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Kazakhstan is a nation booming on the back of optimism 0

Posted on September 17, 2012 by KazCham

Faisal Al Yafai, the National, Sep 15, 2012

The sun is streaming down across the immaculate lawns of the campus. Serious young men and women rush from one building to another, carrying handfuls of books. They are an impressive bunch, with their perfect English and shy, thoughtful manners: teenagers in a hurry, preparing to be scientists, engineers and economists.

This is the campus of Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan’s only English-language university and a place that is swiftly becoming an incubator of a new elite. They are in some ways a self-conscious bunch. One, a 19-year old called Aizhan, says she intends to pursue further studies in the West after graduating.

“We look to Europe as our peers,” she says, “our country’s politics was always dependent on Russia, and that is changing. We focus more on Europe in our studies. Even the emphasis on learning English shows we are moving closer to Europe.”

To understand how astonishing that statement is requires some background on this Central Asian country. For while Kazakhstan is changing rapidly, the most unusual change is impossible to see.

In 1997, the capital city was merely a small town called Akmola. Since being designated the capital and renamed, the swiftest changes in the country have taken place here. Now, with billions spent on construction, Astana is a gleaming, 21st century city.

It’s most iconic building is the enormous Khan Shatyr, a shopping and entertainment centre built in the style of a transparent tent. Expensively dressed young people pour out of SUVs and shop for international brands. On the roof is an artificial beach. There are similar scenes repeated in high-end boutiques across this city and its larger sister, the commercial capital Almaty, far to the south.

These are the visible changes of a transformation. The numbers also tell a remarkable story. Since wresting independence from a collapsing Soviet Union in 1991, Kazakhstan has changed beyond recognition. GDP per capita has soared from around US$700 in 1993, to more than $9,000 in 2010, putting the country firmly in the fold of middle-income countries, far richer than every Central Asian country that surrounds it. Or take poverty, which remains a serious problem across Asia. In 1996, 34.6 per cent of the population had incomes below subsistence levels; by 2009 that had been reduced to 8.2 per cent.

How far and how fast the country has changed in the past 20 years is the subject of Jonathan Aitken’s latest book, Kazakhstan: Surprises and Stereotypes. In the book, the journalist and former British cabinet minister (and one-time prison inmate) tours the nation, from prisons to the presidential palace, to show how it has moved on since independence.

Aitken starts from the premise that the outside world has a tendency to look at countries like Kazakhstan through particular prisms. Afghanistan and Pakistan are viewed through the lens of security. Discussion of Kazakhstan is often accompanied by questions of authoritarian rule and political participation. Yet, he contends, these countries, as with all nations, are repositories of diverse people and complex policies, of optimistic ideals and realistic plans.

Part of the difficulty of trying to assess a nation like Kazakhstan is that while the country has taken enormous strides over the past two decades, it has remained stagnant in some areas. The question, looking from the outside, is whether to focus on the progress or the shortcomings.

That is not a small question. Focusing on the progress can be seductive but it can miss how much more could have been achieved. Focus on the shortcomings can seem churlish, given the odds stacked against succeeding.

Aitken appears to have decided early on that the glass is half full. He puts his faith, or at least his credulity, in the good intentions of those – particularly officials – that he interviews. He often refuses to condemn a particular policy outright, preferring to search for the small things that went wrong, or how the intention went askew, or how things are gradually improving and need time.

That, to be fair, is an attitude shared by many Kazakhs themselves, who see the remarkable progress that has been made in their country, compare it to the trajectory other regional countries have taken and feel it is churlish to complain.

But that attitude begins to grate. Aitken sometimes seems more Pangloss than Candide; not critical enough for the matters under scrutiny. He is sometimes even flippant. A discussion about the criminal justice system and allegations of torture is summed up with: “To paraphrase Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley … the times they are a-changin’ in Kazakhstan. The leading criminal justice agencies are getting all shook up.”

Often it is simply a case of not asking the right questions, or looking for answers in the wrong places. This problem is illustrated by a chapter about Astana, the capital, and Almaty, the largest city, in which Aitken waxes lyrical about the cultural glories of Almaty and the economic future of Astana, yet never once mentions the rest of the country.

For all the progress made in those two cities, there remains a vast country where parts have not experienced the same rapid progression. Outside of the main cities there is still real poverty – and the criticism that government spending has been disproportionately allocated to urban areas is valid and doubly meaningful in a country where the population has historically been nomadic, and where almost half the population still lives in rural areas.

Or take an anecdote Aitken tells about the visit of President Nursultan Nazarbayev to a court in a small town. Two young men were found guilty of stealing a $100 (Dh367) stereo. Because they could not afford to pay the victim compensation, the prosecutor demanded a three-year sentence. At that point the president stood up in the public gallery and asked why the sentence was so harsh. He was told that was what the law demanded, if they could not pay compensation. The president paid on their behalf and the men were given a suspended sentence.

The anecdote, while instructive about the mentality of the man who leads the country, is not the starting point for a discussion of the criminal justice system – it’s the end. The detail of a court system that enforces such laws, of how those laws are formulated, of whether they can be effectively changed, of how or if there are systems of appeal against such harsh sentences – none of the topics are tackled by Aitken. The author often seems happier to discuss the sunshine in Astana than the shade elsewhere.

What comes out of Aitken’s pages, and from my own reporting from the country, is the difficulty of shifting an entire mentality and how, gradually, that change is occurring: slowly, through enlightened officials, through small changes, through big projects, the ideas that underpinned Kazakhstan for so long are being discarded and new institutions and ways of thinking are taking root.

That is what makes the attitude of Aizhan, on the campus of Nazarbayev University, so interesting. When she says that her peers look to Europe, it goes against the decades of domination by Russia, which continues to be the great power in Central Asia.

When she speaks of studying abroad, the thought carries with it a certainty that that aspiration will be fulfilled in due course: further education in the West is not cheap, yet, for those students at NU, it is a strong possibility, due to grants and scholarships from the government, and also, crucially, it is likely to lead to jobs.

Most of the NU students I spoke to were studying science or finance – they were equally certain they would find work in those fields after leaving.

That optimism in their future and the future of Kazakhstan is impossible to mandate. In one way, building a country is easy: with enough money, anything can be built. The institutions and the politics of creation are harder. And the attitude, or mentality, is hardest of all.

Aitken’s book is, in the end, rather better at looking at Kazakhstan’s progress rather than examining its shortcomings. It is laden with optimism, although he never answers the detail of how this mentality is created. It bodes well for Kazakhstan, however, that it has been created.

Faisal Al Yafai is a columnist for The National.

Kazakhstan Launches Metro 0

Posted on December 09, 2011 by Alex

Reuters, Dec 5, 2011

ALMATY — Kazakhstan launched the first metro system built in Central Asia since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a $1.1 billion project in its earthquake-prone commercial capital Almaty.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has run his vast steppe country since before independence 20 years ago, was among the first to ride the underground line across the center of Kazakhstan’s largest city, home to 1.5 million people.

“The stations are a work of art,” he told construction workers and reporters inside the marble and granite-clad metro at the opening late last week.

“All safety measures have been taken here against any earthquakes and other emergencies,” he added.

A powerful earthquake almost obliterated the city — then called Verny — in 1887 and a strong, 5.4-magnitute earthquake rocked Almaty’s houses and shook windows in May this year, leaving no damage or casualties.

“I will use [the metro],” said Zulfia, a 54-year-old Almaty resident among the first passengers. “It’s scary, but what can I do? Things happen up there on the ground as well.”

Nazarbayev, who brooks no opposition in his oil-producing nation of 16.6 million, has put in place market reforms that have helped Kazakhstan’s economy become the largest in Central Asia. Construction of the metro was funded wholly by the state.

The Almaty metro project began in 1988 on the orders of the Kremlin, when the population of Kazakhstan’s then-capital surpassed the 1-million threshold that demanded a Soviet city be awarded an underground system.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 halted work, leaving the metro in Tashkent, capital of next-door Uzbekistan, as the only underground rapid-transit system in vast and resource-rich Central Asia.

After being frozen throughout most of the 1990s, the project resumed in stages during the last decade.

The 8.6-kilometer first line has seven stations, reinforced by pillars and roof supports to withstand earthquake tremors.

Moscow has the oldest and longest metro in the former Soviet Union. St. Petersburg and several other Russian cities also run Soviet-era metro systems, as well as several other major former Soviet cities, including Kiev, Minsk, Baku, Yerevan and Tbilisi.

Read more: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/business/article/kazakhstan-launches-metro/449287.html#ixzz1ffUlWOfQ

The Moscow Times

SOURCE: http://www.kazakhembus.com/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=807&cntnt01origid=15&cntnt01returnid=201

EXPECTATIONS ABOUT KAZAKHSTAN’S ECONOMY: OUTLOOK BY INDEPENDENT EXPERTS 0

Posted on August 19, 2011 by Alex

based on Q3 2011 “Kazakhstan and Central Asia Business Forecast”

by Business Monitor International, Ltd (BMI)

 

Political Outlook

 

President Nursultan Nazarbayev has been in office since the late Soviet era, and continues to dominate the political landscape, having been re-elected to another five-year term in April 2011 with 95% of the vote. In addition, his Nur Otan party dominates parliament. However, because Nazarbayev is 70 years old, the succession question is gaining in importance. Kazakhstan under Nazarbayev has actually been a major success story among ex-Soviet states, mainly because of the country’s vast oil and gas wealth, which has led to high levels of foreign investment, rapid economic growth, and a per capita GDP of almost US$10,000. At the same time, Kazakhstan has prevented the formation of opposition forces that could challenge the regime. While many Kazakhs would probably welcome a more democratic political system, anecdotal evidence suggests that Nazarbayev enjoys genuine public support, and citizens would probably not wish to jeopardise their country’s economic success.

Kazakh Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov met with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi on May 14 to discuss bilateral cooperation. Meanwhile, the National Bank of Kazakhstan has announced that it plans to diversify its foreign exchange reserves into Chinese yuan; and major Kazakh resource firm Kazakhmys (which generated 48% of revenues from China in 2010) is aiming to complete a secondary listing in Hong Kong. The deepening of ties between Kazakhstan and China has sparked fears that Beijing may establish too much control over its north-western neighbor, with Kazakhstan’s leading opposition party Azat attempting to organize protests against growing Chinese influence. BMI expects such fears will continue to surface given the two countries’ close economic relationship, but doubts this will spill over in any meaningful way.

 

Economic Activity

 

BMI maintains its upbeat assessment of the Kazakh growth story for the coming quarters, with first quarter real GDP growth of 6.9% largely in line with our forecast for economic expansion of 7.2% and 6.9% in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Such growth will be driven by continued development of the nation’s vast natural resources and the positive spillover effect this will have on non-resource sectors.

Building upon the robust 7.0% expansion witnessed in 2010, the Kazakh economy expanded at a healthy 6.9% y-o-y clip in the first quarter of 2011. The reading is in line with experts’ expectation that the Kazakh economy will enjoy robust growth through coming quarters, and affirms the BMI’s forecast for 7.2% real GDP growth in 2011, followed by a 6.9% expansion in 2012.

Global macroeconomic conditions certainly remain conducive to a continuation of the rapid expansion the Kazakh economy has registered both prior to and following the global financial crisis. Economic growth in Asia remains firm whilst the US and European recoveries remain on course. In turn, Brent crude is hovering above the US$100/bbl mark and metals prices are at levels comparable to those seen prior to the global economic downturn. Such a landscape bodes very well for Kazakhstan.

Recovery in external macroeconomic conditions over the past 18 months has resulted in a dramatic rebound in demand for commodities and thereby Kazakh exports (minerals and metals account for more than 75% of exports). The first quarter of 2011 saw quarterly Kazakh exports rise by an impressive 35.9% y-o-y to US$18.5bn, not

far below the US$21.3bn all-time high set in Q308. With the global economy set to continue expanding for the foreseeable future (the US recovery is a mere two years old), BMI forecasts continued gains in Kazakh exports through coming quarters.

Such robust external demand conditions are spurring industrial activity in Kazakhstan, with industrial production rising at a 6.4% y-o-y clip in April. Summit Atom Rare Earth Co, part owned by Kazakh state uranium miner Kazatomprom, has announced plans to begin production of 1,500 tonnes of rare earth oxides per year. Production will be sourced from the treatment of uranium tailing, while the company will embark on a search for rare earth deposits across Central Asia. BMI experts believe that successful development of a rare earths industry in Kazakhstan would represent a positive development for the country’s business environment, adding to the attractiveness of Kazakhstan as a destination for FDI .

However, strength is not only being seen in mining and quarrying, up 4.0% y-o-y in April, but also in Kazakh manufacturing, up 8.5% y-o-y in April. Strong demand for the commodities produced by Kazakhstan’s extractive industries has considerable positive spillover effects in terms of gross fixed capital formation and wider economic activity. Such a trend is clearly reflected in the Kazakh labor market, which continues to tighten – unemployment came in at a mere 5.5% in April. With the Kazakh labor market in such good condition observers are optimistic that private consumption will also be a strong contributor to real GDP growth in 2011-2012.

Also supportive of such a dynamic will be the government’s decision to open up the fiscal taps (which it certainly has room to do, given that its budget is based upon the assumption that oil averages US$65/bbl). On January 1, pension payments were increased by 30%; while, from July 1, state workers will receive a 30% pay rise – developments that bode very well for private consumption growth in 2011. Growth will also receive a boost from the government’s ambitious investment plans, which entail

projects equal to KZT8.1trn (more than 35% of GDP) within the next 24 months. However, while such expansionary policy will boost growth, it will also add to the inflationary pressures faced by the National Bank of Kazakhstan – which will respond by allowing the tenge to appreciate through to end-2011.

With the Kazakh economy expanding firmly and inflationary pressures rising, the Kazakh authorities are likely to tighten monetary policy over the course of 2011. Beyond the interest rate hike implemented by the National Bank of Kazakhstan on March 9, BMI sees further hikes ahead, forecasting the bank’s refinancing rate at 8.50% by year-end (implying a further 100 basis points of hikes), while hikes to the deposit rate (currently 0.5% on one-week money) are also likely. Increases in bank reserve requirements can also be expected.

Furthermore, BMI forecasts meaningful appreciation of the Kazakh tenge through 2011-2012, as the National Bank of Kazakhstan allows the national currency to strengthen in order to quell inflationary pressures. The Kazakh economy certainly appears ready for such a policy stance, with unemployment at just 5.5% while consumer price inflation is already running at relatively elevated levels – coming in at 8.4% in April.

Kazakhstan’s central bank has to intervene in the foreign exchange market to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars each month in order to surpress the value of the tenge. Holding down the tenge using such means not only ensures higher imports costs but also results in elevated tenge liquidity. With inflation already fairly high, BMI does not believe such policy can be sustained. BMI experts forecast that the tenge will be allowed to appreciate to KZT140.00/US$ by end-2011, with further gains expected in 2012.

The most obvious risk to BMI’s upbeat stance on the Kazakh economy and thereby the tenge is a fall in commodity prices. The tenge is very much a commodity currency, and oil exports in particular are of crucial importance to the currency’s value. A very sharp decline in the price of oil would no doubt undermine the tenge, due to the less-positive impact oil would then have on the Kazakh economy.

BMI’s base scenario already foresees oil prices moderating somewhat, with Brent crude forecast to return below the US$100/bbl through the latter half of 2011, and BMI’s Kazakhstan forecasts reflect such an assumption. Therefore, only a dramatic move lower in oil prices (of approximately 75%) would seriously alter BMI’s upbeat outlook and the tenge’s trajectory. Such a move in oil prices was witnessed during the global financial crisis, but experts believe an event of comparable magnitude would be required for such price movement to be repeated. Obviously there are numerous potential catalysts for this outcome, such as a European fiscal and banking collapse or an outright Chinese property market crash, but these are very much low-probability tail risks rather than our core scenario.

 

The Kazakh Economy to 2020:

developing non-oil sectors is key to sustaining growth

 

The Kazakh government’s drive to diversify the non-oil sector and invest in developing strategic industries, as well as the national infrastructure, supports BMI’s favorable long-term outlook for the economy. Moreover, BMI experts believe the growing integration of Kazakhstan into global markets will help reduce the impact of external shocks and put the economy on a more sustainable growth path.

Despite notching up a stellar 9.3% average annual rate of economic growth over the course of 2000-2008, Kazakh growth will settle on a lower path through to 2020 owing to the severity of 2009’s recession, combined with a protracted period of deleveraging. BMI experts forecast annual growth to average 6.6% throughout the forecast period. Coming from a higher base and investing heavily in developing the national infrastructure and non-oil sectors, Kazakhstan will further consolidate its position as the regional powerhouse in Central Asia over the long term. For the less-developed economies in Central Asia, this will mean more employment opportunities, cross-border investments and demand for primary and processed exports for Kazakh industries.

With population forecast to reach around 17.5 mln by 2020 and GDP per capita reaching US$28,509, the consumer will become instrumental in driving growth dynamics over the long term. The opportunities available for retailers to exploit are likely to see foreign retail operators from Russia, and potentially China, starting to build up a market presence in Kazakhstan. Moreover, with the government keen to develop its banking and financial sectors, BMI expects to see an increase in credit availability for the consumer, particularly credit cards and overdraft facilities, which will extend to the poorer sectors of the retail market and thus allow for an expansion in consumption possibilities for Kazakh households. As a result of these dynamics, BMI expects consumer spending to contribute around one-third of economic growth. Since the government is likely to continue working towards reducing the economy’s dependence on oil over the long term (with the current correction in global energy prices hammering home the consequences of relying on oil and gas to drive growth), observers expect to see further diversification away from the oil sector. Key industries are likely to include retail, manufacturing, construction and finance. As a result of this diversification drive, investment in fixed capital will continue to buoy economic growth over the long term. Moreover, in much the same way that increased credit availability will spur consumer spending, BMI expects to see a broader and more sophisticated array of financial products coming to the market, which will facilitate investment (particularly with regard to hedging risks, leveraging and gaining exposure to new markets) and business transactions.

Kazakhstan’s ever-growing prominence in Central Asia will also facilitate investment into the wider region. The development of the country’s physical and financial infrastructure will attract more foreign investors wanting to increase their exposure to frontier markets such as Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan without having to base operations in these countries. Similarly, the economic development of these countries (as well as Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) will see demand for imported capital grow, allowing Kazakhstan to become an export platform to these countries.

Although BMI believes that domestic demand will increasingly become the driving force of growth, oil and gas will remain an important export earner, helping to bolster domestic demand. Indeed, it will be the recycling of energy export revenues to the non-oil sectors that will be key to broadening the economy. Moreover, although experts believe that Astana will remain reliant on Moscow purchasing its energy output over the medium term, Kazakhstan’s growing economic and political clout may allow it to expand export routes away from Russia further down the line. In this respect, Kazakhstan is the most likely of the Central Asian states to supply energy to European markets over the long term. While BMI does not believe this will mean a shift in Kazakhstan’s foreign policy agenda towards euro-Atlantic institutions, it expects to see new trade relations emerging, with the EU likely to take a greater share of Kazakh exports.

Despite maintaining a long-term favorable outlook for the economy, BMI cautions that there are risks to Kazakhstan’s ability to meet its growth potential. For one, much will depend on the government’s ability to attract foreign investment – and investment into the right sectors, too. To this end, the government’s ongoing squabbling with the international consortium developing the Kashagan oil field, as well as its increasing influence over the energy sector through equity acquisitions, may deter the more risk-averse long-term strategic investor. Nevertheless, oil exports may provide some of the hard cash Kazakhstan still needs to import technical expertise and more sophisticated management practices.

 

If you are interested to learn more about “Kazakhstan and Central Asia Business Forecast Report” or any Country/Industry reports by BMI please contact Matthew Thompson, Business Development Manager, “Business Monitor International” T:+44 (0)20 7246 1433 M:+44 (0)7983 473 767 Email: mthompson@businessmonitor.com)

 

Business Monitor International – DISCLAIMER

All information contained in this publication has been researched and compiled from sources believed to be accurate and reliable at the time of publishing. However, in view of the natural scope for human and/or mechanical error, either at source or during production, Business Monitor International accepts no liability whatsoever for any loss or damage resulting from errors, inaccuracies or omissions affecting any part of the publication. All information is provided without warranty, and Business Monitor International makes no representation of warranty of any kind as to the accuracy or completeness of any information hereto contained.

SOURCE: http://www.kazakhembus.com/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=758&cntnt01origid=90&cntnt01category_id=6&cntnt01returnid=90

 

“Islamic Davos” in the Heart of Eurasia 0

Posted on June 20, 2011 by KazCham

Kazakhstan’s capital city Astana hosted the 7th World Islamic Economic Forum, June 7-9 – the main annual economic event of the Organization of Islamic Conference and the so-called “Islamic Davos.” Kazakhstan was the first Central Asia country to host the World Islamic Economic Forum.

The Forum, which was opened by President Nursultan Nazarbayev  was also attended by President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti, Prime Minister Karim Masimov of Kazakhstan, Prime Minister Dato, Sri Najib Tun Abdul Razak of Malaysia, Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov of Tajikistan, Vice President Prof. Dr. Boediono of Indonesia, Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Ros Nuri Shawels of Iraq and First Vice Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov of Kyrgyzstan, the President of the Islamic Development Bank, Ministers, chief executives of leading corporations, thought leaders from the private and public sectors as well as representatives of the creative arts. In all, more than 2,500 representatives from 42 countries came to Astana to participate in the Forum.

The Forum’s theme was “Globalizing Growth: Connect, Compete, Collaborate” and was chaired by Tun Musa Hitam, the Chairman of World Islamic Economic Forum. It includedconstructive discussions on developing leadership, supporting entrepreneurship and SME’s, empowering businesswomen, globalizing Islamic Banking and Finance, enhancing food and energy security, tapping into halal industry, investing in infrastructure development, harvesting alternative energy and innovating SMEs.

In his opening speech, President Nazarbayev presented a number of initiatives that could make an important contribution in modernization of the world’s Muslim community (full text of the speech could be accessed here).

First, with the aim of creating a new dimension of economic cooperation, Kazakhstan suggested for the 10 major Muslim economies.

Second, in view of the Islamic countries’ technological gap, Nazarbayev proposed establishing an International Innovation Hub with interested OIC countries.

Third, in order to support small and medium enterprises (SME), President Nazarbayev proposed conveninga WIEF ad hoc working group and explore the possibility of establishing a special SMEs fund under the Islamic Development Bank.

The Forum recommended the adoption of the following key priorities to achieve the Forum’s theme of “Globalizing Growth” to realize both sustained growth and equity:

·                   Good governance must be institutionalized and practiced by both governments and the private sector;

·                   Further liberalize trade, investment, knowledge, culture and labor flows within Muslim countries on a regional and sub-regional basis and with the rest of the world;

·                   Encourage social entrepreneurship as an altruistic social development initiative to be propagated and developed in Islamic societies; resources should be committed to promote such an initiative particularly for the benefit of youth and women;

·                   Muslim countries and sub-regional groupings should collaborate to develop “Green Growth” Roadmaps, which includes Energy, Food Security and Environment;

·                   Support the development of a Halal Economy through the collaborative development of Halal Integrity standards and convergence with the mainstream economy;

·                   Development of a harmonized regulatory framework to accelerate the growth of Islamic Banking and Finance globally;

·                   Strengthen public-private sector partnerships for infrastructure development, tourism, healthcare, education and skills development in developing economies to enable efficient implementation and delivery;

·                   Emphasize innovation, competition, collaboration and knowledge transfer as key thrusts to develop successful SMEs and entrepreneurs.

The Forum welcomed President Nazarbayev’s proposals to assess the potential for a Science and Technology Innovation Hub and from the President of the Islamic Development Bank to work with WIEF and member countries to both identify additional specific projects and prepare an annual report to the Forum on their progress.

Agreements covering banking and financial services, ICT, food industry, education & training sectors were signed during the Forum.  Ten countries showcased trade and investment opportunities.

 

News Bulletin of the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan

Contact person: Nurgali Arystanov

Tel.: 202-232-5488 ext 115; Fax: 202-232-5845

E-mail:nurgali@kazakhembus.com

Web-site: www.kazakhembus.com

Twitter: @KazakhEmbassy

Facebook: Link to Face Book page

 

Kazakhstan Daily News Roundup – January 4, 2011 0

Posted on January 04, 2011 by KazCham

news roundup

Kazakhstan Daily News Roundup – January 4, 2011

By SRI ? January 4, 2011 ? Email This Post Email This Post ? Print This Post Print This Post ? Post a comment

HEADLINES:

Eurasia: Slower rising commodity prices to determine 2011
(bne) – The strong rise in commodity prices in 2010 allowed the Eurasia region’s hydrocarbon-rich states to emerge from the global economic slowdown. A slight slowdown in growth is forecast for 2011.

Kazakh parliament backs president ruling to 2020
(AFP) – The Kazakh parliament Wednesday backed a controversial plan for a referendum to extend the mandate of strongman President Nursultan Nazarbayev to 2020 and skip two presidential elections.

ENERGY:

Ukrainian company to upgrade Ekibastuz turbine (SRI)

Kazakhstan ready to supply crude to Belarus (Oil and Gas Eurasia)

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY:

French company to spend $331 million to produce industrial gases in Kazakhstan (SRI)

Central bank maintains refinancing rate; provides inflation guidance for 2011 (SRI)

Grain exports up 29% in 2010 – estimate (SRI)

Long-term credit ratings for Kazakhstan banks (Reuters)

National Bank of Kazakhstan: Exchange rates January 1-5, 2011 (Kazinform)

Indicators – December 31, 2010 (Reuters)

METALS AND MINING:

Kazakhstan gold mine draws U.S. firm into deal (UPI)

REGIONAL:

Kyrgyzstan lays foundation for parliamentary democracy (Reuters)

39 Uzbeks died of torture in prisons – rights group (AP)

Source: http://silkroadintelligencer.com/2011/01/04/kazakhstan-daily-news-roundup-january-4-2011/

U.S. rolls out red carpet for controversial Kazakh leader 0

Posted on April 13, 2010 by KazCham

US rolls out red carpet for controversial Kazakh leader

AFP
AFP American Edition

Apr 12, 2010 12:40 EDT

Kazakhstan’s authoritarian president Nursultan Nazarbayev touted himself as poster boy of a Washington summit on nuclear disarmament Monday — and President Barack Obama, badly needing allies in Central Asia, was his main fan.

Posters of a smiling Nazarbayev hung prominently on advertising boards around Washington, where leaders of 47 countries were attending a summit on securing the world’s loose nukes.

After a one-hour meeting with Obama on Sunday, the Kazakh strongman, who has been in power since his energy-rich state emerged from the 1991 Soviet collapse, has plenty to smile about.

Washington holds up Kazakhstan, which voluntarily ceded its portion of the Soviet nuclear arsenal, as an example of a country benefiting from what Obama says should be the world’s ultimate goal: full nuclear disarmament.

Nazarbayev explains on the posters that his vast, sparsely populated nation gave up the inherited nuclear arsenal because atomic testing during the Soviet period had sickened 1.5 million people.

“That’s why we got rid of our nuclear arsenal, the world’s fourth largest. And that is why we call on the world to follow our example. There is no other way to build a safer world,” the poster quotes Nazarbayev saying.

White House advisor Mike McFaul said Obama described Nazarbayev as “one of the model leaders” on nuclear safety issues and said that the Washington summit wouldn’t have happened “without his presence.”

“By giving up nuclear weapons they went from a country that might have been isolated had they kept those nuclear weapons, and in turn was open to the international economy,” McFaul said.

On the sensitive topic of democracy, Obama was more than understanding.

“Both Presidents agreed that it?s never — you don?t ever reach democracy, you always have to work at it,” McFaul said. “President Obama reminded his Kazakh counterpart that we, too, are working to improve our democracy.”

Nazarbayev doesn’t always get such warm treatment abroad.

Though not considered as repressive as the leaders of Central Asia’s Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, Nazarbayev has rigged elections for almost two decades and crushed media freedom, Western watchdogs say.

His country remains almost unknown to ordinary people in the West beyond the satirical send-up in the hit comedy film “Borat,” about a bumbling Kazakh journalist.

But reasons are mounting why Nazarbayev matters.

The violent overthrow of the government in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, where the United States has a military base, sharply highlighted the importance of politically stable Kazakhstan as an access route to Afghanistan.

During their meeting, Obama and Nazarbayev strengthened that route by agreeing on overflight rights for US military aircraft coming over the North Pole and directly south into Afghanistan — a significant shortcut for US-based planes.

“This will save money, it will save time, in terms of moving our troops and the supplies needed into the theater, as President Obama has already announced,” McFaul said.

Less immediate, but of equally strategic importance, is Kazakhstan’s emerging role as an energy source, both in its huge oil reserves and its ambition — despite the non-nuclear stance — of being the world’s top producer of uranium.

“The presidents reconfirmed the importance of the long-term energy partnership between the two countries,” a joint statement said. “The United States welcomed Kazakhstan?s emergence as the top global uranium producer as an important development for diversification of global energy supply.”

Kazakh Ambassador Erlan Idrissov listed a host of issues — nuclear non-proliferation, energy, Afghanistan, relations with Russia and China, and anti-terrorism — that he said make US-Kazakh relations “very important.”

“Over the first years of emergence, people didn’t realize who we are and what we are,” he told journalists Monday.

But “Kazakhstan was there for millennia and will continue to be there for millennia.”

Source: AFP American Edition



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