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Finnish President unveils national pavilion at EXPO 2017 in Astana

Wed, 2017-06-21 02:17

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – President of Finland Sauli Niinistö visited Astana June 20 for meeting Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and to jointly opening Finland’s pavilion at EXPO 2017.

Photo credit: akorda.kz

The opening ceremony coincided with the celebration of Finland’s national day at the expo and the 100th anniversary of Finland’s independence.

The two heads of state visited the exhibits within the Finnish national pavilion and toured Kazakhstan’s pavilion in the Nur Alem complex in the heart of the expo. They also held bilateral talks at the Congress Centre of the exhibition complex.

Nazarbayev thanked Niinistö for his visit and his participation in the Finnish pavilion’s opening, and highlighted the high level of relations between the two countries.

“Our relations can be called exemplary. We meet with you repeatedly at various global venues. Finland supported us in choosing the venue for EXPO 2017, as well as obtaining the status of a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Kazakhstan also supports Finland in the international arena at all times,” he said.

Emphasising the importance of developing bilateral relations, Nazarbayev expressed interest in strengthening cooperation in areas such as industry, pharmaceuticals, information technologies, education and medicine.

Niinistö thanked Nazarbayev for the meeting and noted Kazakhstan’s role in resolving pressing global and regional issues.

“I’m always interested in your opinion on not only bilateral relations, but also on global issues. Today, virtually the whole world is watching the negotiation processes held in Kazakhstan. In particular, these include the Syrian talks at the Astana site,” he said.

He also thanked Nazarbayev for his personal visit to the Finnish national pavilion and invited him to pay a visit to Finland.

At a press conference following the opening ceremony, Niinistö also commented on the presence and development of Finnish businesses in Kazakhstan.

“We have a long-term relationship: our diplomatic relations are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. We have many common projects in business and during my official visit a couple of years ago, I had a business delegation with me and some of these companies were able to develop their business in Kazakhstan,” he said.

“In the near future we are planning to launch an Astana-Helsinki direct flight. We are also the only European country that has the same railway standards as Kazakhstan, and this provides additional opportunities for logistics and Finland’s participation in the New Silk Road,” Niinistö concluded.

One of the best known symbols of Finland, Santa Claus, also arrived in Astana to participate in the national day at the expo. Joulupukki (Santa’s Finnish name) came from his home region of Lapland to experience the +30˚C heat, greet the guests of the Finnish pavilion and even present gifts.

Finland is considered the current world champion in ecology. It is recognised as the greenest country on the planet. About 50 Finnish companies submitted applications to participate in the Future Energy expo in Astana. Many of them are already implementing the new technologies in the energy sphere in their home country and succeeding.

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Kazakh Deputy FM briefs OSCE Berlin conference on Kazakh connectivity initiatives

Wed, 2017-06-21 02:04

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Roman Vassilenko briefed the June 19-20 annual Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Asian Conference titled Common Challenges and Common Opportunities in Berlin on Kazakhstan’s initiatives and cooperation priorities within international economic organisations. He also updated the gathering on Kazakhstan’s transit potential and opportunities to diversify transport and energy routes.

“Since 2014, Kazakhstan has been implementing a major $24 billion national development programme Nurly Zhol. This is designed to modernise and expand our transport and communications infrastructure to stimulate the growth of trade flows across the country,” Vassilenko said.

The OSCE is the world’s largest regional security organisation, comprising 57 nations across three continents – North America, Europe and Asia. The OSCE has held annual conferences with its Asian Partners for Cooperation (Afghanistan, Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and Thailand) since 2000.

The event was opened by Special Representative of the Federal Government for the OSCE Chair Gernot Erler and the organisation’s Secretary General Lamberto Zannier. Representatives of OSCE countries, invited guests from ASEAN and ASEM, as well as other partner countries attended.

Vassilenko told the gathering Kazakhstan can become a regional and global actor in addition to improving its domestic transport infrastructure.

He stressed Central Asia’s role as a strategic bridge between the world’s largest markets with a combined population of 4.4 billion people, as well as the need to strengthen interregional and international economic integration. He also spoke about transport infrastructure development projects in Kazakhstan.

“Our country has become fully engaged in several international projects: the revival of the Great Silk Road routes; the development of the East-West transport route – a continuation of the TRACECA project initiated by the European Union in the 1990s; the completion of Kazakhstan’s segment in the West Europe-West China transit corridor; and, more recently, the launch of the One Belt, One Road initiative,” Vassilenko said, noting the importance of working with international organisations to maximise Central Asia’s transit potential.

“The Great Silk Road of the past is being recreated in steel and asphalt these days in front of our eyes. And there are few places in Eurasia where this can be seen more clearly than in Kazakhstan, the world’s ninth largest country, the heart of the Great Silk Road or, as someone has called us recently and quite succinctly, the “buckle” in the Belt and Road Initiative,” Vassilenko said.

“During the 25 years of our independence, Kazakhstan has built 2,500 kilometres of new railways. This is more than in all CIS countries combined. Furthermore, we have built 4,000 kilometres of new roads, including the already mentioned Western China-Western Europe highway. We have expanded and modernized our seaports in Aktau and Kuryk on the Caspian Sea. We have built the Khorgos dry port and special economic zone on the border with China. We have built transport and logistics centres throughout Kazakhstan. And we have established a key presence abroad through Kazakh terminals at the Port of Lianyungang in China and elsewhere,” the deputy foreign minister noted.

The transit market reaches beyond national borders and its development requires close interaction of all participants of transit routes, he noted explaining that, taking this into account, Kazakhstan is promoting initiatives for the development of multimodal transport corridors, which will allow carrying out transit of goods through the territory of Kazakhstan in the three directions from China. The first one goes to Russia and further to Europe; the second one goes from Khorgos, on the border with China, to Aktau port, then across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan, then through Georgia, Turkey and further to Europe, while the third one goes to Iran, the Middle East, India and Pakistan. There’s another transit route traversing Kazakhstan, going in the North-South direction through the territories of Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and the Gulf states.

“We estimate the potential traffic along these corridors at 1.7 million TEUs per year by 2020, if not more,” Vassilenko said.

The implementation of these initiatives requires the signing of multilateral agreements relating to major international transport corridors aimed at creating legal and institutional conditions for the functioning and management of the corridors, including the establishment of so called coordination committees, the diplomat explained.

“So to complement the efforts on building the hard infrastructure, we have worked with partners, from China to Russia to Belarus to Azerbaijan to Iran to Turkey to Georgia to Romania and many others to develop soft infrastructure,” Vassilenko said. “We have created partnerships, adjusted regulations and processes so that it becomes mutually profitable for companies and transit countries to use those routes. I am talking about arrangements such as the Unified Transport and Logistics Company, with Russia and Belarus, and the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route with Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, and, since recently, Romania. We have worked with China under the Belt and Road Initiative, including on developing cooperation at Khorgos by establishing partnership there with COSCO, the world’s largest shipping company, and the port of Lianyungang just last month. And just last week in Astana, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy, our government entities and DP World, a major global operator of marine and inland terminals, inked two MoUs for developing a port community system (PCS) for the Eurasian Transcontinental Trade Corridor.”

The resulting changes and growth in container traffic through Kazakhstan has been “nothing short of remarkable,” Vassilenko noted, explaining that he was talking mostly about railway transportation because it accounts for 92 percent of transit cargo traffic through Kazakhstan.

According to the Kazakh diplomat, his country now accounts for 70 percent of transit traffic passing from China to Europe and vice versa. Transportation through Kazakhstan reduces delivery time from China to Europe down to 13-15 days with the route speed of container trains of 1200 km per day.

“Since 2011, the number of TEUs shipped from numerous locations in China via Kazakhstan to logistic centres in Duisburg, Hamburg, Nurnberg, Lodz, among others, has grown almost 100 times (!) – from slightly more than 1,200 a year then to 105,000 TEUs last year,” Vassilenko said. And the plans are afoot to reach the volume of at least 1.7 million TEUs by 2020, including shipping 800,000 TEUs along the China-Europe-China route, 300,000 TEUs along the China-the Caucasus-Turkey route, and 680,000 TEUs along the route of Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran. In fact, we further estimate that the volume of transit shipments along those routes can reach 2 million TEUs by 2020.

He further explained that these developments and massive investments of money and effort on behalf of so many countries over the past several years would not have been productive if not for the changing circumstances on a macro-level.

“What we mean is that given the complex processes of globalisation, the changes in geography of global production and the dynamic growth in China over the past three decades, and the increase in the share of goods with high added value in consumption, Eurasian transportation routes have again become attractive compared to maritime transportation,” he said.

In particular, the intensive development of western and central regions of China, one third of whose exports accounts for high-technology products with a short life span of demand, conditions the attractiveness of trans-continental land routes through Kazakhstan.

“The cost of shipping along this route is now comparable to the maritime one, given the distance from the production centres to the ports on China’s east coast and given the fact that the time of land shipment to Europe is three times shorter than the maritime one,” Vassilenko noted.

In addition to expanding opportunities for cargo transportation, there have been positive developments in terms of connectivity for people-to-people contacts. Just recently, new passenger trains were launched to connect Almaty and Tashkent, Tashkent and Astana, and Dushanbe and Astana, Vassilenko said.

According to the speaker, the international organisations, such as the Eurasian Economic Union, and dialogue platforms with actors such as the European Union, Japan, South Korea and the United States are important for building up the connectivity potential of Central Asia.

“The recent accession of India and Pakistan to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as full members, which took place at the SCO historic summit in Astana earlier this month, will certainly contribute to further expanding economic cooperation in Eurasia,” he further noted.

Vassilenko further dwelt on the potential for cooperation under the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) initiated by Nazarbayev in 1992 and the more recent proposal to turn CICA into an Organisation for Security and Development in Asia (OSDA).

 

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NU Career Centre assists graduates in landing a job

Wed, 2017-06-21 01:57

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Nazarbayev University (NU) held its third graduation ceremony last month, awarding 728 bachelor’s and master’s degrees and for the first time presenting nine PhDs.

Evgeniya Kim.

With sheepskins in hand, what are the students’ next steps?

According to statistics from 2015-2016 provided by the NU Career and Advising Centre, 54.3 percent of alumni took jobs after graduation and 36.4 percent continued their studies. For the former, the centre is facilitating employment in the modern competitive labour market, both local and international, said Centre Director Yevgeniya Kim.

“The centre launched its activities in 2012 to ensure comprehensive support for students and graduates in planning their careers. We are providing unbiased and updated information about the current labour market and developing graduates’ professional skills in cooperation with NU employer partners. We work with alumni and help the NU Alumni Association to develop an understanding of how important it is to maintain interest and involve alumni in the life of the university,” she told The Astana Times. Last year, the centre benefited significantly by implementing CAC CareerNet, a career management system.

“Both students and alumni have gained access to the personal webpage to look at employment and internship listings, register for workshops and trainings and schedule appointments with career advisors and campus recruiters. They can also upload resumes into a searchable database, which our employers can then use to recruit applicants,” she added.

This year, the centre also started a career advising programme with sessions available to students and alumni.

“We encourage the students to use self-assessment tools to examine their values, personality, interests and abilities, and then, based on the results, discuss possible options to find the most suitable careers. Our career advisors help with resume critique, job search techniques and preparation for necessary interviews, especially for fresh graduates once they enter the job market,” said Kim.

The centre intends to continue sharing its experience during the annual Eurasian Higher Education Leaders’ Forum (EHELF) hosted by NU, aimed at bringing together experts in education to create a platform for an interactive dialogue on the challenges of the modern world. This year, the centre focused on ways to enhance graduate employability through creating employer relations.

“Certainly, employers tend to want things to be done their way when it comes to competencies, skills and attitudes toward work issues, while universities expect students to develop and exercise critical judgement. Here comes an important role of the centre to create a ‘win-win’ situation. The days where the mission of the career centre was ‘placement’ are gone. Likewise, universities are focusing more on career education to teach students how to manage and take responsibility for their career paths. We look at our services to students as providing resources, opportunities for networking and, most importantly, insight to help in determining and pursuing their career aspirations. The students feel safe and confident in the driver’s seat while navigating their career future,” said Kim.

 

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Kazakh TV launches series exploring country’s secret and beautiful places

Wed, 2017-06-21 01:52

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The culture, history and nature of Kazakhstan remain a mystery for tourists and even some of its inhabitants. Kazakh TV has prepared five expedition shows which visit the most beautiful, unexplained and unexplored places in the nation.

Interest in tourism is growing – people understand what an interesting world this is and they want to see it in every detail.

Outdoor Kazakhstan (Outdoor KZ) invites them to become acquainted with the country’s most representative natural landscape zones. Historians, scientists, popular artists and famous sportsmen will take part in the show, providing educational and useful information for tourists and lovers of open-air activities. The first episode is dedicated to 8,000 kilometres of roads and hundreds of natural, historic and cultural sites in the Mangystau region.

Another show, Unknown Kazakhstan, explores the most distant points of the nation where no one has ever travelled. The places are unknown and the crew feels obliged to tell the world about their existence. Scientists and historians will talk about and cameras will show hidden places, discovering interesting and mysterious facts. The Ustyurt Plateau, Kok-kol Lake, Barsa-Kelmes Island, the site where a giant meteorite fell, Osakarovka village and other miracles will be shown.

For those interested in picturesque and natural areas, the network will broadcast Kazakhstan’s Wildlife Sanctuaries. The documentary series tells about the development of ecological tourism and the kind of work conducted by national park staffs to attract visitors. The philosophy of ecotourism is simple – do not leave anything except tracks in the sand or snow, kill nothing except your time and take nothing except for photographs.

The country’s flora and fauna are diverse and require protection in the right way. Kazakhstan’s Wildlife Sanctuaries reports about environmental affairs and recommends visiting national parks any time of the year.

The nation is one of a small number that has preserved the beauty of wildlife almost untouched and Spirit of the Wild arranged photo hunting of presently endemic and endangered species. Biologist Yuri Alekseyev talks about amazing wildlife and the fragile, handsome and unexplored animal world and plant kingdom.

The network has also announced Time Puzzle TV aimed at historic Kazakh riddles and mysteries, sacred places and legendary personalities. The show’s founders, who studied materials from the national archive, interview eyewitnesses to the events, historians and experts in various fields to get their comments. During the filming, the group climbs high into the mountains, passes through thick forests, crosses the snow-covered steppes and travels to distant settlements.

One of the saddest episodes centres on “Dudarai,” the incredibly touching story of the love of a young Kazakh man for a Russian lady told in a treasured popular song. The search for the author became an exciting, but difficult test for the film crew, which had to go around several cities and even travel through a snowstorm in the Akmola steppe.

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Hermitage collection of arms to be presented in Astana

Wed, 2017-06-21 01:49

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Astana residents and visitors will have the opportunity to explore the country’s rich history of arms when the Hermitage collection of arms opens July 3 at  the National Museum of Kazakhstan.

Photo credit: kazpravda.kz.

The event is organised within the framework of EXPO 2017 and will last until the end of the exhibition Sept. 10.

Its goal is to demonstrate the stages of development of weapons and arms art, showcase items created by masters from the past and introduce numerous forms and types of arms.

The exhibition will familiarise visitors with unique arms and weapons dating back to 15th-19th centuries, which for many years were kept in the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg.

Guests will be able to explore nearly 70 pieces of Eastern and Western warfare brought from Turkey, Iran, India, Japan, France, Italy, Germany and Spain.

Although these items have no practical use today, the exhibition provides an opportunity to assess the contribution of arms craftsmen in the development of arts and crafts and to demonstrate their technical perfection and rich creativity.

Initially based on the private collection of Russian Emperor Nicholas I, the Hermitage collection of arms has now more than 15,000 items of Russian, Western European and Oriental warfare dating from the Middle Ages to the 20th century.

Tickets for the exhibition are available for purchase at 1,000 tenge (US$3.2) online or at the National Museum. Entrance ticket to the museum, which costs 500 tenge (US$1.6), is also required.

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Switzerland ready to assist Central Asian countries with water management

Tue, 2017-06-20 06:53

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA ­– Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov and Swiss Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Didier Burkhalter discussed bilateral cooperation and took part June 19 in an international conference on water resources management in Central Asia in Astana.

Photo credit: Kulpash Konyrova.

During the meeting, Abdrakhmanov noted the high level of bilateral political and economic partnership and said Switzerland is one of Kazakhstan’s largest trade and investment partners. Bilateral trade in 2016 was $2.8 billion.

Regarding the cooperation in the framework of the United Nations, Abdrakhmanov also emphasised the relevance of President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s initiatives, including allocating 1 percent of the countries’ defence budgets to sustainable development, organising a high-level international conference on reaffirming the principles of international law, creating a global anti-terrorist network and forming a single list of terrorist organisations.

Burkhalter noted the role of Kazakhstan in the international arena, stressing the country’s contribution for a peaceful settlement of the situation in Syria within the framework of the Astana Process.

He also said Switzerland is ready to cooperate on a range of regional issues, including management of Central Asia’s water resources.

Earlier in the day, the two ministers addressed the third international conference, “Water World in Central Asia: Agenda for 2030 – Water Security and Mutually Beneficial Growth.” Experts from Central Asia and Switzerland attended.

Abdrakhmanov said Central Asia presents a united front on many regional and global issues.

“We can see the positive dynamics of a dialogue on development of water issues in the region. We welcome the involvement of Switzerland, which has significant experience in this sphere,” he said.

The water deficit is considered one of the top ten global challenges. Therefore, Kazakhstan’s main objectives include providing water resources to the population and industry using water-saving technologies, improving the efficiency of water resources management and guaranteeing the safety of water ecological systems.

Burkhalter noted that the drains of many European rivers start in Switzerland and said Switzerland is ready to share its water management experience with Central Asian countries.

“We intend to analyse the process, intensify the political dialogue and assist in solving water issues in the region,” he added.

Switzerland participated in previous water management conferences involving Central Asia in November 2014 in Basel and September 2016 in Almaty.

While in Astana, Burkhalter also visited the Swiss pavilion, which uses Flower Power as its slogan, as well as toured a number of pavilions of Central Asian nations.

 

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Kazakh Ministry for Investments and Development recaps foreign investments, new subsoil code, improving transport potential

Tue, 2017-06-20 06:46

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – A recap of the previous year’s work, including attracting foreign investments, a new subsoil code and improving the nation’s transport and logistics potential were the main talking points of a June 12 presentation by Kazakh Minister for Investments and Development Zhenis Kassymbek, according to Kapital.kz. The meeting with the population was held in the capital.

Gross inflow of direct foreign investments increased 40 percent last year to $20.6 billion. Consequently, the nation is considering various ways to insure outside interest continues.

“As a result of last year, we received about 5,500 requests through the single-window system and we have provided about 8,000 public services. The investment ombudsman has received more than 50 new applications from foreign and domestic investors. We have put forth more efforts to attract investment at the external level. In particular, special advisors for attracting investments in 10 priority countries have been identified. At the regional level, councils for attracting investments under the mayors of the regions were created. Now, on insutrctions of the head of state, there is a process to reform the system of attracting investments. The ministry faces a number of current tasks. Until the end of June, a national strategy for attracting investments will be developed. For this work, we attracted experts from the World Bank. Today, we are negotiating all the nuances with state bodies,” said Kassymbek.

The ministry drafted the code on subsoil and its use currently being deliberated in the working group.

“We plan to submit it to the government in August and in September we will submit it to the Mazhilis (lower house) of the Parliament for consideration. Within the draft code, the transition to international standards for the calculation of mineral reserves is envisaged. The adoption of the code should increase the investment attractiveness of geological exploration and give impetus to the development of domestic junior companies. The plan is that the code should come into force on January 1, 2018,” he said.

He added Kazakhstan is looking forward to adopting the plan for the technical modernisation of basic sectors of the economy in December. Its key area is investment attraction.

Regarding the transfer of new technologies, foreign projects were launched in Kazakhstan in 2016 with the assistance of the international technology transfer centre. Based on the selection results, four projects were awarded innovative grants totalling 800 million tenge (US$2.5 million). There are plans to implement two more pilot projects this year, said the minister.

Speaking about the country’s transport and logistics progress, Kassymbek said the volume of services in the transport sphere grew by 3.8 percent in 2016. Transit and container shipments from China-Europe-China increased more than twofold to 104,500 containers, calculated as twenty foot equivalent units (TEUs), compared to 47,000 TEUs in 2015.

Construction of the infrastructure facilities for the dry port of the Khorgos-Eastern Gate special economic zone was completed in October. Work is also underway to build transport and logistics centres in various regions and terminals in the ports of Lianyungang in China and Klaipeda in Lithuania.

“Work is continuing to increase container traffic to two million containers by 2020. In 2017, a double increase in the number of containers is expected. In the direction of China-Europe-China, we see a growth of almost 2.6 times for the first four months [of this year]. The share of domestic freighters in the internal market in 2016 increased to 46 percent. We believe at least 50 percent of the international transportation should be carried out by Kazakh carriers,” said Kassymbek.

The number of transit air passengers increased from 250,000 to 478,000 in 2016 and is expected to reach 600,000 this year. The main flows are through Kazakhstan to and from Asia and Europe.

“By 2020, there are plans to open new flights from Astana and Almaty. Just recently, flights to Warsaw from Astana were launched and Chinese air carriers started to fly from Beijing to Astana. Now, taking into account the flights that Air Astana is making, flights from Almaty and Astana to Beijing are almost daily. Daily flights depart to London and the imminent plans are Budapest and Helsinki. In July, the Astana-Delhi launch is planned,” he added.

Within the Nurly Zhol programme, 920 kilometres of significant highways involving about 75,000 workers were completed in 2016. Fifteen new projects totalling 3,200 kilometres are expected to be started this year. In total, work will be conducted on nearly 4,400 kilometres of roads by approximately 100,000 individuals.

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Astana hosts Second Preparatory Meeting of OSCE Environmental and Economic Forum

Tue, 2017-06-20 06:28

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The second preparatory meeting of the 25th Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Economic and Environmental Forum took place June 14-16 in Astana and concluded with recommendations for participating states before the final meeting scheduled for September in Prague.

Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities Vuk Žugić and Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov. Photo credit: osce.org.

Representatives of 57 participating states of the OSCE, nongovernmental organisations, academic circles and international organisations gathered in Astana to discuss the transition to a green economy, efficient use of natural resources, energy security and environmental risk reduction.

Deputy Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan Roman Vassilenko stressed the importance of the OSCE in helping its participating states tap into their huge potential in economic and environmental activities.

“I believe holding the Second Preparatory Meeting in Astana at the time of EXPO 2017 will facilitate an active exchange of knowledge and experience among OSCE participating states, partners for cooperation and other interested parties actively involved in the work of the Economic and Environmental Dimension [of the OSCE],” Vassilenko said.

He also noted that the infrastructure built for EXPO 2017 in Astana would soon house a Future Energy international centre for the development of green technology and investment projects and a new research complex connected with Nazarbayev University where the meeting actually took place. “One of the most important goals is to exchange best practices and latest achievements in research and to foster the implementation of environmentally conscious technologies in economically feasible projects,” he added.

Coordinator for economic and environmental activities of the OSCE Vuk Žugić asserted that Kazakhstan’s Green Bridge initiative, a partnership programme for stable and long-term green investments, reaffirms the commitment to green economy, which also contributes to strengthening security in the region. “Only mutual cooperation and commitment to comprehensive, equal and indivisible security can bring success,” he said.

“Greening the economy has different aspects,” said head of 2017 OSCE Austrian Chairmanship Task Force Ambassador Florian Raunig in an interview with The Astana Times.

“One is the use of natural resources in order not to waste them and not to destroy your environment. Energy security is also an important topic, as is renewable energy, global warming, climate change, scarce resources and desertification in many countries. Good governance is how administrations govern to achieve the best impact for efficient use of energy. The last point is environmental risk reduction,” he articulated.

Cooperation is of utmost importance, as environmental issues go beyond borders and require international efforts, Raunig said.

He also expressed gratitude to Kazakhstan for providing a platform for the meeting. “It was a joint initiative of the Austrian Chairmanship and the government of Kazakhstan that this should take place in Kazakhstan. We are very thankful that Kazakhstan provided the necessary means and organised it. It brought the focus a little bit away from Vienna to a very important region, namely Central Asia. It was a very good coincidence that at the same time the expo started in Astana, which is dealing with energy,” Raunig said.

“All 57 participating states of the OSCE decided to go to Astana. Everybody agreed Astana was a good choice. We came to Astana to discuss not only the environment, but also to support Kazakhstan’s efforts with the expo,” Deputy Head of Mission for the Economic and Environmental Dimension at the Permanent Mission of Austria to the OSCE Andreas Stadler said. Raunig and Stadler said it was their first time in Kazakhstan and Astana.

“I am overwhelmed by this city and also by the hospitality of the people. I am sure I will come back to see more of the country,” Raunig added.

“I am positively impressed. I want to come back. I am stunned by the progress this country has made and also incredibly motivated by how forward-looking this country is and in its investments in young people,” Stadler noted.

The OSCE Economic and Environment Forum is the main event in economic and environmental dimension, one of the organisation’s three dimensions. It gathers annually more than 400 representatives of governments, academia and international organisations to stimulate dialogue and cooperation on environmental issues.

The outcomes of the Astana meeting will complement recommendations concluded after First Preparatory Meeting in January in Vienna and will pave the way for the forum scheduled for Sept. 6-8 in Prague. They will also contribute to the results of the OSCE Ministerial Council Dec. 7-8 in Vienna.

 

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French connection: Kazakhstan’s modern history captured by French journalist

Tue, 2017-06-20 06:02

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – A book by French independent journalist Lise Barcellini highlighting Kazakhstan’s prominent figures and published by a private French publisher is intended to serve as a connection to the Francophone world and break some clichés.

Barcellini moved to Kazakhstan two years ago with her husband from France, and had to quit her job for the relocation. However, having been a journalist at France’s top television channels, she refused to just kill time in the steppe country with manicure sessions. She wanted to make her time in Kazakhstan as useful as possible, she said.

The result was her book, “Kazakhstan, Young Nation Between China, Russia and Europe.

“I wanted to find a way to meet the [local] people, not just to mingle with the foreigners,” said Barcellini in an exclusive interview with The Astana Times. “I was a journalist before, so I decided to do something to use my skills. I found this way to talk about Kazakhstan. I found a publisher in France and did my research here and met with the people.”

The book of 41 interviews tells a modern tale of a young nation: 41 people, voices and stories.

The people she interviewed for the book reveal the country’s human, ethnic, historic and geographic diversity and include such prominent figures as Olzhas Suleimenov, poet, diplomat and leader of the Nevada-Semipalatinsk international anti-nuclear movement; Toktar Aubakirov, the country’s first astronaut; Dossym Satpayev, a political analyst; Rashid Nugmanov, film director and producer; Karipbek Kuyukov, honorary ambassador of The ATOM Project and anti-nuclear testing advocate, and many others. Some interviews were anonymous.

During the presentation of the book in Astana, Barcellini noted that back in her native country, Kazakhstan is still mostly associated with the 2006 feature “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” which is a complete misrepresentation of the country, she believes.

In her book she takes a new approach and sheds light not only on the country’s natural resources but also on its human resources.

Barcellini says she tried to stay as neutral as possible while writing the book.

“I have no sponsors, I have no links with the French embassy here, I am not linked with Kazakhstan’s embassy in France, I don’t want any political support in any case, no companies or money. I was not paid, but this book was published by a private company called Atelier Henry Dougier, to which I am very grateful. So I didn’t earn anything by doing this, but I also didn’t lose anything.”

Barcellini is going back to France after her mission is done in Kazakhstan and will return to being a television reporter.

“I am a journalist because I love meeting people. Television is meeting people, connecting with them but not writing. Writing a book, on the contrary, is harder as you have to sit down, reflect and write your thoughts down. It’s a very different type of work and was completely new for me. I really liked it so maybe in the future I will write more books,” she said in conclusion.

ATOM Project Honorary Ambassador Karipbek Kuyukov, who had travelled to the capital from Karaganda just for the presentation, following the presentation said: “[Barcellini] wrote a book about people that she believes were meant to be in it. The fact that she thought of me when selecting candidates means a lot to me. I am very thankful to her for this gesture. Many French people will read this book and discover Kazakhstan’s prominent figures like Olzhas Suleimenov and Toktar Aubakirov – all these people are the heroes of Kazakhstan and played a crucial role in the establishment of our independence.”

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Kazakh President proposes international currency, climate solutions at AEF

Mon, 2017-06-19 08:51

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said during a June 16 plenary session of the 10th Astana Economic Forum that the forum is being held at a historically crucial moment for the Eurasian space.

“A new global player with a market capacity of 3 billion people was created with India and Pakistan’s joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). The SCO countries’ participation in the development of the New Silk Road programme creates a new economic sub-region. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres noted that ‘the organisation is an important foundation of today’s world order’ and inclusive development is the most powerful tool for preserving peace. Inclusive and sustainable development is in the focus of today’s forum,” Nazarbayev said in his remarks.

The head of state said the unprecedented speed of changing the modern world and the advent of an era of new discoveries and scientific and technical solutions radically transform the nature of economic growth and life. But global economic policy does not fully meet modern challenges, including a critical level of environmental pollution and growing imbalances in global energy consumption.

“A gradual transition to a new economic model is needed. It should be based on clean energy, joint efforts and collective responsibility, taking into account the interests of the whole world,” he said.

The President suggested revising the methodology to calculate per capita gross domestic product as it is one of the important aspects of the development of the world economy.

“It is necessary to put on the international agenda the issue of developing new methods for calculating indicators that measure the wealth of countries and the welfare of their citizens. The GDP indicator has a number of significant flaws. It does not reflect the long-term nature of economic activity. It does not take into account the damage to the environment, including the depletion of natural resources. And it does not reflect the quality of life in a particular country. GDP per capita does not show the citizens’ well-being and it does not take into account population stratification by income,” said Nazarbayev.

The traditional GDP creates a false perception of economic prosperity.

“I believe that an updated methodology for calculating GDP can be adopted on the basis of green GDP and indices such as the Human Development Index and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Better Life Index. It should adequately reflect the needs for balanced development of countries,” he said.

Transformation of the world financial architecture should also be considered.

“It’s time to consider the introduction of the global payment unit. This will save the world from currency wars, speculation, avoid distortions in trade relations and reduce volatility in the markets. The currency should have a simple transparent mechanism of emission, subject to its consumers. A payment unit of account can be created in the form of a cryptocurrency taking into account digitalisation and block-chain development,” he said.

The introduction of a global currency is possible by creating a pool of central banks, for example, the Special Committee at the United Nations (UN), he added.

President Nazarbayev also proposed to create a unified information system for greenhouse gas emission accounting to cover the countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

“Kazakhstan is the first country in the Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia that launched the greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme. We developed and adopted the appropriate regulatory base and we are ready to share our experience in this area,” he said.

The head of state noted economic growth should be based on clean energy development and environment preservation. In the context of the ecological future of the planet, the concept of a nuclear weapons-free world is of great importance.

“Kazakhstan is a leader in the struggle for a world free of nuclear weapons. We are the first and the only country that closed the nuclear test site and abandoned its nuclear arsenal. We will continue these activities and encourage everyone to support us. By this we reaffirm our commitment to the global cooperation and peace,” he added.

This annual platform facilitates the transfer of knowledge and speeds up the process of making strategic decisions, said JP Morgan Chase International Chairperson Jacob Frenkel who moderated the session.

“Kazakhstan’s development strategy is well known, well appreciated, well recognised by the global community. By the year 2050, it is expected to be among the world top 30 developed countries. And the third modernisation of Kazakhstan will be the right force to achieve it … It is enough just to look around the development of Astana and to recall what it was then and what it is now, to appreciate how can one reach high with vision, determination, commitment and with a sense of leadership,” he said.

Nazarbayev also met with the Nobel Prize laureates and top-level experts at the Akorda presidential residence.

“Meetings with experts are important and always interesting. Especially when important changes take place in the world,” he said. “Kazakhstan is in the centre of world attention regarding the development of new technologies due to EXPO 2017. The world around us is revolutionising with the technology development. We considered such futuristic technologies as electric vehicles, unmanned vehicles, nanotechnologies and new types of energy. Now this is reality.”

Nazarbayev said it is important to consolidate efforts to solve global problems.

“The U.S. withdrawal from the Paris agreement and the situation around Qatar complicates sustainable development. Environmental problems, processes of de-globalisation, migration flows, and paternalism in different countries hamper trade, mutual relations and integration,” he said.

Global challenges in leadership, integration of the transit and water potentials of Greater Eurasia, corporate governance as a factor of investment attractiveness, world energy system were also on the forum’s agenda.

The model and roadmap for the country’s green financial system development workshop was initiated by the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC). Participants spoke about the role of financial centres in green finance development, the conditions for investing in the green economy of Kazakhstan and considered the best world practices for introducing green finance.

More than 2,500 delegates, including politicians, Nobel laureates, chief financial officers of Fortune Global 500 companies, scientists and economists took part in the 20 panel sessions, round tables and conferences at the forum.

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Monaco pavilion “Mirroring the Future” astonishes crowds at EXPO 2017

Mon, 2017-06-19 02:07

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Monaco’s 3-million-euro pavilion “Mirroring the Future” leaves EXPO 2017 visitors in awe as it goes in sync with Principality establishments, marine world icons and its theme.

“The central installation is composed of blades that oscillate like a wave,” according to pavilion guides. “This structure, never yet realised, reflects the projection of a film about the very close relationship between the principality and the marine environment. Thus, the visitor can totally immerse himself or herself and undertake a trip full of emotions. The music and sound design will underline the rhythms of breathing, with pauses that will create greater suspense and gradually becoming more and more musical. The sound effect becomes a melodious tune, so that together with the pictures a world of its own is created.”

The concept was inspired by a quote from H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco and is imprinted on the walls in the hall.

“For a long time, I have dreamt of a country which would function as a model in all respects. A country which would be a source of models: a model for life, a model for development, a model for wellbeing, a model for peace. […] I am therefore convinced that Monaco can become, in its own way, a major power, combining a vision of the world that is focused on progress and wellbeing with the implementation of measures to protect the environment,” it notes.

The pavilion mirrors the intellectual reflection and actions implemented in the country in terms of ecological awareness and behaviour. The exhibit is Monaco’s reflection on the Mediterranean Sea and an intellectual reflection concerning the “duality between man and nature.”

After a short film, the audience is invited to explore the principality’s seashores and cities using 360 Oculus virtual reality goggles. The length of the four optional tours depends on the buildings and sites one wants to visit. There is a city tour that includes the palace, Casino Square, inside the casino and Hermitage Hotel; nature tour to the Princess Antoinette Park, exotic garden, observatory cave and Japanese garden; sea tour inside and outside the oceanographic museum, Port Hercule and Grimaldi Forum and the sky tour with Larvotto Beach, Fontvieille Marina, Fontvieille and the Monte Carlo Country Club.

Next up are Monaco’s future offshore urbanisation project to be built by 2025 and the green lab with an interactive screen. The latter tells about Monaco’s initiatives and plans in the green energy sector.

The pavilion also includes a solar bike assembled by high school students at Monaco’s Technical and Hospitality School. The project was sponsored by Kazakh biker and 2012 Olympic Champion Alexandre Vinokourov.

“Built with ecological materials such as bamboo, this resort resonates with the theme of ‘Mirroring the Future’ by presenting the involvement and awareness of the young generation of the principality around issues like green energy for our future,” it notes.

At the end of the pavilion, visitors will have the chance to purchase national souvenirs and have snacks and sweets. The 60-person staff is expecting to host nearly 250,000 guests.

The current expo theme is very important for Monaco, as the country decided to use up to 40 percent of renewable energy obtained only from neighbouring states, according to pavilion deputy commissioner Alexandre Bocquillon. He believes the event will have a great impact on developing advanced technologies.

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New unified tariff expected to increase Kazakh-Kyrgyz railway cargo transport

Mon, 2017-06-19 02:01

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Kazakhstan’s Mazhilis (lower chamber of Parliament) recently approved the ratification of an agreement between the Kazakh and Kyrgyz governments allowing Kyrgyz transporters to transfer through Kazakhstan to Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) states with unified tariffs accepted by the members of the union. The move is expected to increase transportation value.

Photo credit: tengrinews.kz

“The signed agreement preliminarily applied since Jan. 10 provides pre-scheduled use of the EAEU standards between the two countries. It concerns mutual access to railway transportation services and infrastructure for Kazakh and Kyrgyz consumers in equal terms as well as equal entrance to infrastructure facilities for railway transporters,” said Minister for Investment and Development Zhenis Kassymbek while presenting the bill.

Kassymbek said common tariffs have already saved domestic cargo transporters more than $100 million. It is expected the law will not only positively affect the Kyrgyz exporters, but increase the volume of cargo transportation through Kazakhstan.

He said the Kyrgyz side was not ready to use these conditions two years ago because of domestic legislation that did not meet with the requirements. Other participants of the EAEU have already been using unified tariffs since 2014.

Therefore, new tariff will not affect the economic efficiency of Kazakhstan railways and operation, and transportation expenses will be much lower.

“Previously, we had domestic, export and import tariffs. The domestic tariff was lower, export and import tariffs were higher. Tariffs became identical after the unification. In general, tariffs have decreased for exporters and importers. In our opinion, Kazakhstan has received sufficient benefits from the introduction of unified tariffs because we transport goods to Russia in large quantities,” Kassymbek explained.

He also said the Kazakh railway won’t experience losses, because the Kyrgyz side had to receive these tariffs two years ago.

Mazhilis Deputy Alexander Suslov noted transportation volumes have already increased.

“The volume of cargo transportation between the two countries increased by 14 percent in comparison with the same period last year already,” the minister said.

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New Silk Way Business Forum discusses developing Eurasian transcontinental routes

Mon, 2017-06-19 01:57

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Regional business leaders discussed developing transport and logistic systems on Eurasian transcontinental routes during the June 15 New Silk Way international transport and logistics business forum in Astana. The gathering was part of the 10th Astana Economic Forum.

Photo credit: ratel.kz

Participants discussed global economic trends, European and Asian markets in terms of the development of transcontinental routes, improvement of the efficiency of multimodal transport, the role of interstate cooperation on development of international transport corridors, and the application of innovative solutions to regional transport and logistics infrastructure.

Kazakh First Deputy Prime Minister Askar Mamin, Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov, Minister for Investments and Development Zhenis Kassymbek, top managers of transport and logistics companies of China, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Lithuania, Moldova, Ukraine, Poland, as well as representatives of banking and expert circles attended the event.

“Kazakhstan is actively working to integrate the transport network into the Eurasian transport system and making a significant contribution to its development,” Mamin said.

According to the report, the development of modernisation of the transport and logistics infrastructure of the trans-Kazakhstan routes are done as part of the Nurly Zhol and Plan of the Nation 100 concrete steps programmes.

“The railroads, highways and air routes laying across the territory of Kazakhstan form effective transcontinental corridors from Asia to Russia, Europe, Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Persian Gulf,” Mamin said, adding that in a short period of time East-West container traffic has increased, cargo flows have been reoriented and the new routes have been opened.

Mamin noted the World Economic Forum ranks Kazakhstan 26th out of 136 countries in quality of railroad infrastructure.

The event also included presentations by Chief Executive Officer of DP World Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, CEO of Azerbaijan Railways Javid Qurbanov, CEO of Georgian Railways Mamuka Bakhtadze, Mayor of Chengdu sub-provincial city Luo Qiang, First Vice President of Russian Railways Alexander Misharin and others.

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Developers, software and cyber security specialists, IT managers in shortage, expert says

Mon, 2017-06-19 01:30

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The Digital Kazakhstan state programme is available for every Kazakh citizen who has a computer with Internet access. A professional presentation and the draft programme can be found on the Zerde National Information and Communication Holding website. Since the holding manages its implementation, The Astana Times spoke with its chair of the board Assel Zhienbayeva, who answered a number of questions regarding the chosen topic as a skilled IT professional.

Assel Zhienbayeva

What is the status of the Digital Kazakhstan programme?

The digital topic is relevant and not only because the rapid development of technology is one of the key challenges for business and state in any country. For our country, digitalisation can become a real platform for maintaining competitiveness in the future. That is why the accelerated technological modernisation of the country was a number one priority in the January State of the Nation Address of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. At the moment, the concept of Digital Kazakhstan is ready and the draft has been preliminarily agreed upon by all state authorities; it means we are consistently moving in the given direction.

Nevertheless, when the talk is about creating and developing high-tech digital infrastructure in the country, isn’t it taking it too lightly that the majority of villagers (40-45 percent of the country’s population) perceive the Internet almost only as a way of quick exchange of messages via e-mail or messengers?

It is only partially true. The high-speed Internet will provide an opportunity to render high-quality health care and education services to people who live in remote areas; moreover, it will become an electronic trading platform. People will be able to sell goods and services online and distances will no longer be a barrier to the provision of services.

The Alibaba platform in China, which has connected international buyers with small and medium-sized businesses, is a striking example. The business, which 15 years ago was located in an apartment, contributed to the creation of 100 million jobs and a 10 million army of entrepreneurs! Today, Alibaba controls 80 percent of the Chinese e-commerce market and generates 2 percent of the GDP.

Digitalisation as a world trend also inspires domestic business to create similar analogues. Kazakhstan has a developed agribusiness and the objective set by the state – increase in the gross output of agricultural products by 30 percent – is based on the idea of a consistent digital transformation of the industry.

Yes, indeed, digital technology became available to villagers through mobile phones and applications. However, digitalisation is making villagers master their IT skills more and more. If you want to trade, go to an online fair! Here, you can sell your goods and buy what you need on the farm.

A drip irrigation system, for example, which is managed from one centre, will facilitate the cooperation of villagers, leading to the consolidation of farms. In turn, a large farm constitutes a great opportunity for the development of agricultural producers, labour productivity growth and cheaper products for the end user. With regard to our mentality, we can say that we “harness our horses slowly but drive them fast.” That is, life itself will motivate villagers to be braver in mastering IT technologies.

A villager should be familiar with the computer even to open a small poultry house, as the incubation process is fully automated and everything is regulated at the push of a button. And if a project is planned with a full production cycle from breeding to processing, one cannot do without strong IT skills!

For this reason, the programme also includes online platforms in public service centres and Kazpost so that our citizens can access basic IT skills.

There has been talk about broadband Internet access in villages and auls for several years, but where is the result? The programme indicators also show when it is fully implemented, only 81 percent of the population is expected to use the Internet and the corresponding percent of digital literacy is similar. Why is that the case; why will every citizen not be able to use the Internet?

Today, in the most active segment of the population, the age group between 6 and 74, about 77 percent of the population has access to the Internet. When it comes to 81 percent, this is an increase in the number of Internet users for this age group. The state, business and households are definitely interested in having 100 percent coverage as soon as possible. Economic digitisation will help to accelerate the population’s involvement in the Internet.

Who will finance the programme and related projects?

Related projects will be financed through public-private partnership or through the informatisation service model. PPP financing is regulated by the Law On Public-Private Partnership. The service model we are talking about implies a centralised approach to informatisation based on the provision of information and communication services to state authorities. Such services are provided by the IC infrastructure operator with the involvement of IT companies. Details are available on our website zerde.gov.kz.

“Human capital development” is the phrase that came into this report, but not into people’s lives. Kazakhstan still does not have adequate distant schooling and high school online education, there are no electronic textbooks, it is impossible to receive additional knowledge using digitalisation and there are no catalogues of video lectures, since there is no video lectures database. What is your position on this matter?

You raise a very relevant topic. Today the whole world actively discusses the issue of education, its quality and the development paradigm. The long-term world trend is the promotion of mass education based on its accessibility. This trend sets the main parameters of the future education and becomes the development driver of additional alternative education in Kazakhstan.

This year, the WikiBilim Public Foundation with the support of Kazakh universities has launched the Open University of Kazakhstan project (analogue of the well-known Coursera). The educational platform offers free access to online courses from leading university teachers in the country.

In fact, this project is a greenfield project, where all the content is Kazakh. More than 80 percent of the courses are taught in the state language. Anyone can freely study through the online courses housed on the platform when and where it suits him or her. This project is purely social, not commercial. We are discussing with WikiBilim the possibility of implementing a project to increase the digital literacy of the population.

Needless to say that today distance education in Kazakhstan is imperfect, but there are positive aspects. Distant learning has been practiced for more than one year. Both public and private universities provide online learning tools for students from other regions. Some universities provide the opportunity to receive a double degree, one of which can be obtained through distance learning. Distant education graduates receive state-recognised diplomas without any indication of the mode of study (distant/extramural.) However, only people who already have a degree in secondary vocational or higher education can study in the university by distant learning.

Why does the nation need to improve the skills of specialists in information and communication technology if it can attract super professionals who could work in remote access mode?

Let me repeat myself. In the January state of the nation address, the head of state defined the number one priority – accelerated technological modernisation of the economy. And economic transformation is directly related to IT-technology.

Yes, our economy has long been experiencing a labour shortage, but this applies not only to Kazakhstan. The U.S. economy alone will have up to 50,000 vacancies for IT professionals each year. According to the global study 2016 Manpower Talent Shortage Survey attended by 42,000 employers from 43 countries, IT specialists are the second highly demanded professionals. We are in severe shortage of developers, software specialists, architects, data and cyber security experts, IT leaders and managers. This means that we cannot and should not rely on the external market to attract specialists!

Labour shortage has a negative side as well: the lack of competition among specialists in any industry leads to a decrease in competition, and, therefore, to a decrease in labour productivity of specialists in demand. Therefore, until we solve the problem of “nurturing” our own talents for the IT industry and streamline it, this issue will be a serious obstacle for the development of business and production in the country.

How does the holding participate in solving this problem?

Among other things, we create and introduce an IT qualification system. The system should change the relationships of all sides represented in the skilled labour market: education, professionals and business.

We have already developed an industry qualification framework that allowed us to inventory occupational categories in order to establish qualification levels in the IT industry. Professional standards have also been developed, the main function of which is to set the requirements for the quality of work, knowledge and skills. Educational standards in universities will be built on their basis. In fact, professional standards are needed by the labour market in training IT professionals who will be in demand in the economic sectors.

It is also important to cooperate with foreign partners. Thus, in April 2017, during the working visit of Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Bakytzhan Sagintaev to the United States, an agreement was signed between Cisco International Limited and National Infocommunication Holding Zerde JSC. One of the areas of cooperation is the training and retraining of personnel for digital work. Ten thousand students will be involved in the programme by 2020 with the support of Kazakhstan’s institutes and universities.

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Number of foreign companies in Kazakhstan increases 25 percent in the past year

Mon, 2017-06-19 01:22

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The number of foreign businesses operating in Kazakhstan increased 25 percent in the last year to 3,400, according to finprom.kz.

With the number of all businesses increasing 7 percent, the share of foreign companies increased from 5.9 percent to 6.9 percent over the last year.

“According to analysts, the growth of foreign companies accelerated inflows of foreign investment into the country’s economy. In 2016, gross inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) increased 40 percent reaching $20.6 billion. Investments growth followed by a downturn in 2015, when inflows of FDI weakened to minimal volumes since 2006,” the report said.

Number of foreign companies in trade increased 24 percent or by 1,300 enterprises, reaching 6,700 ventures, as of April.

Meanwhile, number of trade enterprises, with full or partial foreign participation, decreased by 155 units between April 2015 and April 2016.

In addition, foreign business in services and construction grew by 464 and 423 enterprises respectively over the past year.

Until September, the government is developing an investment strategy for Kazakhstan. One of the main roles in attracting financial resources to the country’s economy is to be given to the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC). It is positioned as a financial hub for the countries of Central Asia, the Caucasus, Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), Middle East, Western China, Mongolia and Europe. The centre will be located on the territory of EXPO 2017.

AIFC will run on a special legal regime based on the English common law governing relations between the AIFC participants and interested parties.

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Kieli Kazakhstan expedition to country’s sacred places takes off

Mon, 2017-06-19 01:16

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The Kieli Kazakhstan (Sacred Kazakhstan) trip to the steppe country’s sacred places began from Nazarbayev University June 10. University Vice President Kanat Baigarin and General Director of the Kazakh Research Institute of Culture Andrey Khazbulatov gave a parting address to the 25 expedition participants.

Photo credit: e-history.kz

“This is the first expedition along this route, but then there will be a long lasting and in-depth itinerary. The ministry determined a list of 500 major and more than 1,000 minor sacred objects. Our main aim is to continue regular expeditions. Then we will create an electronic portal, where all cultural and historical places are thoroughly described with a 3D survey of the places and maps of the journey. Anyone who wishes, Kazakh or foreign tourist, could use the internet to see the map,” said Khazbulatov.

Scientists and historians, including art historians from the Sacred Kazakhstan Scientific Centre, which organised the expedition, and specialists from the Kazakhstan National Geographic Qazaq Geography Society are taking part in the journey. They are measuring the scale of the monuments they find to compile a list of sacred places. As a result, an atlas of holy places of Kazakhstan will be created.

Participants will travel 15 days to the Caspian via Ulytau, in Central Kazakhstan, visiting sacred places of this region, famous for being the burial places of the descendants of Genghis Khan, including his oldest son Juchi Khan. They will continue their journey to the Zhuban Ana mausoleum, the Terekty sanctuary, the Bolgan-Ana tomb, the Korkyt-Ata complex, the Kesken Kuyuk-Kala settlement, Kambash Lake, Tassay Well, Akmysh, Sherkala, Shakpak-Ata, Kenty Baba, the Sultan-Ape valleys and the Beket-Ata and Meshitbai-Aulie necropolises.

According to Khazbulatov, the project will undoubtedly improve tourist infrastructure in these regions.

The first destination of the expedition was the historical and archaeological complex Terekty. There, participants visited Neolithic settlements, cave paintings of the Bronze Age and barrows and mazars (mausoleums) of the 18th and 19th centuries.

“There is a legend that one weary traveller reached this place. He was thirsty and powerless from the scorching sun. God pitied him. The stone slabs shifted, forming a shadow, and a stream of light began to beam from there. This place became an object of pilgrimage, where thousands of people now pray and make wishes,” said Altynai Birmukhanova, a researcher with the National Museum of Kazakhstan.

Academician Alkey Margulan was the first to record the Terekty-Aulieu petroglyphs during the Central Kazakhstan archaeological expedition in the 1950s, according to Birmukhanova.

“Historically, these places are important spiritual relics of our homeland. We want to study them and provide the widest coverage in the media in order to make every citizen of Kazakhstan know the history and culture of these objects. Many of these monuments are in poor condition; some have no roads or infrastructure. Our task is also to evaluate the tourist potential of these sites,” reported Qazaq Geography.

The study of the sacred places of Kazakhstan was one of the tasks formulated by President Nursultan Nazarbayev in his “Modernisation of Kazakhstan’s Identity” programme unveiled last April.

Scientists are conducting a large-scale expedition to find out which places citizens consider sacred, in order to further develop the sacred geography of the country.

“The status of something sacred is not given by the state. It is determined by the people. If they consider this place holy, it will be sacred, regardless of orders and decisions. We need to find out why the people consider a certain place sacred and visit it,” explained Director of the Sacred Kazakhstan Scientific Centre Berik Abdygaliuly.

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International experts discuss sustainable energy, economic development at Astana Economic Forum

Mon, 2017-06-19 01:06

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

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.

Photo credit: primeminister.kz

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.

Bakytzhan Sagintayev. Photo credit: primeminister.kz

“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.

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Polish delegation meets Kazakh State Secretary, opens exhibition

Sat, 2017-06-17 02:01

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – A delegation from Poland is on a three-day visit to Kazakhstan to visit EXPO 2017 and celebrate the June 17 Day of Poles. Headed by Deputy Senate Marshal Maria Koc, the delegation met with Kazakh State Secretary Gulshara Abdykalikova June 15 and unveiled the exhibition dedicated to Polish army commander Gen. Wladyslaw Anders.

Photo credit: khabar.kz

The delegation consists of members of the Polish parliament including Secretary of State and Prime Minister’s Plenipotentiary for International Dialogue Anna Maria Anders, the daughter of the general who is regarded as hero in modern Poland credited with saving more than one hundred thousands of Poles during World War II.

“The purpose of my visit is primarily to attend the expo. In our pavilion, we want to present Poland as a rapidly growing country that devotes significant attention to innovations. Economic ties are growing, but we need to strengthen cooperation in this field,” said Koc, as quoted by khabar.kz.

“We are here to support Poland at the expo. We are here also to develop closer relations between Kazakhstan and Poland,” added Anders.

During the meeting, the sides discussed bilateral ties between the nations and prospects for further political, economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation.

Abdykalikova stressed the contribution of the 32,000 Polish diaspora in developing Kazakhstan’s socio-political and economic sectors. She expressed gratitude to her colleagues for their participation in EXPO 2017 marking the importance of Polish achievements in the field of alternative energy. Abdykalikova also congratulated the country on its selection as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for 2018-2019, where it will sit together with Kazakhstan during one year.

The same day as part of the visit, Anders opened the exhibition in the Alzhir memorial complex devoted to her father’s army and victims of political repression and totalitarianism. He was a former NKVD prisoner and commanded the nation’s forces during World War II.

“We are at this exhibition to speak about the history of the Polish people who are here. There are many Poles here (in Kazakhstan),” she said.

The exhibition marks the 75th anniversary of Anders Army initiated by the signing of the Sikorski-Maysky agreement in 1941 between the Soviet Union and the Polish government in exile in the U.K.

The fate of Polish people who fell victim to Soviet and German occupation beginning in 1939 is captured on the walls of the exhibit. Many Poles named enemies of the state were deported to labour camps in the most remote parts of the Soviet Union, including ALZHIR, where Polish women, mothers, sisters or wives of enemies of the state, were sentenced to five-eight years. Thousands were brutally killed in the Katyn massacre carried out by NKVD in 1940.

Many Polish people, including officers and civilians throughout the Soviet Union, joined Anders Army as their only hope to escape death in concentration camps. The army saved the lives of more than 120,000 people.

“Last year we came across the idea of representing a piece of history, the history of my father’s army, Gen. Anders Army, that was formed in the Soviet Union and then came out through Siberia, the Middle East, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and finally ended up in the battle of Monte Cassino in Italy. It is important to promote the history of my father, but also I feel that for many years that part of history was neglected,” said Anders.

The collection of photos and information presented in the exhibition is the result of the hard work of leading Polish historical and archival organisations, including the Archive of New Acts, Central Military Archives, Institute of Poland, General Sikorski Museum in London, Polish Army Museum and National Digital Archives.

 

 

 

 

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Astana parks offer EXPO 2017 shows for visitors

Sat, 2017-06-17 01:55

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Parks become attractive places in the summer where people can spend an hour or two or even a whole day with family or friends. The capital’s green and picturesque open spaces are perfect for those looking for some peace and quiet in the city.

The metropolitan parks will become even more beautiful and modern this year with the addition of events devoted to EXPO 2017.

Huge and centrally located, Stolichniy (Capital) Park is the best place for family recreation. It not only features beautiful architecture and landscape, but also quite a bit of entertainment for children and adults. The park is divided into six sections: a waterside, central alley, composition of four rock shelters with a mosaic interior, fountain and area of Olympians. Stolichniy offers plenty of things to do and activities to enjoy.

Arai Park is a delightful place adjacent to the Yessil River. Thanks to beautiful natural landscapes and sculptures, the area has become something more than just a spot to relax from a bustling city. Visitors can find yurts of different sizes, horse herds and ethnic details of Kazakh culture.

Zheruyik Park, another of the city’s picturesque spots, allows visitors to rest in the cool shade of its trees and freshness of its grass. Located along Bauyrzhan Momyshuly Avenue at the intersection with Magzhan Zhumabayev Avenue, it features a monument honouring the 28 Panfilov Guardsmen. Convenient driveways and parking lots, proximity to residential areas, magnificent nature, picturesque views and the availability of necessary infrastructure make this place an attractive spot for a variety of family leisure activities.

Far from walking paths, one can have a picnic under the trees. The park is also a great place to play active games.

The park near the Palace of Peace and Harmony is another of the capital’s green islands. It is the perfect spot for romantic walks, relaxing with a picnic and watching a fascinating view of the city decorated at night with colourful lights.

This summer, park visitors will witness entertainment programmes devoted to EXPO 2017. The exhibition’s theme of future energy will be reflected in the design of the pavilions and park areas. Fans of robots and street dances, for example, will enjoy a show with a futuristic production featuring dancing artists in LED suits. A variety of performances will be held every day until Sept.10.

The capital has 10 parks with an area of 401,290 hectares, four boulevards measuring 30 hectares and 90 squares totalling 131,940 hectares.

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Kazakhstan donates $300, 000 to UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy

Sat, 2017-06-17 01:12

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA– Kazakhstan is slated to make a targeted contribution of $300,000 to the United Nations Trust Fund for Combating Terrorism. The funds will be used to implement the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, particularly the third phase of the project concerned with Central Asia. Kazakhstan will become the first country in the region to donate to the programme, providing more than 10 percent of the financing for the project.

The announcement was made by Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Yerzhan Ashikbayev, who headed the nation’s delegation to New York to attend the UN Security Council regular meeting. The session focused on implementing UN Security Council Resolution 2253, Threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts, adopted on Dec. 17, 2015.

In his speech, Ashikbayev condemned the activities of international terrorist organisations and called for active and concerted action by the world community aimed at preventing acts of terror and bringing their organisers to justice. In this connection, he underlined the importance of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s initiative about creating a Global Anti-Terrorist Coalition (Network) under UN auspices announced at the General Assembly’s 70th session.

Ashikbayev confirmed Kazakhstan’s continued commitment to multilateral cooperation to prevent violent extremism and terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, in accordance with Nazarbayev’s proposals in the sphere of strengthening international peace and security.

“We are sure that the fight against this evil must be carried out jointly by all UN member states in accordance with the key principles of the organisation,” he said. “We consider this contribution as part of our common response to the current security challenges in Central Asia.”

UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force and UN Counter-Terrorism Centre Director Jehangir Khan expressed gratitude for Astana’s decision and stressed the timeliness of the government’s support.

“Kazakhstan plays an important role in preventing violent extremism at the regional and global levels. This country, through significant and concrete steps, confirms its leadership in promoting intercultural dialogue and harmony in the modern world,” he said.

The delegation also participated in the inaugural UN Ocean Conference held June 5-9 at its headquarters. The event was devoted to one of the goals of sustainable development, preserving and ensuring the wise use of the oceans, seas and their resources.

In his speech, Ashikbayev drew the audience’s attention to the problems of the Aral Sea and Caspian Sea. He noted only collective measures can help to reduce the consequences of the ecological catastrophe in the former, which affects not only Central Asia, but also the whole world.

Ashikbayev also attended the “Maintenance of International Peace and Security – Preventive diplomacy and transboundary waters” debate chaired by Bolivian President Evo Morales. Ashikbayev noted Astana attaches great importance to the issues of water security, which is one of the priorities of Kazakhstan’s programme in the UN Security Council. He also briefed participants on regional trans-boundary water cooperation in Central Asia, stressing the need for close coordination of the efforts of neighbouring countries in the area.

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