Kazakhstan a key strategic partner

By: Kairat Kelimbetov, Governor, Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) Apr 2019

With its immense economic potential, Kazakhstan is a key strategic partner for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and is currently implementing a number of BRI-linked projects in industry, transport and logistics with China.

One of our goals as Kazakh policymakers is to satisfy regional demand for an advanced and stable marketplace. To achieve this goal and to drive the BRI in the region, Kazakhstan has opened the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) which connects opportunities in Central Asia.

The AIFC delivers international standards, English common law, an independent regulator and an array of financial instruments and services. It offers greater access to world-class capital markets and asset management. At the same time, the AIFC also pursues financial areas such as financial technology development, and green and Islamic finance. The AIFC has clear incentives to successfully promote BRI projects. The AIFC is set to address issues of modern-day economies through its key principles of green and Islamic finance with a focus on sustainability and socially responsible financing as well as the need for furthering financial technology.

Astana is fast emerging as a regional hub for BRI projects, providing unprecedented conditions and opportunities for participants and investors. In addition to its fundamental advantages, the AIFC can play a crucial role in further enhancing BRI investments in the region. This is due to factors like an established network of partners (such as the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the Silk Road Fund), an RMB investment promotion platform and multilateral tools.

The BRI is focusing on prioritizing physical and social infrastructure as well as sharing a dynamic outlook on policy implementation and risk management. Efforts are being made to broaden the scope of trade, propel infrastructure development and large-scale connectivity through investment, and strengthen cooperation in the industrial chain with all related countries.

Through collaboration and openness, the BRI can bring prosperity and reinforce sustainable development across Eurasia and on a global scale. The AIFC and Kazakhstan offer a pivotal BRI hub with its geographic advantages providing bridges linking Russia, the Middle East, Europe and China.

From our pivotal position, we in Kazakhstan observe many BRI countries undergoing rapid modernization and urbanization. Roads, railways, ports, airports, pipelines and technology infrastructure are expanding rapidly. Increased connectivity of less developed markets is leading to stronger commercial opportunities, helping integrate these nations with global markets.

The Khorgos Gateway is the world’s largest dry port, located at the border of Southeast Kazakhstan and China. It is a developing multi-modal logistics and transport hub with great potential. It offers a variety of cargo handling operations, such as carriages and container operations, transhipment, terminal processing and additional logistic services. After just one year of operations, Khorgos was already handling over a fifth of its 2020 goal of 500,000 TEU per year. With its new partners, cargo volumes and trade outputs are expected to increase significantly. Interconnection ports such as Khorgos help to make the globalized market more efficient and build cooperation between countries along the BRI.

China's COSCO Shipping and the port of Lianyungang, an important node in the Belt and Road, signed up to participate in Khorgos, leading to higher efficiency and connectivity through Kazakhstan for every participating country.

Central Asia can become one of the key beneficiaries of the BRI. Increased trade, investment and logistics through Central Asia can unlock its potential and drive development. However, Central Asian countries must adapt their policies and establish institutions to make the most of the BRI.

The BRI will bring about cutting-edge digital technologies, social and cultural development, enhanced infrastructure, industry and agriculture throughout Eurasia.With the digital Silk Road, the BRI pushes technological advancement and dynamic efficiency, representing the current global trends. In doing this, the BRI could spark an expansion of global economic growth and further enhance international integration. The BRI is designed to promote cooperation that is open to all, bringing economic and social advancements to every participating country.

The BRI’s goals are multi-pronged. The initiative will facilitate trade between participating countries, and also create a range of new opportunities and multilateral connections. It will enhance social and physical capital in emerging economies by developing complex transnational projects covering a broad range of sectors. It will also transfer education and expertise across the world.

However, due to its scale and ambition, the BRI will inevitably face challenges. Viewed from outside China, the BRI faces four main challenges.

Transparency and openness are crucial. Building trust within communities, governments and businesses are key. A more transparent approach which also follows market principles can help to evaluate financial risks and benefits. The issue of transparency has to be addressed by every participating country by setting clear guidelines and regulations to enhance openness in every project.

Good corporate governance is vital. The effective decision-making process, raising accountability and ensuring fairness can be helped by this. Promoting trade and investment, increasing market access, and gradually reducing and eliminating barriers are at the core of the policy framework for every BRI project.

Green and low carbon principles are essential. The BRI can be a strong engine promoting and leading the way for environmentally sustainable and resilient infrastructure development, which is essential for achieving UN Sustainable Development Goals. Sustainability is seen as one of the priorities of BRI investments. It is encouraged by stakeholders through actualizing Green Investment Principles, environmental regulations and best practice planning approach. The BRI brings a tremendous opportunity to contribute to sustainable development and environmental protection by mitigating the negative environmental impacts of infrastructure and investing in natural capital.

Sharing expertise and knowledge along the BRI is crucial. Knowledge portals on the Belt and Road can provide detailed information and analysis on the projects and BRI activities. These entities can also act as networking platforms for foreign and local companies as well as Chinese enterprises seeking collaboration opportunities.

In summary, nations that share the vision of a shared community for all, through the BRI, are on a path to share immense mutual benefits.

This is an advertorial from Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC)