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Nazarbayev opens World Kurultai of Kazakhs in Astana

Sat, 2017-06-24 02:25

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev opened June 23 the fifth World Kurultai of Kazakhs in Astana, which takes place in the capital within the framework of EXPO 2017. Nearly 850 delegates and guests, including 350 ethnic Kazakhs from 39 countries, arrived in Astana to take part.

“I want to address Kazakhs from the rostrum with lines from a poem – every Kazakh is the one and only for me. I send my warmest greetings to our compatriots living abroad,” Nazarbayev said in his opening remarks.

He noted that every Kazakh contributes to the development of Kazakhstan regardless of where they live.

Established in 1992 and taking place every five years, the general idea behind the creation of Kurultai, which means congregation in Kazakh, is to unite Kazakhs all over the world, promote Kazakh culture and traditions as they can be subject to assimilation and let Kazakhs know that they are welcome in their historical homeland.

Eighty percent of all delegates this year are taking part in the Kurultai for the first time. Unlike previous years, this time the organisers put the focus on Kazakh youth residing in foreign countries – 60 percent of delegates are young people not older than 35, who succeeded in various fields abroad.

The delegates will focus on issues related to the funding of Kazakh cultural centres abroad, various forms of assistance to Kazakh diasporas and measures to encourage young Kazakhs from abroad to study in Kazakhstan.

According to Nazarbayev, one of the many ways to unite Kazakhs is to accelerate the introduction of the Latin alphabet. “Transition of the Kazakh language to Latin alphabet is a step closer to greater integration in global science and education system and to our spiritual unity. On the post-Soviet space, we use Cyrillic, our compatriots in China use the Arabic script and our brothers in the West use Latin. When we speak to each other, it is one language, but when it comes to reading, we have three different languages. We cannot understand each other. We become estranged,” Nazarbayev noted, as reported by Kazinform news agency.

With the potential of the Latin alphabet to unite Kazakhs around the world, Nazarbayev believes the transition can occur earlier than 2025 initially announced in his state-of-the-nation address in 2012. “I believe it is not difficult, because our children learn English since the first grade. All schools have English language classes, which use the Latin alphabet. The young generation will have no problem with that. We will not have any problems either,” Nazarbayev added.

Initially scheduled for 2016, Kurultai was postponed to coincide with a major international event now taking place in Astana – EXPO 2017, – as delegates expressed their interest in attending the exhibition.

As part of their visit, delegates will visit pavilions at the expo, Astana’s sights and attractions and Ethnic Village complex, which brings visitors closer to the Kazakh culture and traditions. They will also take part in round tables and seminars organized by the country’s ministries.

Approximately one million ethnic Kazakhs have returned to Kazakhstan since the country gained its independence in 1991. Last year, Kazakhstan simplified citizenship application procedures for ethnic Kazakhs, which increased the number of Kazakh families returning to Kazakhstan eight times.

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EXPO 2017 opens to success, offers path to the future

Sat, 2017-06-24 02:22

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

With EXPO now well under way, there are clear signs of lessons from the past few decades underpinning the objectives of this event. Hosting EXPO has, for instance, enabled our government to particularly focus on infrastructural progress, the improvement of education and the promotion of Kazakhstan’s culture to international audiences in time to mark its transition to a third stage of modernisation.

In our country’s development roadmap, known as the Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy, President Nursultan Nazarbayev outlined key areas, which would serve to aid our accession to the world’s top 30 economies. One of these was developing our country’s infrastructure and transport under the Nurly Zhol programme, to facilitate Kazakhstan’s role at the heart of the New Silk Road initiative. Hosting EXPO 2017 in our capital city has permitted our government to focus on supporting the needs of the event’s foreign and domestic visitors by establishing new facilities, ensuring Astana’s prospective role as a regional hub for finance and investment.

The impressive results of this programme include the creation of the new Nurly Zhol railway station in Astana, which expects a passenger flow of approximately 12 million people a year and the addition of a new terminal to our capital’s airport. Long after expo finishes, these initiatives will continue to benefit our country by establishing new transport routes, attracting visitors and creating hundreds of new jobs. It’s no surprise, therefore, that our President has already described these new facilities as the “new pride of Astana.”

Yet it is not only our capital that has benefitted from EXPO 2017. President Nazarbayev made a point in his opening speech of inviting everyone to visit all of Kazakhstan for the amazing nature as well as the historical heritage that we have to offer. The expo has also brought together Kazakhs from all corners of our country to appreciate our united progression.

Another focal point for EXPO 2017 has been its beneficial effect upon the younger generations. The exposition aims to inspire children from all around Kazakhstan to play a role in developing these futuristic technologies by immersing them in the research at the forefront of science worldwide. The French pavilion’s main exhibition of a new Peugeot project, for example, is highly commendable for engaging with children to interest them in the fascinating design of electric cars.

This focus of EXPO 2017 on the future pioneers of Kazakhstan builds upon a range of initiatives, which provide the resources for children to excel. For instance, Kazakhstan’s Minister for Education and Science Yerlan Sagadiyev, recently announced that 93 percent of final-year students who achieve consistent top marks receive the prestigious Altyn Belgi recognition, which allows them to attend any university in Kazakhstan with all of their tuition subsidised by the government.

Schemes such as this reaffirm our commitment to supporting education, and our country is already seeing tangible results. Only last year did the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study rank Kazakh students eight out of 57 developed countries for their education in the sciences.

EXPO 2017 has also brought Kazakhstan’s existing strengths and values to the attention of the international community, reiterating our country’s commitments to moving forward together. The attendance of our opening ceremony by prominent world leaders, such as President of China Xi Jinping, President of Russia Vladimir Putin, and King Felipe VI of Spain, as well as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, goes to show the magnitude and importance of EXPO 2017 on the global agenda.

In this regard, it is astonishing to consider how far Kazakhstan has come in the 25 years of its independence and the confidence with which it has done so. This has only been possible due to the assured leadership of President Nazarbayev and our government’s willingness to learn from its mistakes. Although we can be sure of more lessons to learn from the event’s proceedings, the first few weeks have been testament to the painstaking work of the organisers whose collective efforts are to thank for what has been an unforgettable opening to a momentous event.

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New street named after Tatar Queen unveiled in Astana

Sat, 2017-06-24 01:15

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – President of Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov and Astana Akim (Mayor) Asset Issekeshev participated in the June 12 opening ceremony of the street named after Kazan Khanate’s Queen Sujumbike in Astana.

The new street is in cottage town in Family Village and is the second street named after a representative of Tartars in the city. There is also a street named after the Tartar poet, Hero of the Soviet Union, Mussa Jalil in the Saryarka district.

“Today we have become even closer. We are fraternal peoples. The opening of this street is a historical event for us. We have a beautiful street named after Nursultan Nazarbayev in our capital. In that way, each step is the rapprochement of our peoples. We appreciate that and thank Kazakh President (Nursultan Nazarbayev), Asset Issekeshev and everyone who made the decision to open the street named after Queen Sujumbike,” said the President of Tatarstan.

He congratulated all Kazakh citizens on the opening of EXPO 2017 and wished it success.

The soul of the Tartar people is reflected in the image of Queen Sujumbike and the Turkic world as well, according to Minnikhanov.

“We are glad that she became the unifying symbol of Tatarstan and Kazakhstan,” he said.

Issekeshev highlighted that this year marks the 13th anniversary of economic and cultural collaboration between the capitals of the two states, saying, “I hope that today’s event will serve the further development and strengthening of fraternal relations between Astana and Kazan.”

Queen Sujumbike is the national hero of Tatarstan. Her name is associated with the Sujumbike Tower. She was the daughter of Nogai nobleman Yosıf bak and the wife of Kazan khans, as well as served as regent of Kazan during the minority of her son from 1549 until 1551.

Poet and scholar Zhanat Askerbekkyzy and Sharban Beisenova, the winner of Alash international literature prize, honoured worker of culture and member of the Writers Union of Kazakhstan are the initiators of the street opening.

Kazakh Honoured Worker Kamil Mullashev, who is also People’s Artist of Tatarstan, State Prize Laureate of Kazakhstan and Tatarstan, made the Queen’s sculpture, which was presented at the opening ceremony.

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Finnair launches direct Helsinki-Astana flights

Sat, 2017-06-24 01:06

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Finnair launched June 19 direct Helsinki-Astana-Helsinki flights. The flights will be Mondays and Fridays on modern Airbus 319 airliners.

The new flights initiate a partnership between the Astana airport and the national carrier of Finland – Finnair and are the result of cooperation between the countries, Astana airport and Finnair. The flights are expected to promote tourism flows in both directions and increase Finnish visitation to EXPO 2017.

Finnair became the 22nd client airline of the Astana airport, renamed Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport by the Kazakh Government on June 21,  offering regular flights to the capital. The airline’s route network covers Europe, Asia and North America. Passengers from Astana will be able to take advantage of a transfer at the airport in Helsinki within the same terminal.

It is planned that the Astana-Helsinki direct flights will be replaced by Almaty-Helsinki after Aug. 10.

The Astana Airport implemented the project of building a new passenger terminal. The uniqueness of the project is in the landing bridges, which contain two mobile approaches for landing. When servicing aircraft, two gates will be used simultaneously. Thus, one bridge can serve two aircraft simultaneously, regardless of arrival or departure.

Finnair is the only Scandinavian airline, having four stars in the Skytrax rating. The airline received the World Airline award and has been a leader for the last seven years as the best airline in Northern Europe. Finnair is a member of Oneworld alliance of leading airlines of the world.

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American gives impressions of EXPO 2017 and personal ideas behind power of blogging

Sat, 2017-06-24 01:01

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – What is this trend known as blogging? What is its main aim compared to how corporate journalists write on a day-to-day base? Are they the independent media or a little bit more?

Some say bloggers are simply writers who have a yearning for uncensored self-expression of their surroundings, as well as a personal, unadulterated opinion on any given topic that sparks their mind.

The Astana Times chatted with blogger Izabel Trizlova, a native of the United States and seasoned world traveler. She shared her ideas about what it is to be a blogger and why she decided to volunteer for EXPO 2017.

“First of all, I had the rare opportunity to work for the USA pavilion at the expo and overall I had a general interest in Kazakhstan,” she said.

Before coming to Kazakhstan, Trizlova knew the geographic location of the country but little about its culture. Everything changed when she learned she was accepted into the volunteer programme.

“First, coming here I didn’t know what to expect in regards to the country, in addition to the tasks I would be doing here and how the people would accept me as a foreigner. And to my pleasant surprise, everyone here has been so cordial; I really felt true Kazakh hospitality and it is hard to believe that I have these great moments so quickly because this is just the beginning of my journey here,” she said.

Trizlova spoke about her impression of blogging.

“Being a blogger has a lot to do with expressing one’s overall writing about their experience that has happened to them or shaped their character. In turn, we can share these events with other people around the world. The ultimate possibility is that we can be the facilitators that can inspire people with our words and which can reach the hearts of people,” she said.

“I haven’t had so many experiences so far, because I haven’t yet got to venture out of the expo because of the sheer amount of work I have to do around our pavilion. But I can tell you that I have had the unique opportunity to talk to locals and head over to other foreign pavilions. There have been some memorable engagements with them and I have had some really good close connections in such a close knit social atmosphere that we built here,” she added.

Trizlova noted why she chose to spend her summer far from home.

“My mission statement is to get as much as I can out of this experience, learn about the expo, discover the true meaning behind the Kazakh culture and venture out to see many different cities and places which will open up my cultural pallet even more,” she said.

Even though Trizlova has been working at the USA pavilion each day, Kazakh citizens are more than happy to give her daily inspiration on what kind of steps she can take on her personal blog journey within the Land of the Great Steppe to make it the most rewarding.

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Eurasian Media Forum discusses media’s role in a changing world

Sat, 2017-06-24 00:49

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – More than 600 delegates from 60 countries gathered June 22-24 near the site of EXPO 2017 for the 14th Eurasian Media Forum (EAMF) to discuss the media’s role in a turbulent world.

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“When the world undergoes dramatic changes, the demand for dialogue platforms inevitably increases. The media should become the leaders of this process and concentrate efforts on uniting nations and countries, rather than erect new barriers. The world has entered an era of the new information environment, and we must do everything to encourage partnership and knowledge sharing,” said Kazakh State Secretary Gulshara Abdykalikova in opening remarks as she read out the welcoming address from President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Nazarbayev noted the forum has become known over its 15-year history as a place to discuss media and global issues.

“Readiness for the upcoming social and technological changes is the determining factor for sustainable development. The green economy as a key direction of changes in the technological order is consonant with the theme of the exhibition in Astana,” Abdykalikova said.

Dariga Nazarbayeva. Photo credit:

In her opening speech, EAMF Organising Committee Chair Dariga Nazarbayeva said the society is in a condition of political instability and technological revolution. The forum aims to help the media community find answers to issues about the future and professional ethics.

“The present period is an era of uncertainty and fear, an era of uncontrolled freedom. Is this true? Globalisation was associated with progress. Now globalisation frightens people and, as a result, they oppose the globalisation with the ideas of radicalism, nationalism and the rejection of integration processes,” she said.

Gulshara Abdykalikova. Photo credit:

The terrorist attacks and the civil war in the Middle East dramatically increased flows of refugees that have become a heavy burden for many European countries.

“There are two crucial values without which human life is simply inconceivable. One is security and the other is freedom,” Nazarbayeva said citing Zygmund Bauman.

“They are both necessary. Security without freedom is slavery. Freedom without security is complete chaos where you are lost, abandoned, you don’t know what to do. The question is what the modern generation will choose,” she said.

“We cannot build a new balanced world based only on narrow-minded ideologies, negative stereotypes and pessimism. We should raise a new generation of strong people and the past tragedies won’t be obstacle to moving forward,” she said.

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Reporters, Nazarbayeva noted, should take some semblance of the Hippocratic Oath and be guided by the most important principle of healing, “Do not harm,” just like medical experts.

British television journalist Nik Gowing, who moderated the first panel session under the title “Changes in the world order: building bridges or walls?” said that many things have happened since last year’s meeting, including the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union, the presidency of Donald Trump, fake news phenomenon and how one incident became a threat to the United States’ largest airline.

“These are massive challenges and existential threats not just in geopolitics but also in the corporate sector as well. The walls and bridges are moving significantly,” he said.

Former European Commission President José Manuel Barroso outlined general trends against globalisation and spoke about Brexit consequences, new approaches of Trump’s policy, the United States withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and China as a stable partner in global interaction in his speech.

“Globalisation is happening today and it is done by science, technology, information, communication. The reality is that there is not one country that is controlling globalisation. Some time ago some people were making suggestions that globalisation is some form of americanisation of the world. This is simply not true … When there are very strong winds of globalisation people tend to close themselves, to try to retreat and there’s isolation, protectionism, nativism, phobia,” he said.

Barroso said that if people want to succeed, they have to invite their children to be open and to embrace the great opportunities of globalisation. “And this is our simple message we should try to give. Of course, we have negative effects from financial instability to international terrorism. They require a more cooperative, global approach,” he added.

Former Turkish President Abdullah Gül said that today inequality and populism lead to conflict. World leaders should prefer values such as democracy and the rule of law otherwise problems grow and trends become serious.

“Sense of collectivism is disappearing. I see in the future we might face more problems and the world is not ready to challenge, to tackle, to handle these problems,” he said.

Delegates also discussed the green economy concept, sustainability in the era of crises and steps towards global leadership in world markets and how information flow changed the world.

A series of masterclasses on media-related subjects were conducted by experts, including Newseum Vice Chair Shelby Coffey, Financial Times special representative David Applefield, former head of political press for David Cameron Giles Kenningham, Bloomberg Media Group Global Director Todd Baer and others as part of the forum.

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ASTANA TOWER Business Center awarded BREEAM In-Use Excellent rating

Sat, 2017-06-24 00:41

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

Astana Tower Ishletme LLP announces that the ASTANA TOWER Business Center has obtained a BREEAM In-Use certification applied to existing non-residential buildings. The first A class office building met high international technical standards to achieve the highest BREEAM ratings: “Very Good” in Asset (performance characteristics of the building) and “Excellent” in Building Management (practices related to the operation of the building).

BREEAM In-Use assessment assists the improvement of the existing buildings and its operational efficiency. The ASTANA TOWER Business Center prior to receiving the certification, introduced a comprehensive environmentally friendly policy for the building’s operation.

Tenants and visitors of the business center enjoy the most favourable working conditions: a thermal comfort, air quality, natural lightning and high safety standards. The second floor of the building offers a convenient multifunctional space for social interaction. A convenient parking area and six bus stops are within a walking distance from the business center.

Zhanar Yseneeva, General Director of Astana Tower Ishletme LLP said, “Creating comfortable conditions for tenants is one of our priorities in building management. However, the environmental efficiency – energy saving and technologies reducing the environmental impact – is no less vital. We have introduced the advanced technologies that allowed us to meet high environmental standards and obtain certification.”

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Astana basketball club hires new coach with NBA experience

Fri, 2017-06-23 06:43

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Kostas Flevarakis has been hired as the new coach of BC Astana, Kazakhstan’s premier basketball team.

Kostas Flevarakis

He will replace Greek compatriot Ilias Papatheodorou, who guided the team to the national championship and VTB United League playoffs in the 2016-2017 season. The Kazakh club delivered a decent overall performance during the season and dropped out of the VTB League only after losing to CSKA Moscow, one of the best clubs in European basketball.

Papatheodorou is leaving his post for family reasons.

Flevarakis began his career in 1995 as a coach with the Greek club PAOK, which won the Greek Cup three years later. He also led AEK, another major Greek club, before becoming an assistant coach with the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks during the 2001 summer league. Flevarakis later worked as a scout with the NBA’s Denver Nuggets. Last season, he coached the Rethymno Cretan Kings, a club competing in Greece’s top-tier basketball league.

BC Astana’s management signed a one-year contract with the new coach.

“The past season was successful for us, as we won the national championship, made it to the VTB League playoffs and finally opened our children’s academy. The whole team did a good job. I am pleased with the current management of the club, the general manager and the young executive director. These people are eager to develop basketball and are really working on achieving the club’s goals and objectives. I would especially like to thank the team’s former head coach Ilias Papatheodorou for the work he did, for the results and fruits the team achieved with him. Unfortunately, Ilias had to return home for family reasons, which is why we announced the appointment of Flevarakis,” said Astana Presidential Professional Sports Club Executive Director Amanbek Kulchikov.

“We set the bar high for the team and the renewed line-up, which is to win the national championship, reach the VTB League playoffs, develop the academy and strengthen the image of BC Astana,” he added.

Valery Tikhonenko, a member of the USSR team that won the basketball tournament at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and is now general manager of BC Astana, noted the club is paying special attention to training a new generation of Kazakh players. The plan is being executed by investing efforts in the club’s children’s academy to develop a stronger home-grown professional cadre.

“I was very much looking forward to the opening of this academy and I am pleased that the academy now actively works and is in demand among a great number of children. I am grateful to the Astana Presidential Club for their support and help. Last season, we achieved our goals; we had a successful season in general and will start the new season with exactly the same ambition. Of course, we need to take into account the fact that we went through some changes. We have Costas Flevarakis, a true professional, with us now and I am sure that together with him our guys will achieve good results,” said Tikhonenko.

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Kazakh Foreign Investors Council discusses future energy in Astana

Fri, 2017-06-23 00:39

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The 30th plenary session of the Foreign Investors Council under the President of Kazakhstan took place June 22 in Astana, bringing nearly 300 participants to the capital, including top executives of world’s leading companies in various fields.

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Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev chaired the session devoted this year to Future Energy, which coincides with the main theme of the much-anticipated EXPO 2017 that opened its doors in early June.

“This year marks the 19th anniversary of the council. Our meetings have turned into a good tradition over these years. We have done a great job. You provided an enormous help to Kazakhstan in building our economy and carrying out reforms, which we are now implementing,” Nazarbayev said during his opening speech.

He also welcomed new members of the council. “It is natural that the council is changing steadily. Before proceeding to the agenda, I would like to introduce new members of the council.  They are the Asian Development Bank’s Vice-President for Private Sector and Co-financing Operations Diwakar Gupta and Marubeni’s Regional CEO for Europe, Africa and CIS Naoya Iwashita.  They replaced their colleagues who retired. There are also new members from the Kazakh side,” Nazarbayev noted.

With Future Energy being on top of the meeting’s agenda, participants discussed the implementation of previous meeting’s recommendations and challenges that world economies are facing today on their path to clean energy.

President  of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Sir Suma Chakrabarti stressed Kazakhstan’s active role in contributing to international efforts in the field of future energy. “Kazakhstan and EBRD are writing a new chapter of this story almost every day,” he added.

Being the largest investor in renewable energy across 37 countries with the volume of investments in this area equalling $1.9 billion in Kazakhstan, the EBRD and Kazakhstan recently agreed on basic terms of the agreement on a wind power plant in South Kazakhstan region and doubled the size of Burnoe solar power plant in Zhambyl region.

Special attention was paid to the digitalisation of economy and industrial processes, which could help world economies decrease operation costs and increase productivity. “For the first time in history, digital technologies can provide us with a unified picture of the entire energy chain from energy generation to its supply and consumption,” said General Electric Oil & Gas President Lorenzo Simonelli.

He outlined GE’s cooperation with Kazakh companies, such as Air Astana, Tengizchevroil and Kazakhstan Temir Zholy, in digitalisation of their operations.

“Rich resources, human capital and modern industries help us see Kazakhstan’s enormous potential in the use of these innovations. That is why GE actively supports Kazakhstan’s vision of Industrial Internet driving future growth of Kazakhstan, which was put forward by President Nazarbayev,” said Simonelli.

German Gref, CEO of Russia’s largest commercial lender, Sberbank, also asserted the importance of keeping up with emerging trends in global economy, among which is digitalisation.

“Those who fail to stick to the digitalisation trend today will be late tomorrow and it will cost much for large structures and states. Kazakhstan needs to pay attention to several specific trends. First, digitalisation of public services. Kazakhstan is able to achieve that in short time creating a competitive state by cutting number of officials, bureaucracy and time needed to provide a service. Introducing artificial intelligence in all state sectors will help fulfilling this objective,” he said.

Gupta also highlighted Kazakhstan’s active efforts in transition to green economy, which is stipulated in the Green Economy Concept adopted by Kazakhstan in 2013. “Kazakhstan has a potential to become a green financial centre for the entire Central Asian region. ADB is ready to work with Kazakhstan in developing solutions to promote green economy,” he noted.

“Our priority is an accelerated modernisation of economy. This is what I discussed in my address (to the people of Kazakhstan). We need to develop new industries using innovations and digital technologies,” Nazarbayev said.

He also suggested the topic for the council’s next session “Accelerated Modernisation,” which was approved unanimously.

Established in 1998, the Foreign Investors Council aims to stimulate greater cooperation and interaction between Kazakhstan and foreign investors by serving as a platform for dialogue and providing favourable investment conditions.

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Sanofi consumer healthcare products spread in Kazakh households

Thu, 2017-06-22 03:12

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Sanofi, one of the world’s five largest pharmaceutical companies, is celebrating its 20th anniversary in Kazakhstan this year. In an exclusive interview with The Astana Times, Central Asia General Manager Ranga Welaratne took a resolute stand for company’s highest-quality product.

“I would rather lose my entire business than lose the value of my company!” he said.

French-based Sanofi is a life-science company represented in more than 100 countries and employing more than 100,000 individuals. Sanofi Central Asia has a staff of more than 350 in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

“Everything you see made by Sanofi is highly ethical and highly compliant,” he said. “This year, we celebrate 20 years since Sanofi came to Kazakhstan.”

The healthcare firm is considered the leader in emerging Central Asian markets. Its mission is to bring innovation to patients across the globe, he added.

“Sanofi has been growing its business in this part of the world [in the past 55 years] and such consumer healthcare products as No Shpa (equivalent to Drotaverine), Essentiale Forte and Maalox are household items in Kazakhstan produced by Sanofi that every Kazakh citizen knows,” said Welaratne.

The company supplies consumer healthcare or non-prescription products to Kazakhstan, as well as vaccines and medicine for diabetes and cardiovascular and rare diseases.

“This is also possible due to Kazakhstan’s healthcare system, as the government funds certain therapeutic areas for the population, for example diabetes products. Insulins as well as vaccines are bought by the government and distributed through proper channels to patients,” he said.

Every Kazakh citizen has come in contact and is aware of these widely-used products by the time they are adolescents, as each child is vaccinated by Sanofi products at birth.

“The children’s vaccines are as safe as they can be,” Welaratne stressed. “My children get the same vaccine. These vaccines used in Kazakhstan are the same vaccines used in Australia, France and Germany. No matter the location, Sanofi products are exactly the same everywhere. I want to be very clear on this point – Sanofi quality standards and compliance undergo the strictest regulations, including transportation. From the time it is manufactured to the time it is vaccinated, the product is temperature-controlled.”

The company wants to establish good relations with Kazakh authorities and the population.

“[With this in mind] I feel like asking – ‘How can we help?’ This is the [meaning] of our existence. So, today we are trying to work with the Ministry of Healthcare and Social Protection and other authorities to try to build a partnership that will enable us to bring our high-quality products at a very affordable price and these are not easy things to do,” he said.

Although Welaratne has travelled extensively, he admitted knowing little about this part of the world until assuming the post in Kazakhstan.

“I didn’t have many impressions about [the country], to be honest, before coming to Kazakhstan. I read a couple of books before coming. I was pleasantly surprised about Central Asia and what I observed since being here, in particular about the people and culture,” he said.

Welaratne and his family arrived in Kazakhstan in January 2016. The people, he noted, were his biggest eye-opener.

“Before coming to Kazakhstan, I read a book called ‘Why Russians don’t Smile’ and when I came here in the middle of the winter it was very cold and I did find people who weren’t really smiley. But once you get to know the people, you realise they’re very family-oriented and very warm people beyond the surface,” he said.

A native of Sri Lanka, Welaratne studied in Australia and graduated from an engineering and business school (MBA) there. He joined Sanofi in the country as a consultant and six months later was offered a full-time job.

“Sanofi had the qualities I was looking for in a company,” he said. “It’s a multi-national company with fundamentals like understanding and serving the patients and in an ethical way.”

Kazakhstan is Welaratne’s seventh Sanofi assignment. He joined the company in 2004 and had held various posts in Australia, Belgium, China, France, South Korea and the Netherlands. Commenting from experience, he noted policies in emerging markets can sometimes be a challenge for companies like Sanofi.

“The policies tend to change quickly and this is not only about Kazakhstan and this can be challenging. The funding mechanisms are not defined sometimes and pharmaceutical reforms are happening quite often, so one needs to be able to adapt the business to these challenges. There are opportunities on the other hand, being in an emerging market you get both opportunities and challenges,” he said.

“In the countries like Kazakhstan, the ecosystem in the pharmaceutical market is not mature yet but developing at a fast pace for in the past few years. Multi-national companies have been here only in the past 15 to 20 years, as opposed to such countries as the U.S. or France that have had these companies for over 150 years, so the ecosystem there is quite mature,” he added.

Welaratne noted the company is preparing for the June 28 international conference on modern approaches to managing socially-significant diseases. The conference is being coordinated with the support of the Kazakh Ministry of Healthcare and Social Protection, the French Embassy in Kazakhstan and Sanofi. The organisers are expecting experts from Russia, the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organisation.

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Akan Satayev’s film named Best Feature Film at New York Eurasian Film Festival

Thu, 2017-06-22 03:08

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – “Road to Mother” directed by Akan Satayev won the Best Feature Film award at the June 16-18 fifth New York Eurasian Film Festival. The competition brought together 33 films from 18 countries.

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“I am pleased to announce that our film “Road to Mother” was named best feature film at New York Eurasian Film Festival,” Satayev wrote on his personal Instagram page.

The film’s general producer Aliya Nazarbayeva, the youngest daughter of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, also received Eurasian Women in Cinema award and Altynai Nogerbek playing one of leading female roles won Best Actress award.

The New York Eurasian Film Festival seeks to promote and strengthen cultural cooperation and interaction between the U.S. and the region. Every year it brings short films, feature films and documentaries from Eurasia to New York.

“Road to Mother” premiered in non-competitive section of the Moscow International Film Festival in June 2016 with Kazakhstan’s premiere taking place in Almaty in September.

The picture tells the story of a mother’s unconditional love and its power that helped young man Ilyas to withstand numerous life challenges far from home. The film captures one of the most difficult and tragic periods in Kazakhstan’s history – collectivisation, famine, World War II and post war years, which took the lives of millions of young people and destroyed the lives of many more.

The film’s plot is based on the story that Satayev once heard from his parents, theatre actors who toured across the country in 1980s.

Filming started in 2015 and took place in Kazakhstan, Belarus and Azerbaijan.

“Road to Mother” has already received several international and national awards. It won the grand prize at the Eurasian Bridge Film Festival in Yalta and Tulpar prize from the National Academy of Motion Picture Arts at the Almaty International Film Festival. It received critical acclaim at the Moscow International Film Festival.

Akan Satayev is a prominent Kazakh director. He directed several successful films. Among them are the historical film “Zhauzhurek Myn Bala” (“Thousand Young Warriors”) and one of the highest-grossing films in the history of the Kazakh cinema “Reketir” (“Racketeer”).


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GE highlights emerging trends and technologies at EXPO 2017

Thu, 2017-06-22 03:03

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – General Electric (GE), one of the global sponsors of the United States pavilion at EXPO 2017, hosted the June 21 forum Moving Forward, Fueling the Future. The session focused on emerging trends and technologies in the energy and transportation industries, including the digital revolution that is radically reshaping the industrial world.

GE also inked several agreements with Kazakh Temir Zholy (KTZ) on digital cooperation and with Eni S.p.A. on partnering on renewable energy. The document joining the two companies and the Kazakh Ministry of Energy outlined evaluating the possibility of building a 50MW wind farm and other projects.

“GE’s long-standing relationship with Kazakhstan Temir Zholy is a testament to our commitment and innovation within the rail space,” said GE Transportation President and CEO Jamie Miller.

“We are excited to expand our relationship and are confident in the value our digital solutions provide and excited to bring the most advanced digital rail solutions to the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) region,” she added.

More than 100 top officials, senior business executives and global leaders came together for an interactive discussion on the transportation industry, focusing on Kazakhstan as an important trade hub between Europe and Asia. The experts highlighted the critical importance of digital technologies in transforming the rail industry.

The agreement with KTZ will implement GE Transportation’s digital solutions, including Trip Optimiser and Smart Intermodal Terminal, to lower fuel costs, enhance power distribution and increase terminal productivity.

Senior business and government leaders discussed the country’s oil and gas sector and noted its critical role in ensuring Eurasian energy security and the potential for a new virtual pipeline and LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) technology to better leverage Kazakhstan’s abundant gas resources to support sustainable development.

“Rich in resources and a key trade corridor, Kazakhstan and the broader Central Asia region are hugely important to the global oil and gas industry,” said GE Oil & Gas President and CEO Lorenzo Simonelli.

“This is the perfect place for a global discussion and we welcome the opportunity to continue collaborating with our partners in the region,” he added.

The company had the opportunity to show the interactive electricity value network to more than 20,000 visitors to the pavilion in the past two weeks. The display focuses on the growing importance of renewables in the global energy mix.

After the forum, the guests were invited to Lokomotiv Kurastyru Zauyty (LKZ), a GE joint venture in the capital that manufactures high-efficiency, heavy-haul Evolution-series locomotives customised for the CIS market. To date, the facility has produced 300 TE33A locomotives, dozens of which have been exported to neighbouring Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Ukraine.

“GE has been contributing to infrastructure development in Central Asia for 70 years. We’re happy to be supporting Kazakhstan as the host of EXPO 2017 by providing a platform for open dialogue with our local partners about some of the most pressing challenges in the industrial world. Together, we’re taking concrete steps to reboot industrial productivity and help support the region’s long-term growth,” said GE Vice President Ron Pollett.

The announcements reaffirm GE’s long-term commitment to help some of Kazakhstan’s most challenging energy and transportation projects, as well as supporting the country as it embarks on the journey of digital transformation laid out in a 2017 address by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev to harness the power of the Industrial Internet as an engine to accelerate growth.

GE is major digital industrial company, transforming industry with software-defined machines and solutions that are connected, responsive and predictive. The company is organised around a global exchange of knowledge, where each business shares and accesses the same technology, markets, structure and intellect. Each invention further fuels innovation and application across our industrial sectors. With people, services, technology and scale, GE delivers better outcomes for customers by speaking the language of industry, according to the company website.


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Kazakh-built high-speed electric locomotives to be exported to Belarus

Thu, 2017-06-22 02:58

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The Kazakh Invest National Company announced plans to export 20 passenger electric locomotives to Belarus at the recent meeting of the Trade Mission of Kazakh Producers in Minsk. The event was held with the participation of Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and export contracts worth $20 million were signed.

“We are currently working on the electrification of the railways in Belarus and we are interested in Kazakhstan’s electric locomotives,” said Belarusian Railways Chief Engineer Valeriy Shubadarev.

Ten domestic manufacturers of food products, construction materials, machine-building, metallurgical, chemical products and more than 70 Belarusian companies took part in the forum.

“We discussed issues of delivering Kazakhstan’s passenger electric locomotives to Belarus and we plan to export 20 KZ4AT passenger electric locomotives for the needs of the Belarusian Railways,” said Deputy Director General of Electric Locomotive Manufacturing Plant Andrei Yershov.

Management of KazAzot and Temir-Service, Kazakhstan agrochemical producers also met with Belarusian Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food Vladimir Grakun as part of the business forum. Following the negotiations, it was agreed that Kazakh companies will be included in the register of fertilizer suppliers for the needs of agricultural producers of Belarus.

Kazakhstan will also supply the food products for the Vitalyur, the largest Belarusian supermarket chain.

The KZ4AT, a high-speed electric locomotive at a top speed of up to 200 km/h had its initial track test in July 2016. The new single-section multifunctional locomotive was developed by Alstom, a French multinational company, and has the widest range of operation in the world. The convenient conditions, including climate control, seat heating, floor heating, microwave, refrigerator, toilet and other services are provided in the cab for the driver and assistant.

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EBRD to continue supporting Kazakhstan in economic endeavours, says EBRD official

Thu, 2017-06-22 01:39

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The Kazakh capital is readying to host the June 22 annual Foreign Investors’ Council (FIC), chaired by President Nursultan Nazarbayev and co-chaired by the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Sir Suma Chakrabarti.

The city has enjoyed the spotlight in early to mid-June as it hosted the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit and the Astana Economic Forum and launched the long-awaited EXPO 2017. Multiple international delegations are coming over for yet another no-less-important event.

FIC’s 30th session since its founding in 1998 and the expo’s theme Future Energy very much underline the priorities the organisation has set for the country, said EBRD’s head for Kazakhstan Agris Preimanis in an exclusive interview with The Astana Times in the run-up to the meeting.

“If you think of EBRD’s strategy and our priorities for the country, we fit very well. We want to continue developing the green economy, investing in renewable projects. Indeed, the current theme of the expo, ‘Future Energy’, is very close to EBRD. We are going to continue working in infrastructure and logistics, which is something that will help to connect the country even more and take advantage of the initiatives such as the One Belt One Road (OBOR). The work will have a particular emphasis on developing opportunities for women, and youth the regions.”

Future energy will top the council’s agenda, where the EBRD will play one of the key roles. The topic was chosen for a reason, said Preimanis, as every year the council seeks solutions to existing critical issues in the country’s development.

“I am personally a part of the Operating Committee of FIC. I have seen all the materials and I am looking forward to having those discussions. This year we have many foreign speakers and there are some excellent ideas being brought forward. The range of topics starts from the renewable energy, green financing and how to approach that, the greening of the Silk Road, and using new technology to make the Silk Road project greener,” he said.

EBRD’s President Sir Suma Chakrabarti is to attend the event along with Ben van Beurden, CEO of Shell, Lorenzo Simonelli, President of General Electric Oil&Gas, Tim Gitzel, CEO of Cameco, to name a few.

Since its formation, the council has addressed a wide range of Kazakhstan issues including improving the legal regime for foreign investment, improving the judicial system, optimising the taxation system, attracting foreign labour and improving the investment image.

The FIC includes 35 heads of large transnational foreign companies and international organisations. During the sessions, the companies will provide their recommendations to the council.

“On top of that, the council will address topics of nuclear energy, emissions trading and how they can provide the right incentives to the country’s companies. This will be an opportunity for the president of Kazakhstan to listen to these esteemed speakers and get a sense, first of all, of what is the current global thinking, but then also how it applies to Kazakhstan. Therefore, I think it will be a relevant event,” said Preimanis.

“When one thinks of the FIC, it’s important not to forget that the plenary session is just a culmination of the work done by the FIC,” he continued. “The working groups meet regularly throughout the year; there is regular interaction with the government and many issues are resolved through the FIC outside the theme of a particular plenary session.”

Preimanis believes Kazakhstan is “on a pivotal point in history, whereas, as a result of the One Belt, One Road initiative and other initiatives, the country can become much more integrated and connected regionally and globally.”

Integration would bring more opportunities and more competition to the country, he noted.

“On the other hand, there are still challenges within the country in terms of some regions, including socio-economic difficulties. It means that the country needs to continue accelerating efforts to take advantage of the opportunities brought by better connectivity,” he said.

Preimanis underlined the work on improving the opportunities for women and youth to make the country more inclusive, particularly in the regions, is another pivotal point for EBRD.

“We have a very successful programme, in that where we channel the financing is to the women who manage businesses whilst at the same time providing advice and aid to them to build capacity and technical know-how. The mentoring programme is the part of that which allows them to connect and learn from successful Kazakh businesspeople through the networking events that we also organise,” he said.

“There are also vocational training elements where we train the women and develop their skills and help them increase opportunity and give them more confidence to work and develop,” he added.

Another priority for the EBRD is the agricultural sector.

“Last year, we supported five projects worth $130 million in the agribusiness sector. In addition to all the investments, we are deeply engaged with the government in some of the key reform elements,” said Preimanis.

Signed in May, EBRD’s $180 million irrigation project in the southern part of Kazakhstan will create thousands of new jobs and small businesses involved mainly in agriculture, he added.

According to EBRD’s official statistics dated in April, the organisation had 225 projects. EBRD’s current portfolio in Kazakhstan is nearly $2.8 billion, of which 43 percent is in infrastructure, 40 percent in the energy sector, 11 percent in industry, commerce and agribusiness and 6 percent in financial institutions.

The work of the FIC “acquires even greater urgency in light of the recent instructions of the Kazakh head of state. Since we are faced with a very ambitious task to enter the list of 30 most developed countries, the council plays an important role as a consultative and advisory body,” Preimanis added.

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ASTANA TOWER Business Center awarded BREEAM In-Use Excellent rating

Thu, 2017-06-22 01:28

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

Astana Tower Ishletme LLP announces that the ASTANA TOWER Business Center has obtained a BREEAM In-Use certification applied to existing non-residential buildings. The first A class office building met high international technical standards to achieve the highest BREEAM ratings: “Very Good” in Asset (performance characteristics of the building) and “Excellent” in Building Management (practices related to the operation of the building).

BREEAM In-Use assessment assists the improvement of the existing buildings and its operational efficiency. The ASTANA TOWER Business Center prior to receiving the certification, introduced a comprehensive environmentally friendly policy for the building’s operation.

Tenants and visitors of the business center enjoy the most favourable working conditions: a thermal comfort, air quality, natural lightning and high safety standards. The second floor of the building offers a convenient multifunctional space for social interaction. A convenient parking area and six bus stops are within a walking distance from the business center.

Zhanar Yseneeva, General Director of Astana Tower Ishletme LLP said, “Creating comfortable conditions for tenants is one of our priorities in building management. However, the environmental efficiency – energy saving and technologies reducing the environmental impact – is no less vital. We have introduced the advanced technologies that allowed us to meet high environmental standards and obtain certification.”


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WSB final match to take place July 15 at Astana Arena

Wed, 2017-06-21 02:40

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The Astana Arlans and Cuba Domadores, the two most decorated teams in the series, will contest July 15 for the World Series of Boxing (WSB) champion’s title. The final match of the seventh season will be hosted in Astana Arena during EXPO 2017 and welcome fans from throughout the world.

The contest will also have a new format, with bouts in all 10 weight categories to be held in one day.

“This summer, Astana has become a gem of cultural events and this fact played a role in choosing the venue for the WSB finals. The brand of ‘Astana’ promotes the image of the capital and Kazakhstan in the world of sports and this explains the decision to hold the final match of the WSB with the participation of our boxers in Astana. Of course, we should thank the WSB for entrusting us with becoming the organisers of the final match,” said Astana Presidential Professional Sports Club Executive Director Amanbek Kulchikov.

“During preparation for the finals, we negotiated with the Kazakhstan Boxing Federation and the Combat and Strength Sports Confederation and reached complete mutual understanding on hosting the event. The organisation of the WSB finals is our joint work, because we were united by one goal of developing boxing in Kazakhstan and a worthy image of the country. We worked well with these organisations and I am sure that the WSB final in Astana will be held at a high level,” he said.

According to Arlans’ head coach Nurlan Akurpekov, the team is planning to involve boxers from the national team. The line-up will be decided later.

“We were quickly going to our goal and now we are in the finals. The guys did a great job. They gave it their all and met the expectations. We have an important fight ahead. We have been waiting and training hard for it. The Cubans are no doubt worthy opponents and we shouldn’t underestimate them. However, our athletes proved in regular matches that they have a strong will to win and they are ready to show it again in the final match in Astana,” he said.

The Astana Arlans have made it to the WSB finals four times and became the absolute leader of this season’s regular matches. In their Asia geographic group, the Arlans were in the so-called “group of death,” which includes Russia’s Patriot Boxing Team, the Uzbek Tigers and China Dragons. These franchises feature some of the strongest representatives of amateur boxing and Kazakh boxers lost only once in an away match with the Tigers. In the semi-finals, the Arlans beat the British Lionhearts, while the Domadores defeated the Colombia Heroicos. Now, the two strongest teams will meet in the finals.

WSB is a league where the world’s best amateur boxers compete in teams without headgear and use the scoring system of the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA). According to the WSB website, the appearance of the league “reunited the broader boxing world and its grassroots amateur foundation by providing a bridge between Olympic Boxing and a future professional programme within the AIBA family.”

AIBA wholly owns WSB. All WSB boxers are registered with AIBA and all referees and officials working WSB matches are specifically certified for the competition. Franchises have a national identity and are formed by national federations. Teams are allowed a quota of overseas boxers: a maximum of eight and no more than three of the same nationality.

Teams compete in the 10 AIBA standard weight categories. The regular season takes the form of a league phase, with the teams facing each other home and away in alternating weight categories. The top teams continue to the playoff stages. Teams representing franchises across the globe compete in a league format leading to playoffs and a final. The boxers compete in five three-minute rounds and five bouts per match.


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Kazakhstan to reduce tax inspections

Wed, 2017-06-21 02:38

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The Kazakh government will reduce the number of tax inspections 37.5 percent in 2017, Minister of Finance Bakhyt Sultanov said during a June 19 joint session of both houses of Parliament.

“The implementation of the 2016 budget was aimed at reviving the economy through stimulating entrepreneurship and creating jobs. The economy grew 1 percent by increasing the volume of services provided in the transport sector, increasing output in agriculture, construction, including housing construction. The budget revenues reached 7.7 trillion tenge (US$23.96 billion). This is 1.5 trillion tenge (US$4.6 billion) more compared to 2015. Of these, transfers account for 30 percent,” Sultanov said.

According to the minister, measures are planned this year to grow and develop the economy.


“For the effectiveness of this work, we must create favourable conditions for business, while maintaining a high tax return. Increase in tax revenues will take place amid the reduction in tax inspections. For example, this year the inspections will be reduced 37.5 percent. In addition, the draft Tax Code provides for the exclusion of 56 percent of regulations for inspection. As a result, 14 norms will remain instead of current 32 ones,” Sultanov said.


Horizontal monitoring is being introduced in tax audits based on the principles of trust, transparency and mutually beneficial cooperation, the minister said.



“In addition, it is planned to revise tax preferences in order to reduce the number of ineffective benefits. As part of the legislation humanisation, it is envisaged to make appropriate amendments to the code ‘On Administrative Offences.’ The most important thing is the reduction in the volume of administrative fines and the widespread use of the institution of prevention instead of punishment,” the minister added.

Earlier, Sultanov reported that the budget funds, undisbursed by one state agency, would be transferred to others.

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Forum presents Kazakh President’s model of national unity

Wed, 2017-06-21 02:34

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The model of public accord and nationwide unity of led by President Nursultan Nazarbayev was presented at the forum of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan (APK) called Energy of Peace and Harmony within EXPO 2017, according to the press service of Akorda presidential residence

“The Constitution of our country guarantees and protects the equality of rights of all citizens regardless of race, nationality, religion or social status,” said State Secretary of Kazakhstan Gulshara Abdykalikova at the event, emphasising that Kazakhstan has more than 100 ethnicities and 18 faiths living in peace.

The forum gathered the Deputy Chairperson and head of the APK Secretariat Darkhan Mynbai, members of the Mazhilis (lower house) of the Parliament, members of the assembly, representatives of state bodies, diplomatic corps, ethno-cultural associations, foreign guests of expo, scientific intelligentsia, masters of folk and applied art.

The events took place at the National Museum of Kazakhstan, where a detailed presentation of the Kazakhstan model of public accord and national unity is presented for the period of the expo.

Abdykalikova noted Kazakhstan’s model has become a recognised standard of a balanced policy in the integration of a multi-ethnic society. She also said the energy of peace and harmony is the cleanest, most noble energy on the planet.

Forum participants also visited the exhibition of special editions of mass media of ethno-cultural associations, as well as viewed the products of masters of folk and applied art and attended master classes on national Kazakh cuisine.

The Secretary of State and guests of the presentation took part in the opening ceremony of the Alley of Peace and Accord of the Assembly of Kazakhstan on the territory of the Expo Park.

“Let everyone who passes along the Alley of Peace and Harmony take away a piece of warmth of hospitable and benevolent Kazakhstan land,” added Abdykalikova.

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Kazakh e-government mobile app offers 83 services

Wed, 2017-06-21 02:31

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Kazakhstan’s electronic government mobile app offers 83 services to its citizens, announced  Deputy Minister of Information and Communication Kairat Balykbayev at a June 15 session of the 10th Astana Economic Forum devoted to the digitalisation of world economies.

“It is necessary to note that the Global E-Government Forum named Kazakhstan’s e-government mobile app the best one in the one-stop shop nomination in terms of provision of public services,” he said.

Balykbayev said Kazakhstan has the infrastructure necessary for e-government in the offering of more than 700 types of services in electronic format and through the e-government portal.

All licences in Kazakhstan have been issued only in electronic format since 2012, he said.

Balykbayev also said the number of public services offered through the Centres for Public Services (so called TSONs) grows annually. The centres provided more than 26 million services in 2016.

Kazakhstan’s citizens have three options to receive public services – the electronic government portal, Centres for Public Services and Government for Citizens State Corporation.

With the idea of electronic government initially announced by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the electronic government portal was established in 2006 with registered users now equalling six million. Among many benefits of electronic government, including mobility and time, it also contributes to fighting corruption, as it eliminates personal interaction between service provider and service recipient.

The country’s efforts in improving its electronic government system fostered Kazakhstan’s high performance in international rankings. For instance, Kazakhstan was ranked 33th among 193 countries in the United Nations E-Government Survey 2016.

It also held 39th position among 139 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Networked Readiness Index 2016 that assesses how countries use communication and technologies to foster competitiveness of their economies.


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Kazakhstan, World Bank are strong partners, says WB official

Wed, 2017-06-21 02:24

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Kazakhstan and the World Bank (WB) are celebrating a partnership anniversary this year, for in the last 25 years the financial institution has funded 45 projects totalling $8 billion. Within the June 15-16 Astana Economic Forum (AEF), WB’s Vice President for Europe and Central Asia Cyril Muller gave an exclusive interview to The Astana Times highlighting some of the aspects of cooperation, as well as sharing his view of the country.

Cyril Muller.

The bank recently announced preparation of a new partnership strategy with Kazakhstan for 2018-2022, although the focus areas have not been finalized. Under consideration are economic management, a stronger role of the private sector in production opportunities of economic integration and connectivity, as well as human capital.

“Because now we are only starting to translate what we presented today [systematic country diagnostic of Kazakhstan, presented at AEF’s session]. It has four areas that we consider constraints, areas that need to be focused on for prosperity in the future. I would expect the four identified areas will become the key drivers of our future programme. That’s what I discussed with Prime Minister [Bakytzhan] Sagintayev and we agreed that, indeed, those areas could form a solid basis for our future programme,” said Muller.

Reviewing the history of the projects, the largest number of loans was provided within the first five years of the partnership, when the WB funded 14 projects worth $1.18 billion. Since 2013, eight projects valued at $1.51 billion have been implemented.

“I think when we look back at the partnership between Kazakhstan and the World Bank, for me what stands out the most is not the individual projects, but more the fact that the World Bank and Kazakhstan became very strong partners and that partnership led to building trust between us. I think the main contribution the World Bank did was to support Kazakhstan in trying to find its own way forward, its own path for development and prosperity,” said Muller.

He recalled the initial period beginning in 1992.

“So, when you look back now it is very impressive. I was a young World Bank staffer in the early 1990s and I was one of the first people to visit Kazakhstan after the fall of the Soviet Union. I do remember how people lived then and how the country had to be invented from nothing. In our partnership, I am most impressed by what the country has achieved. I am happy that we have contributed, but we did small contributions. Overall, that is what I am most impressed by now,” he added.

The WB needed to do two things to assist the new nation.

“One was to help Kazakhstan put in place institutions and policies that help economic growth and help it to be shared with the whole population. The second thing we have done, I think that is important in Kazakhstan, is funding individual projects that make material difference to people,” said Muller, recalling projects such as the Syr Darya River and Northern Aral Sea Control, forest protection and reforestation and southwest roads.

Those loans were good investments, he noted, adding every time he visits he is very pleased by the fact that the country’s infrastructure has improved.

“While we fund physical infrastructure, we also try to build the capacity of people. So, we have done projects in education and health. For instance, one of the projects was to help professionals in the health sector increase and improve their skills. What has been best is Kazakhstan’s ability to develop as a nation and we were able to support that and put in a little bit of support by helping these institutions to develop, then finance some of the key infrastructure and building capital of people,” he said.

Muller also spoke on the issue of reducing the nation’s dependence on natural resources while capitalising in a modern economy on the ability for people to connect and integrate with others.

“When you have a source of wealth like oil or minerals, this will enable you to invest more broadly in making a country stronger over time. Because if you just use these for consumption it is good, you will consume more; but then at the end of the day, the wealth of the nation is about what the nation can really produce over time and how productive people are. So, the question is how you going to move. Use the opportunity of the oil to build a good infrastructure in the country, to improve it, but more importantly making sure the human capital [improves]. Because Kazakh people are very smart and in the future it is the economy that will matter the most – the ability of people to connect and use their capital,” he said.

“I trust in those investments in human capital and if people are given a chance to actually use that capital, then Kazakhstan will grow in the future and be a prosperous nation,” he added.

Talk has been circulating around the fact that many of the investments were used to improve the nation’s transport corridors.

“People think that Kazakhstan will be a big transit country. Yes, maybe it will be a transit country, but that should not be the objective. It should be that this infrastructure means that Kazakhstan is integrated into trade channels, into supply chains that go east, west, north and south. Once we have that, it will be a real sign of success. It means that, for instance, if you have agricultural exports to China, that it can join in immediately in these very well organised corridors for trade and economic activity,” said Muller.

Speaking about the region, he noted the Central Asian counties share a common background and history, but every nation has chosen its own path.

“Kazakhstan from the early days has realised that it needed to be connected to all the countries and it saw itself as a country that wants to play a positive role in the region in linking, for instance, China to Europe, linking Russia, linking South Asia. From the first day, Kazakhstan was the country that was seeing that the world economy is changing and it is changing very quickly and the country needed to be flexible and adaptable,” he added.

Many challenges, however, are shared across the region.

“Some of the early challenges still remain. For example, the issue of water and how to divide and use it better continues to be a real challenge in the region. Also the issue of the energy, which is also the theme of the expo. These remain extremely high energy intensive economies and I think that it is very good that the theme of the expo is energy,” said Muller.






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