Opening remarks by Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister of Kazakhstan Roman Vassilenko at the ‘Kazakhstan Global Investment Forum 2019’
LONDON. KAZINFORM – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan has issued a speech of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan Roman Vassilenko at the ‘Kazakhstan Global Investment Forum 2019’ which was held in London. Kazinform offers its readers the full text of the speech.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me start by thanking the UK government, officially represented here by Minister Graham Stuart and Baroness Nicolson, for its active support and promotion of British investment and trade with Kazakhstan.
As you may know, the United Kingdom is one of the six largest foreign investors in Kazakhstan. Over the past decade, the inflow of direct British investment to the Kazakh economy amounted to nearly 12 billion US dollars.
Our bilateral trade exchange is also on the rise: According to the British statistics, which we prefer to use on occasions like this since its figures are typically higher, last year, the Kazakhstan-UK trade turnover was more than 2.3 billion pounds.
Kazakhstan enjoys a truly and visibly productive economic cooperation with Britain.
A few years ago, the United Kingdom officially recognized Kazakhstan as one of its ‘priority destinations’ for trade and investment. And in 2013, the two governments underpinned our growing relationship by signing a joint declaration that announced a strategic partnership between Kazakhstan and the United Kingdom.
In terms of business-to-business cooperation, there are more than 500 companies with British participation that are successfully operating in Kazakhstan. Two major UK corporations – ‘Royal Dutch Shell’ and ‘Ernst&Young’ – are members of the Council of Foreign Investors under the President of Kazakhstan. British companies, such as ‘Shell’, ‘Willam Hare’, ‘Worley Parsons’ and others are actively involved in multibillion projects at the gigantic oil and gas fields of Kashagan and Karachaganak in Kazakhstan.
In turn, Kazakhstan’s business is represented in the UK by branch offices of some of our finest national and private companies, including ‘Samruk-Kazyna Sovereign Wealth Fund’, ‘Air Astana’, ‘KazMorTransFlot’ and ‘KAZ Minerals’.
And, of course, both countries take pride in our flagship joint project – the Astana International Financial Centre. The Centre has been modelled on English Common Law and international best practice. We established the AIFC with the support of a number of leading British investment banks, law firms and consultancies. And I would like to recognize ‘TheCityUK’ corporation for their significant contribution to making the AIFC a great success.
We designed the Centre as a financial hub not only for Central Asia, but also for the wider Eurasian region. The AIFC has already registered more than 250 companies as its members, and we plan to increase this figure to 500 companies by the end of this year.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Late last year, Kazakhstan’s First President Nursultan Nazarbayev reformed our Foreign Ministry and gave new responsibilities. Today, our Ministry is formally in charge of not only diplomacy, but also attracting foreign investment into our country as well as helping our exporters. Therefore, let me speak briefly about the investment climate in Kazakhstan.
As you may know, Kazakhstan is the largest economy in Central Asia, accounting for more than half of the region’s GDP.
We are also widely considered to have the best investment climate in the region, having attracted over $300 billion in foreign direct investment since independence.
According to the 2019 World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report, Kazakhstan now ranks 28th out of 190 countries. The next such report is due tomorrow, October 24, and we are eagerly waiting for its announcement, having worked tirelessly and consistently over so many years to improve the investment climate.
Our ranking is a well-deserved recognition of our continuous search for ways to make life easier for foreign businesses operating in Kazakhstan.
For example, foreign investors in our priority sectors are exempt from corporate income tax, land tax and property tax for the period of 8 to 10 years. We simplified the process of bringing in foreign labour for priority investment projects by getting rid of some of the most cumbersome quotas and permits.
Furthermore, Kazakhstan unilaterally introduced a 30-day visa-free regime for the citizens of the United Kingdom and almost 60 other developed countries. There are direct 6-hour flights between London and Nur-Sultan operated by our flagship national air carrier 5 times a week.
Besides the business climate, foreign investors have been attracted by Kazakhstan’s political stability demonstrated, among other developments, by the smooth transition of power and the election of our new President, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, earlier this year; well-educated workforce; and the access our country provides to a fast-growing regional market of 500 million consumers.
Geographically, Kazakhstan is located at the intersection of major transportation routes between Asia and Europe. Our unique and central position makes us a ‘buckle’ along China’s massive Belt and Road programme, which opens yet another set of exciting opportunities for foreign investors.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to conclude by re-confirming that Kazakhstan is open. Open for business. Open for new opportunities. And open for new friendships.
I look forward to your many future visits to Kazakhstan – for business or pleasure – and wish today’s conference a great success.