Economy News in Brief

Kazakhstan may join the World Trade Organisation this year, WTO director general Pascal Lamy said. “Kazakhstan is at an advanced stage of its accession negotiation. My guess is that this could be doable this year,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the Gaidar Forum, an economic conference in Moscow. Kazakhstan applied to join the WTO in 1996. The oil-rich Central Asian state is one of the few countries in the world that remains outside the international trading club. Membership is expected to boost the Kazakhstan economy by opening it even further to foreign investors.

Kazakhstan plans to turn to the market of sovereign bonds in 2013, issuing bonds worth $1 billion, according to the country’s Finance Minister Bolat Zhamishev. According to him, the estimated 2013 budget deficit stands at $5.2 billion (2.1 percent of the country’s GDP). Plans are there to finance the budget deficit through issuing securities worth $3.5 billion on the local market, and securities worth $1.6 billion on external markets. Following the planned issue of Eurobonds worth $1 billion, external government debt will stand at $5.4 billion (24.2 percent of overall government debt).

Kazakhstan has improved residents’ access to budget information over the past two years. Research by independent experts once every two years has found that Kazakhstan has increased its level from 38 to 48 points out of 100. Kazakhstan is in the middle of the list among other CIS countries. For example, Azerbaijan scored 42 points, Georgia received 55 points, Russia scored 74 points and Tajikistan received 17 points. The most transparent countries are New Zealand (93 points), South Africa (90 points), Great Britain (88 points), Sweden (84 points), Norway and France (83 points each). The U.S. scored 79 points.

According to National Bank Deputy Governor Bissengali Tadzhiyakov, Kazakhstan is ranked 32nd by the share of gold in the country’s gold and FX reserves. The National Bank of Kazakhstan started exercising its pre-emptive right to purchase all gold produced in Kazakhstan back in October 2011. The share of gold in the National Bank’s reserves had grown from 12 percent to 16.02 percent by the end of June 2012. “In the past year and a half, the National Bank has purchased about 21 tons of gold,” Tadzhiyakov elaborated. In 2012, Kazakhstan’s international reserves grew by 19.9 percent to make up $86 billion. Kazakhstan’s net international reserves as of December 2012 stood at $27.746 billion, with the assets of the National Oil Fund standing at $57.766 billion.

Crude and condensed gas production in Kazakhstan in 2012 totaled 79.2 million tons. Exports of crude and condensed gas in 2012 totaled 68.616 million tons. Kazakhstan-based oil refineries processed a total of 14.2 million tons of crude, 3.6 percent up against 2011. Gas production output in 2012 equaled 40.1 billion cubic metres, 1.5 percent up against 2011. Gas exports made up 8.8 billion cubic metres, 3.7 percent up against 2011. Plans are there to produce 82 million tons of crude and condensed gas, Kazakhstan’s Oil and Gas Minister Sauat Mynbayev said. Crude gas production in 2013 will equal 40.5 billion cubic metres. In a separate statement, Mynbayev said Kazakhstan would lift the moratorium on developing new onshore hydrocarbons deposits this year.

British-Australian mining firm Rio Tinto has signed a deal with Kazakh state firm Kazgeologiya to create two joint ventures to conduct exploration of copper. The deal is expected to lead to at least $10 million in investment. Kazgeologiya was created by President Nursultan Nazarbayev in 2011 to oversee the discovery and exploration of new deposits. The two JVs will focus their exploration on the Balkhash-Saryshagan regions of the Karaganda region. Though investment in the exploration project is expected to be at least $10 million, it may be necessary to invest more.

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