External news in brief

Kazakhstan participated in the international Operation Spider Web July 8-12 as part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO’s) Anti-Drug Strategy Programme for 2018-2023. The operation had, for the first time, the largest format of its kind within the organisation. It was initiated by Kazakhstan’s First President Nursultan Nazarbayev and gained the support of the SCO member states at the SCO Summit in the Kazakh capital in 2017. The goal is to address and cut off the channels used to sell and distribute drugs and psychoactive substances, adopt measures to prevent the use of Internet and online payment systems in the drug trade and increase the effectiveness of the countries’ efforts in fighting illegal drug trafficking. The preliminary data showed 6,422 kg of narcotic drugs have been withdrawn from illegal turnover since the operation was launched.

Kazakhstan has traded $78.1 billion with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) since 2015, including $19.1 billion last year and $6.1 billion from January-April. The overwhelming majority, 91.8 percent, is with Russia. Kazakhstan’s external trade volume reached $93.5 billion in 2018, 21.3 percent of which is with the EAEU. The key factors boosting mutual trade include the measures taken in 2018 to create joint labour, services and medicine markets within the union.

Kazakhstan ranked 79th in the Global Innovation Index, published annually by the World Intellectual Property Organisation, moving down five spots this year. The nation is also the third most innovative economy in Central and Southern Asia. The ranking noted Central Asian countries have started prioritising innovation activities and policies. Switzerland was named the most innovative country during the report’s release in New Delhi, followed by Sweden, the United States, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. India jumped five places to 52nd, the most significant improvement among countries since 2018. Innovation has been thriving particularly in Asia, the report said, but trade tensions put the growth at risk.

Kazakhstan introduced its first voluntary national review on sustainable development during the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development at United Nations headquarters in New York. The forum is the UN’s central platform to discuss and review the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. The recent UN Development Programme Rapid Integrated Assessment showed the sustainable development targets are 80 percent incorporated in Kazakh government programmes and strategies. The Kazakh delegation noted the country’s progress in education, entrepreneurship development, access to financial services and funds, poverty reduction and modernising the judicial system. The challenges relate to the poverty rate gap between urban and rural areas, increased greenhouse emissions and transition to a diversified economy.

The Kazakh government signed an agreement with Valmont Industries, the world’s leading providers of agricultural engineered products and infrastructure and irrigation equipment services. The document envisions creating a network of farms to transfer advanced technologies in irrigation, efficient use of water resources, feed production, education and farmer training. Advanced irrigation installations will be set up at demonstration sites in the Akmola and Turkestan regions. The agreement signed among Valmont Industries, Global Beef (the United States) and Kusto Group (Kazakhstan) also involves a joint venture to build a modern irrigation plant in Kazakhstan with a capacity of at least 1,000 systems per year and investments reaching $50 million.