Current Relationship Excellent, More Financial Cooperation to Come, Says Swiss Finance Head

Eveline Widmer-SchlumpfASTANA – Federal Councillor and Head of the Federal Department of Finance of Switzerland Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf will visit Almaty and Astana from July 8-10 and is expected to meet with the top officials. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Sultanov and Widmer-Schlumpf are expected to sign a new memorandum of understanding regarding cooperation between Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Finance and the Swiss Federal Department of Finance as well as come to a new official agreement on a broader interpretation of the two countries’ convention on avoiding double taxation.

The Swiss councillor discussed current financial cooperation between Kazakhstan and Switzerland and the possibilities for its expansion in an interview with The Astana Times.

How would you characterise Kazakhstan and Switzerland’s current cooperation in financial and legal matters?

Kazakhstan and Switzerland have an excellent bilateral relationship. Switzerland is the source of major foreign investment in Kazakhstan. In this context, it is noteworthy that Kazakhstan and Switzerland have signed in the past two very important agreements, one on investment protection and one on double taxation.

The agreements on protecting investment and avoiding double taxation provide a legal framework for private investment. So far, over 40 Swiss companies already have permanent offices or activities in Kazakhstan. This creates jobs and wealth. It is the duty and the privilege of governments to facilitate this process.

What are the most promising areas for enhanced cooperation? What is being done to enhance the bilateral relationship?

Switzerland and Kazakhstan established diplomatic relations in 1992. Switzerland opened an Embassy in the capital city of Astana in 2008. Since 2005, regular political consultations have been taking place. In 2012 the Swiss-Kazakh Business Council was founded, and last year Swiss Minister of Economy Johann Schneider-Ammann led an economic mission to Kazakhstan.

How do the two countries cooperate within international financial and other organisations? How is this cooperation evolving?

Kazakhstan joined the Swiss constituency in the Bretton Woods institutions [the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank] in 2010. Cooperation is very constructive and of mutual benefit. Furthermore, since 2003, Kazakhstan has been a member of the Swiss Constituency Group at the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Also, Kazakh representatives regularly visit the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. Similarly, the Swiss deputy state secretary for international finance [Alexander Karrer] participated in the Astana Economic Forum this year and gave a keynote address at the second World Anti-Crisis conference this May. Further, it is intended to extend collaboration between the Ministries of Finance.

What will be the results of the new memorandum of understanding between the Kazakh Ministry of Finance and the Swiss Federal Department of Finance? Will we see any more governmental cooperation agreements in the near future?

The memorandum foresees the exchange of views and experience on issues within the competence of the two ministries. This can include budget implementation, experience in working with international financial institutions, effective public financial management and debt management. Another possible field of cooperation is between the two customs services.

Under the agreement, it will be possible to exchange personnel between the Ministry of Finance of the Kazakhstan and the Swiss Federal Department of Finance through study visits to promote better understanding between the two countries.

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