|President Seeks Czech Involvement in Economic Diversification
President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan hopes the Czech Republic will be a partner in building an economy independent of natural resources in Kazakhstan, he said during a Nov. 24 meeting with visiting President of the Czech Republic Milos Zeman.
Zeman, in Astana to meet with Nazarbayev and take part in the Kazakhstan-Czech Republic Business Forum, compared Kazakhstan’s economic development to “economic miracles” in post-war Germany, Japan and South Korea.
Nazarbayev invited Czech companies to join in Kazakhstan’s privatisation and development programmes. “At the moment, we are carrying out the second stage of privatisation and are currently inviting Czech companies to participate. I have already mentioned that the second phase of industrial and innovative development in Kazakhstan has begun. We want to build hundreds of completely new enterprises of different types that we need. Our country is rich in oil, metals, coal and so on. … We want to build a second economy that does not depend on natural resources, and Czech companies can help us,” he said. He also referenced Kazakhstan’s investment incentives, including new infrastructure and tax breaks.
International issues were also on the agenda, with Nazarbayev saying that terrorism and the Ukrainian crisis affected Kazakhstan. The Czech Republic could help facilitate the development of cooperation in Europe and Asia, including between the EU and Eurasian Economic Union, he said.
Nazarbayev noted that both parties hope for an immediate end to hostilities in Ukraine, while also condemning sanctions that he said “bring positive results to neither Europe nor Russia.”
“In general, the economy should not be linked to politics. Such sanctions are to be imposed by the United Nations, but not by a group of states. My idea is to unite Europe and Asia in a common market and to work for good,” he said.
Kazakhstan and the Czech Republic have great potential, Nazarbayev continued, and their connections are growing, with more than 70 joint ventures currently operating in Kazakhstan.
Zeman also noted the importance of strengthening cooperation with the strategically important nation.
“Currently, we are working on the new Silk Road. We consider not only the level of development in your country, but its potential, taking into account its key location in Central Asia,” Zeman said.
“Kazakhstan can be compared to countries which achieved economic miracles in the past, such as Germany, Japan or South Korea,” Zeman said at a joint press conference with Nazarbayev in the Akorda on Nov. 24, commenting on the “unbelievable progress” of the country over the past decade. “I am confident that Kazakhstan, thanks to the hard work of its people, will become one of the important players in the global economy.”
The Kazakhstan-Czech Republic Business Forum held on the same day was attended by more than 60 Czech businesses. Opening the forum, Nazarbayev said that the two countries would sign agreements worth about $500 million in the defence industry, engineering, chemistry, construction and agricultural sectors, which “will open new horizons for investment in Kazakhstan.”
Nazarbayev also suggested the Czech Republic transfer its plants and assembly lines to Kazakhstan.
“Only here you will find a huge market comprised of Central Asian countries, Russia and Western China. The world’s biggest agricultural companies and automakers already have [production and] assembly lines here in Kazakhstan,” he said. The President also cited the potential of barrier-free Customs Union markets for Czech enterprises.
After the forum, Zeman announced plans to streamline visa procedures for citizens of Kazakhstan, including setting up processing points around the country. “We are ready to completely remove visa requirements for holders of special passports,” he said.
Cooperation between the two countries continues to grow, Nazarbayev said, noting that direct Czech investments in Kazakhstan’s economy have amounted to $200 million. Sales turnover volume between the countries rose from $206.6 million in 2009 to $1.022 billion in 2013, according to Kazakhstan’s Ministry for Investments and Development.