Economic news in brief

President Nursultan Nazarbayev met recently with Kazakh National Bank Chairman Kairat Kelimbetov to discuss the financial sector and banking system in the country, as well as international financial markets. Kelimbetov reported that the National Bank’s gross international reserves have increased 6.1 percent to $26 billion in February 2014. International reserves of the country, including National Fund assets in foreign currency, have grown 2.1 percent and reached $97.6 billion. At the end of the meeting, the President instructed the National Bank to monitor and analyse the influence of global changes on the domestic economy.

According to the Finance Ministry, Kazakhstan imported more than $154 million worth of flowers in 2013. Colombia and Ecuador were the only exporters from the Western Hemisphere. Roses seem to be most popular in Kazakhstan. More than $29 million worth of roses were imported from Germany, Kenya, China, Columbia, the Netherlands, Ecuador and Ethiopia. Chrysanths, tulips, carnations and orchids also made the list.  The tulip was first cultivated in Kazakhstan many centuries ago and brought to Europe by Silk Road traders.

The Kazakh government is providing increased social assistance to those in need during the holidays, Bolat Tlepov, head of the Department for Internal Policy of the Administration of Astana, said during a March 20 Central Communications Service (CCS) media briefing. Five-hundred-ninety low-income families received one-time payments totaling 2.8 million tenge (US$15,363). Each district administration will also give grocery baskets to pensioners who have registered for assistance. So far, 500 grocery baskets have been distributed. Celebrations have also been organised for physically and mentally challenged children.

Astana’s business community hopes small and medium-sized businesses will soon make up 80 percent of the economy of the city, Director of the Entrepreneurs Chamber of Astana Meirbek Mazhitov told “The head of state set an ambitious task to increase [to 50 percent the percentage of Astana’s economy occupied by small and medium-sized businesses]. Recently approved measures to increase the ease of doing business in Astana should help this task. I think these are very serious measures, which have not been taken before by the President or the government. I believe these measures  will have a good impact on development of business. Speaking of Astana, I can say that there are about 56,000 small and medium businesses in the city and 67 percent of the taxes fall on small and medium business entities,” he noted. According to Mazhitov, all indicators show business is developing in Astana. “However, we have more important tasks which [include raising to 80 percent the percentage of the Astana economy that is occupied by small and medium-sized businesses]. The capital city has great potential for business development and, having analysed it, we can clearly see promising sectors of the economy in Astana. These are construction, service, tourism and trade sectors,” Mazhitov said.

Speaking at a March 20 Central Communications Service (CCS) media briefing, Head of the Department of Culture of the akimat (city government) of Astana Bolat Mazhagulov reported on the amount of funds used to prepare for the Nauryz celebration. “No matter how much funds are spent for such an event as the Nauryz holiday, these funds are feasible and aimed at promotion of the status of this holiday. In total, 175 million tenge (US$960,000) was spent to decorate the city for the holiday. Organisation of festive events cost 150 million tenge (US$823,000),” he said. As earlier reported, about 300 events will be organised in Astana to celebrate Nauryz from March 13-25.

Kazakhstan is developing a wide-scale campaign to combat corruption in offshore zones, reported on March 19, citing Olzhas Bektenov, Head of Analysis Department of the country’s Agency of Financial Police. “When developing the strategy, we placed an emphasis on Kazakhstan-based enterprises relying on offshore zones. Apart from the permanent siphoning of capital to foreign countries, there is a problem related to murky ownership of strategically important Kazakhstan-based companies. Identifying the true beneficiaries is sometimes unfeasible,” he said. He added that “offshore jurisdictions enable [the laundering of] illicitly obtained money, including funds gained through corruption-related crimes. The ‘dirty’ money tends to come back to Kazakhstan in the shape of respectably looking foreign investments,” he said. “By the end of 2015, Kazakhstan will launch a system of inter-country, real-time exchange of information,” he said.

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