Kazakhstan shifts foreign policy focus in bid to strengthen economy

KAZAKHSTAN ECONOMY | 11 de enero de 2019

Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry building in Astana in December 2017. Kazakhstan is reorienting its foreign policy at the start of 2019 with the aim of bolstering its economy, having named a new foreign minister whose main goals are to attract more capital investment from abroad and promote the Central Asian nation's exports. EPA-EFE/Kazakhstan Foreign Ministry/File

Astana, Jan 11 (efe-epa).- Kazakhstan is reorienting its foreign policy at the start of 2019 with the aim of bolstering its economy, having named a new foreign minister whose main goals are to attract more capital investment from abroad and promote the Central Asian nation's exports.

"Our ministry now has a clear economic profile centered on investment and exports," Deputy Foreign Minister Roman Vassilenko told EFE.

"Specific indicators will be developed at all of Kazakhstan's diplomatic missions to stimulate trade and economic activity," he added.

In December, President Nursultan Nazarbayev named 54-year-old Beibut Atamkulov to lead these efforts as the ministry's new head.

Atamkulov, who had previously headed up the Defense and Aerospace Industry portfolio, is a metallurgical engineer and economist by training who has a long track record in the foreign trade area.

His experience includes having served as deputy chief executive officer of Sauda (which means trade in Kazakh), a company that distributes products between Asia and Europe and has offices in Russia.

"The government wants all government departments, national agencies and companies to work on solving the investment problem," Igor Ivakhnenko, a Russian analyst who specializes in the Caspian region, told EFE.

"Most likely, we'll see the Foreign Ministry take a more active role in attracting foreign investment," he said. "At the same time, it will have to interact more actively with other structures in Kazakhstan engaged in international economic cooperation, including at the corporate level."

The Foreign Ministry also has been tasked with overseeing the activity of Kazakh Invest, the national company responsible for attracting foreign capital.

Kazakhstan currently is one of the leading countries worldwide in terms of production and reserves of oil, natural gas and non-ferrous metals, especially uranium.

But because these products account for nearly all of Kazakhstan's exports, the nation's economy is very sensitive to global commodity price fluctuations.

Kazakhstan has set out to correct this problem and develop a more self-sufficient economy, one that not only exports oil but also other higher value-added products that can compete successfully on international markets.

In recent years, the Kazakh government has taken concrete steps to improve the country's investment climate.

Efforts in this direction are reflected in Kazakhstan's ranking of No. 28 in the World Bank's Doing Business 2019 report, up from No. 36 in 2018 and No. 50 in 2014.

Under Kazakhstan's investment strategy through 2022, 11 key source countries for investment in the Central Asian nation have been identified: China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Other countries in Europe and the Middle East also have been identified as priority nations in terms of potential sources of foreign capital investment: Austria, Iran, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Poland, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Spain.

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