EDB Forum Expands Partnership, Addresses Key Regional Challenges

ASTANA – Almaty hosted the annual meeting and business forum of the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) on June 27-28, bringing together representatives from multilateral development banks, international organizations, businesses, and journalists worldwide.

Photo credit:am.aebr.org

The event aimed to expand partnerships and exchange practical expertise to address key regional challenges, including water, energy balance, transport and logistics development, and financial market enhancements. 

One highlight of the event was the panel session focused on exploring the potential of the Eurasian transport framework. During the session, experts discussed future infrastructure, major projects, and innovative approaches to transport development in Eurasia.

Eurasian Transport Network: enhancing connectivity

The Eurasian Transport Network is a system of interconnected international transport corridors facilitating intra- and trans-continental connectivity for Eurasian countries. It spans over 50,000 kilometers of international east-west and north-south transport corridors, linking Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

Miroslaw Antonowicz, the chairman of the Committee of the Organization for Cooperation between Railways (OSJD), highlighted the organization’s efforts to improve international transportation corridors. The OSJD, which includes 30 countries, aims to enhance corridor safety, environmental protection, and cooperation between countries while fostering innovations in railway cargo transportation.

“Today, OSJD corridors are an effective mechanism for transporting passengers and goods along their entire length. A developed infrastructure that meets the economy’s needs is crucial for its growth,” said Antonowicz. 

Achieving this requires technical, technological, digital, and legal compatibility to ensure uninterrupted interaction between countries during transportation.

Antonowicz emphasized the importance of a unified approach, including a single document, the railway bill, which can be used along the entire corridor route, including water sections. This approach supports the “one route, one document” goal, facilitating a seamless transportation system that enables door-to-door service.

He also noted digitization as the next step in the future of international transportation and recommended implementing a single-window concept at border crossings.

Antonowicz stressed the importance of environmental solutions, recognizing rail transport as the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation globally. 

“We must do everything possible to implement new energy sources and innovations,” he added.

Innovations in agro-logistics

Alevtina Kirillova, the CEO of Eurasian Agrologistics, discussed how innovations help operators, forwarders, and managers of trade and logistics enterprises advance the logistics products and solutions needed by producers, particularly from Eurasian Economic Union countries.

She highlighted the Eurasian Agroexpress project, the initiative for expedited railway routes and multimodal transportation within the Eurasian Economic Union. 

It consolidates agricultural and food products from member countries and exports them to third countries, including China, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East. Over the past two years, the project has transported over 800,000 tons of various agricultural and food products, demonstrating dynamic growth.

Key routes include Belarus-Russia-Kazakhstan-China, Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan to Afghanistan-Pakistan, and the North-South corridor. The project has increased shipments with key operators, forwarding companies, and logistics terminals, establishing public rates and procuring the necessary equipment for transporting perishable goods.

Kazakhstan’s infrastructure development 

Addressing the participants, Aliya Murzagaliyeva, the managing director for asset management and project operations of the Baiterek Holding, highlighted Kazakhstan’s ambitious plan in infrastructure development, which is currently under government approval. The National Infrastructure Plan includes more than 200 projects worth more than 40 trillion tenge (US$89 billion) through 2029.

“We are working to ensure the availability of rolling stock, and since 2015, we have invested significantly in updating freight cars, containers, and passenger cars. Additionally, we have projects related to locomotives and extensive repairs, modernization, and reconstruction of highways,” said Murzagaliyeva. 

She emphasized the importance of developing the Kuryk port, which is undergoing significant development to enhance its cargo and throughput capacity.

Dauren Kabiyev, the vice president of external affairs at TAV Kazakhstan – Almaty International Airport, reported positive trends in passenger and cargo transportation.

 “We currently serve 9.5 million passengers and expect to reach around 11 million or more by year-end. The number of flights has increased from 64,000 in 2019 to 79,000,” said Kabiyev.

Cargo transportation has also seen a significant rise, with cargo handling volumes growing from 86,000 tons in 2021 to 99,000 tons in 2023. 

Kabiyev emphasized the crucial role of the Truck to Air project, which facilitates direct loading from trucks to planes. This initiative is expected to boost cargo volumes to 200,000 tons per year. 

“Almaty Airport can act as a key connector in both the north-south corridor and the Belt and Road initiative,” he said, underscoring the airport’s strategic importance within the Eurasian transport network.

Navigating the future

Kabir Jurazoda, the director of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Institute (CAREC Institute), outlined the CAREC strategy until 2030, which aims to strengthen regional economic cooperation among CAREC countries. The strategy focuses on coordinated efforts to simplify procedures and improve mechanisms for international trade, harmonize regulatory frameworks, improve infrastructure, and optimize transport logistics.

The main initiative in this strategy is the development and modernization of transport corridors. 

Jurazoda also highlighted that significant projects in China are part of this large Eurasian infrastructure. 

The session participants agreed that infrastructure projects require substantial investment and have long payback periods. Mechanisms to transfer resources accumulated in the private sector to economic sectors and infrastructure projects are highly needed. 

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