ASTANA – More than 4,000 participants from 100 countries gathered June 15-16 in Astana for the 10th annual Astana Economic Forum. The forum focused primarily on renewable energy and green economy under the theme “New Energy – New Economy” as well as discussions of sustainable economic growth, world trade and infrastructure.
The forum was held at the start of EXPO 2017, which features a theme of Future Energy.
“It is significant that we are gathering for the 10th time. This year our forum coincided with the expo. During this time, our forum has earned authority, has become a constructive platform for discussing topical issues. I am sure the Astana forum will help all its participants to find answers to the challenges of our time,” said Kazakh Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev at a session titled Kazakhstan – Systematic Country Diagnostic.
The Kazakh government aims to increase the country’s economy development rate to 5.5 percent, he said. This is one of the main tasks of the third modernisation.
“Step-by-step we should reach a growth rate of 5.5 percent by 2021. It is a difficult situation, but we can say that we have adapted to the price of raw materials that we have. Other sectors of the economy are already beginning to work and rise. The economy is changing, new fields, professions are emerging, as well as new challenges and opportunities. And, therefore, today Kazakhstan faces an ambitious task to consolidate the achieved successes and develop in a new global reality. To be in the wake of new growth points is the task of the third modernisation of the country,” said Sagintayev.
To reach the goal, the government works in five areas, such as accelerated technological modernisation of the economy, improving the business environment, macroeconomic stability, ensuring productive employment and improving the quality of human capital.
Along with this, eight directions of the country’s development have been identified, the prime minister said, including the fuel and energy complex, the basic sectors of the economy, the agro-industrial complex, transport and logistics, tourism, trade, education and health.
“Target indicators have been defined for each direction and each minister knows their goals and in what year we should achieve them,” he added.
This year is the 25th anniversary of cooperation between Kazakhstan and the World Bank. At the mentioned session, the bank presented a systematic country diagnostic (SCD), which covers the preliminary findings relating to the main pathways to reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity in Kazakhstan. Participants also discussed the impact of the global trends on the Kazakh economy by the view of international financial organisations.
During those years, World Bank has supported the implementation of 45 projects worth $8 billion. Nearly 1,300 kilometres of the roads were built and modernised in the country. Also, the ecological situation at the Aral Sea region has been improved. The SCD conducted by the World Bank helps the government get an objective assessment, identify opportunities and risks, problem nodes and get recommendations for their resolution, according to the prime minister’s statement.
At the same session, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) called on Kazakhstan to deepen its reform efforts.
“According to our latest forecast, Kazakhstan’s economy will grow by 3.5 percent in 2018 and 2.4 percent in 2017. But to make sure that growth happens and exceeds forecasts, continuing reform efforts are crucial,” said EBRD Director for Kazakhstan Agris Preimanis. [On June 16, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, speaking at the AEF plenary session, announced that Kazakhstan’s economy grew 4 percent in the first five months of 2017.]
He added that as the external economic environment is improving, the country needs to make another push for structural reform, creating a competitive, green and inclusive economy.
Within the AEF, Fourth International Transport and Logistic Business Forum titled New Silk Way took place as well. The participants discussed world trends and their impact on transcontinental routes, multimodal transport, new segments of the market and Eurasian transit corridors.
This year’s key speakers presented their views at the session called Globalisation: a Future Full of Uncertainties. Author of the bestsellers “Black Swan” and “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” Nassim Taleb and Economic Adviser to the President of Russia Sergei Glazyev, as well as Chairperson of JP Morgan Chase International Jacob Frenkel talked about global economic outlook amid uncertainties and sustainable growth.
At the session Building Institutional Environment for Sustainable Growth, a comprehensive country review (Multidimensional Country Review, or MDCR) and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) updated overview of Kazakhstan’s investment policy with the recommendations were presented.
“There will always be a competition for investments, and our task is always to be the first in this fight. Therefore, we highly appreciate these recommendations, and their high-quality implementation is very important in the process of strengthening the economy of Kazakhstan. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Secretariat and the OECD partners for the contribution to improving the investment climate in Kazakhstan, for useful recommendations and fruitful work,” said Kazakh Vice Minister for Investments and Development Yerlan Khairov at the session.
One of the AEF’s events was dedicated to the Samruk Kazyna Sovereign Wealth Fund’s privatisation programme, including the upcoming IPO of Kazatomprom, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy and Air Astana.
Among the outcomes of the forum was an announcement by the Central Asia Transport Logistics Partnership, which unites more than 40 public and private transport and logistics companies of the region, of an action plan to strengthen regional transport and transit in the region to spur sustainable economic growth. The plan focuses on policy and legislative changes and workforce development that contribute to the improvement of regional transport corridors and transit connections to encourage better trade and investment.
Also within the forum, Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) and MasterCard agreed to jointly implement innovative payment technologies and develop Kazakhstan’s non-cash economy.
As AIFC Governor Kairat Kelimbetov noted, the parties will develop the infrastructure of the financial centre, including modern payment technologies.
“I think it is very important for today’s discussion to allow us to realise the commitments that the Kazakh government made at the Paris conference. And it seems to me that everyone in Kazakhstan at the level of both the government and local administration understand that the theme of expo, which we are hosting now, the topic of Future Energy, is, indeed, a very important topic, and that we need a long-term strategy, a vision and an action plan. And I believe that as part of this activity, as the AIFC together with the EBRD, we have created a very outstanding team of experts who are now helping us to develop a master plan and concept papers on the creation of a green financial system in Kazakhstan,” said Kelimbetov.