are evident. Mercedes and BMWs dominate the crowded streets of Astana and Almaty while continuous construction activity is rapidly altering city skylines.

The IMF estimates that the country per capita income (Purchasing Power Parity) has zoomed threefold from US $ 4,412 in 1992 to about $ 12,700 in 2010. India’s per capita GDP in comparison was estimated at US $ 3408 in 2010 while the figure for the onetime Central Asian leader, Uzbekistan was US $ 3048.

Kazakhstan has clearly come a long way in 20 years. While problems remain, including severe income inequalities, a widening urban-rural divide, high inflation and an economy still vitally dependent on the export of hydrocarbons and metals, Kazakhstan has emerged as a stable, tolerant country with a market driven economy.

The country’s elite is anxious to claim Kazakhstan’s place among the leading states of the world and President Nazarbaev has often emphasised the need to be an open country, straddling the heart of Asia. One of his goals is to make Kazakhstan a bridge between Europe and Asia as well as a neutral international meeting place.

Kazakhstan’s greatest contribution to geopolitical change in Eurasia is its role in opening up the Asian heartland, closed for more than two centuries, first by Russo-British rivalry in the 19th century and then by the impenetrable Soviet Iron Curtain. President Nazarbaev has flung open his country’s borders to road, railway and oil pipeline projects by a host of players including UNDP, China, Russia and the United States.

Today, trucks, travellers and containers travel across the Eurasian landmass from China to Western Europe without hindrance. Kazakhstan prides itself in creating a new model of trans-border co-operation and is playing a central role in the building of a game changing 8700 km long China-Western Europe highway which is expected to be ready by end 2013. Once completed, containers will take just 15 days to move from China’s eastern seaboard to Europe – the sea route takes 45 days. Even the United States is excited about the possibilities of intra-Asian connectivity and is pushing for the creation of a “New Silk Road” from Kazakhstan to Afghanistan and beyond.

The world is beginning to acknowledge Astana’s role in the changing global geopolitics and as the snow flurries swept through Astana last week, the President in his Independence Day speech declared that the uppermost task for Kazakhstan is to become an active player in the post-industrial world. Integration is the path to the future, he added, and recalled that Kazakhstan was the first in Central Asia to have succeeded in coming out of its continental isolation. That was reason enough to celebrate amidst a Siberian winter.

SOURCE: http://www.kazakhembus.com/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=827&cntnt01origid=15&cntnt01returnid=201

Astana conference 0

Posted on November 04, 2011 by Alex

Astana conference, 2 others are vital for Afghanistan’s future,  Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov says.

By Hal Foster, ex-Los Angeles Times journalist, Tengri News, Oct 31, 2011

Kazakhstan will lead one of three important Afghanistan-transition conferences over the next five weeks and play an active role in the other two, Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov said over the weekend.

The conferences in Istanbul on Wednesday, in Astana on November 15 and in Bonn on December 5 are aimed at producing a blueprint for helping Afghanistan stabilize and prosper after coalition forces withdraw in 2014, Mr. Kazykhanov said in an interview.

A common theme in all three conferences will be developing a coordinated regional approach to assisting Afghanistan – that is, countries in the region joining together to play a larger role in the country’s future.

Underlining the importance that Kazakhstan attaches to the meetings, Mr. Kazykhanov will be attending all three.

The conferences are expected to cover ways to ensure Afghanistan’s security after 2014, ways to foster reconciliation with insurgent groups and ways to achieve regional economic cooperation.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are among those expected to attend both the Istanbul and Bonn gatherings.

The three conferences are evidence of the international community’s determination to stand by Afghanistan after 2014, Mr. Kazykhanov said in the interview. “Those coalition forces will be replaced by economic cooperation, trade activity,” foreign aid, humanitarian assistance and other kinds of support, he said.

Kazakhstan supports America’s New Silk Road initiative on creating infrastructure such as roads and rail lines to link Afghanistan with its neighbors, Mr. Kazykhanov said. The idea behind the initiative is that the transportation links will help spark Afghanistan’s economy.

Kazakhstan has already been building infrastructure to help connect the region, Mr. Kazykhanov pointed out.

A major effort is Kazakhstan’s portion of an international highway corridor that will connect western China with western Europe through Russia. Kazakhstan has already spent $3 billion to build the longest stretch of the corridor — 2,800 kilometers inside its territory.

A rail line between Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan that is expected to be completed early next year could be extended into Afghanistan, Mr. Kazykhanov noted.

And Kazakhstan supports the idea of oil and gas pipelines from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, particularly the Asian Development Bank-backed Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline project.

“We need more and more countries to join in these efforts (to help Afghanistan),” including nations in the Islamic world and the West, Mr. Kazykhanov said. “And of course we understand the responsibility of the countries in the region near Afghanistan.”

Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, said two months ago that the United States hoped to see “Afghanistan’s neighbors and near-neighbors – countries around Afghanistan” – make a “written commitment” to “work for the security and stability of Afghanistan.”

Kazakhstan and some other neighbors have already indicated a willingness to make that commitment.

It’s significant that two of the three impending Afghanistan conferences are in Istanbul and Astana because many countries view Turkey and Kazakhstan as influential moderating forces in the region.

The Astana conference on November 15 will bring together more than 50 national coordinators on Afghanistan – diplomats whose main function is helping the country now and after 2014.

“We agreed to host this group meeting on Afghanistan because we think that the role of regional countries (in achieving a solution to the Afghan situation) is growing, and we should be involved in that process,” Mr. Kazykhanov said. “Any formats, any meetings that can lead to the stabilization of the situation in Afghanistan should be supported, in my view.”

He added:  “The role of the neighboring countries of South Asia and Central Asia, and the role of the big powers – including the United States, the Russian Federation and China – are extremely important for stabilizing the situation.”

Mr. Kazykhanov stressed that any multilateral effort to stabilize Afghanistan should be transparent and comply with United Nations “purposes and principles. There should be no hidden agenda.”

A coordinated post-2014 effort to help the country must include a commitment to ensuring that “the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Afghanistan, he added.

Other nations also need to support Afghanistan’s reconciliation process and help it rebuild its economy, he said.

And, he noted, “we need to look seriously into the ways and means of combating illicit drug production and drug trafficking originating in Afghanistan.”

The narcotics scourge has become an increasing problem in Kazakhstan because the country is a major smuggling route between Afghanistan and Russia and Western Europe. In fact, Kazakhstan’s drug-trafficking arrests have increased annually for several years, an aide to Mr. Kazykhanov said.

The conference of national coordinators that Astana hosts this month will be the third in the series. The others were in the Afghan capital of Kabul and in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah.

“We think that this contract-group meeting (of national coordinators) will pave the way to the Bonn conference,” Mr. Kazykhanov said.

Many diplomats view the gathering in Germany as an all-important “final chance to unite our efforts and help Afghanistan become a stable country,” he said.

The Bonn conference will be a huge affair, attracting more than 1,000 participants from 90 countries. It will have both practical and symbolic importance.

The practical importance is the imperative to lay the kind of groundwork necessary for Afghanistan to stand on its feet after 2014. The symbolic importance is that Bonn was the site of a conference 10 years ago that helped establish Afghanistan’s current government.

The U.S.-led coalition that entered Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks was surprised to find itself toppling the Taliban government in just a few weeks — so quickly, in fact, that there was no time to line up a replacement government. The Bonn conference was convened to establish the new regime.

In December of 2001, conference participants chose Karzai as the head of an interim government. Four years later, Afghans elected him president.

Karzai asked for a second Bonn conference this December to deal with Afghanistan’s post-2014 transition.

Kazykhanov said he’s optimistic about the country’s future.

Afghanistan has a chance to be “a stable and vibrant country moving in the right direction,” a nation that can “be our economic partner in the region,” he said.

“But of course much will depend on how countries in the region” work together, “how we manage to coordinate our efforts to help Afghanistan,” he added.

What happens at the conferences in Istanbul, Astana and Bonn will go a long way toward determining whether a regional approach toward helping Afghanistan will be successful.

Additional excerpts from the interview with the foreign minister:

Here in Kazakhstan we clearly understand that the period between now and 2014 is crucial for the countries of the region because the coalition forces will be leaving Afghanistan. But it in no way means that the international community is leaving Afghanistan.


Kazakhstan has been and will continue providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, supplying grain, flour, rice and other goods. In 2008, Kazakhstan sent Afghanistan 2,000 tons of wheat, in 2009 – 1,300 tons of dry milk, in 2010 – 6,000 tons of rice and in April 2011 — 5,000 tons of rice flour.

We think it’s important that the FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization) and other international food organizations increase their procurement of Kazakhstan grain when they are buying grain and sending it to Afghanistan. We want to reclaim our place in the Afghanistan market, and Afghans know very well that Kazakhstan’s wheat is of great quality. (Kazakhstan’s bumper harvest of 25 million tons of grain this year has left it with 15 million tons available for export.)


The more stable Afghanistan that we have on our southern borders, the better it will be for everyone — and for Kazakhstan as a big economy in the region. Although we do not have direct borders with Afghanistan, we think our country cannot be prosperous and successful having poor and troubled neighbors along its borders. We want to stretch a helping hand to our neighbors.

For more information see: http://en.tengrinews.kz/opinion/119/

Use of the Tengrinews English materials must be accompanied by a hyperlink to en.Tengrinews.kz

SOURCE: http://www.kazakhembus.com/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=787&cntnt01origid=15&cntnt01returnid=201

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