NUR-SULTAN – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Kazakhstan plan to adopt the new Country Partnership Strategy for 2022-2026. The new strategy, which will be finalized in 2022, will be in line with the country’s development agenda, which is focused on diversification, governance and public finance, digitalization, and regional cooperation. ADB Country Director for Kazakhstan Nariman Mannapbekov spoke to The Astana Times about the new document, the plans, and the measures the bank has taken to support the country in addressing the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa and Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev discussed the prospects for cooperation between Kazakhstan and the ADB during an Oct. 8 virtual meeting. During the meeting, Tokayev commended the ADB’s role in promoting the social and economic development of Kazakhstan.
Could you tell us what are some of the main outcomes of the ADB President’s meeting with President Tokayev?
The focus of the discussion between the two leaders was on ADB’s support for Kazakhstan’s response to the ongoing pandemic and its post-pandemic development priorities.
During the meeting, President Asakawa affirmed ADB’s commitment to helping Kazakhstan reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on vulnerable people, nurture sustainable growth, and support the transition to a low carbon economy.
President Tokayev and President Asakawa also discussed the ADB’s forthcoming 2022-2026 Country Partnership Strategy that will be aligned with the country’s development agenda, including diversification, governance and public finance, digitalization, and regional cooperation.
How did the ADB support Kazakhstan in addressing the consequences of the pandemic?
As you know, social lockdown measures and a drop in the price of commodities negatively impacted the country’s economy. The government developed a comprehensive plan aimed at reducing the negative impact of the pandemic, including measures to strengthen the healthcare system, enhance social protection, maintain employment, and expand support for businesses.
To finance these activities, the government required additional funds and ADB was able to provide such support through a $1 billion loan as part of the Bank’s special program created to assist its developing member countries in financing their COVID-19 response measures. This funding was aimed at helping the government implement its comprehensive measures to fight the pandemic and minimize the negative impact on Kazakhstan’s people and economy.
In addition to the loan, ADB provided several grants. A $3 million grant was allocated to procure medical kits for the most vulnerable. They were distributed among socially disadvantaged people across all regions of the country to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19. Another $1 million grant was provided to procure personal protective equipment for frontline healthcare workers. We also joined forces with UNDP on a project to help improve the healthcare waste management system in the country.
Jointly with other international organizations, ADB also supported the COVID-19 Solidarity Fund through a $1 million technical assistance. The Fund is aimed at reducing the pandemic’s negative impact on Kazakhstan’s labor market through training and re-training programs in emerging areas in the post-pandemic environment.
This year, the Country Partnership Strategy between ADB and Kazakhstan comes into its final year, and the new strategy is expected to be adopted. Could you tell us about the changes in the focus of the strategy?
We have started working on the new Country Partnership Strategy for Kazakhstan in 2022-2026. We expect that ADB will focus on supporting diversified and inclusive growth by boosting non-oil private sector development, raising public sector efficiency, and improving infrastructure.
One important area for the new Country Partnership Strategy is ADB’s support to Kazakhstan in transitioning to a low-carbon world and addressing climate change.
In addition to that, ADB will also seek to scale up its support for economic and institutional policy reforms, SME enterprise finance, and private-public partnerships.
From this month to March 2022, we will have formal consultations with the government to finalize the new Strategy for approval by ADB’s Board of Directors.
Kazakhstan has ambitious goals in terms of the way it addresses climate change issues, including its goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. How can the ADB support the country in this effort?
Under Strategy 2030, ADB committed to ensuring at least 75 percent of the total number of its operations support climate action and its own climate finance resources reach at least a cumulative $80 billion by 2030 – and ADB recently announced it is raising this ambition to $100 billion.
ADB stands ready to help Kazakhstan achieve its commitment under the Paris Agreement through sovereign and non-sovereign lending and technical assistance. We have already supported Kazakhstan’s target of increasing the share of renewable sources in power generation to 15 percent by 2030 by providing direct financing for two solar power projects and supporting the transformation of major state-owned enterprises in the energy sector – Samruk-Energo and KazTransGaz. We are working on several other non-sovereign projects to add generation capacity in the country.
In addition to that, ADB has been supporting the government with the improvement of the heat supply legislation and the inclusion of renewable sources in heat energy generation. We are also actively providing advisory assistance in small hydropower plants, digitalizing the power sector through the introduction of smart grid concept and road map, the introduction of modern storage facilities and hybrid renewable energy projects among other areas.
We will also explore opportunities for Kazakhstan under a new facility called “Energy Transition Mechanism” to accelerate the retirement of coal-fired power plants. This facility aims to help developing member countries speed up their efforts in decarbonizing their economies.
In 2020, ADB announced it would finance the 38 billion tenge (US$89 million) loan to expand the lending operations of Kazakhstan’s Otbasy Bank and promote gender equality in affordable residential mortgage loans for women. Why do you think it is important and does the ADB plan similar measures in this area?
ADB recognizes that gender equality and women’s empowerment are essential for meeting the region’s aspirations of inclusive and sustainable development. Improving progress in gender equality through financial inclusion is a key operational priority of ADB’s Strategy 2030. The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women which further highlights the need to reduce gender gaps and protect women from future shocks. To address this, ADB is scaling up gender mainstreaming across its operations and has committed to ensuring 75% of its committed operations promote gender equality by 2030.
Our new Country Partnership Strategy for Kazakhstan will further support the enhanced gender equity. In Kazakhstan, although 4.4 million of the country’s 9.1 million women are in the labor force and about 51 percent are the heads of their households, women are still paid on average one-third less than men. Lower-income levels mean they also find it more difficult than men to obtain affordable mortgage finance.
To help address this issue, ADB and Otbasy Bank launched the Promoting Gender Equality in Housing Finance Project branded as Umay Program, to provide affordable mortgage financing to over 3,000 eligible women. As of today, over 500 women have already benefitted from the project.
We continue working with the government on various initiatives aimed at women’s empowerment. For example, under the Solidarity Fund that I mentioned earlier, we envisage the creation of women entrepreneurship centers that will provide advisory services to female entrepreneurs.