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Turning Astana into new global financial center

By Ma Tengfei | | Updated: 2018-07-04 14:03
A performer in a giant panda costume greets visitors to an amusement park in Astana, Kazakhstan, on June 5, 2017. The Astana World Expo 2017 opens on June 4. Over 500 Chinese enterprises from more than 24 provinces, autonomous regions or provincial level cities are expected to participate, according to the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade. [Photo/Xinhua]

On July 6, the key state on the Belt and Road Initiative - Kazakhstan will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its capital - the city of Astana. This is an interesting event for Kazakhstan's strategic partner, China, since it was in Astana in September 2013 that President Xi Jinping announced the initiative to form the "Economic belt of the Silk Road."

For Kazakhs, every date that has anything to do with Astana is special. And this is not an exaggeration. The history of the birth of the capital of their country is studied and highlighted in schools, institutes, movies, journalism, poetic works.

Astana is a young capital. Many still discuss the expediency of transferring the capital from Almaty to Astana. Today's capital of Kazakhstan is on the list of places facing most difficult climatic conditions. However, over 20 years of development of the former Tselinograd and its transformation into Astana, the Kazakh authorities were able to solve this issue - by creating a "green belt" of the capital: plantations that girded the city and softened the cold winters.

But, of course, Astana is interesting not only for this. In past 20 years it was possible to create a modern metropolis, perhaps, one of the main achievements of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. It's no secret that Astana appeared only thanks to its volitional political decision. The new megapolis, according to the plan of the country's leader, was to become a symbol of Kazakhstan and demonstrate to the world a modern, albeit a young country, by historical standards. The task was more than ambitious. But Kazakhstan did it. Now, after 20 years, this can be proved by numbers and facts.

Last year, the capital of Kazakhstan - the first in the entire post-Soviet space - hosted an international Expo, the theme of which was development of "green" technologies. The topic is also indicative: the Kazakhs are actively implementing these principles in the development of their cities, not only in Astana, modernizing the economy. But it is Astana that has become a springboard for the introduction of everything new, then to spread this experience throughout the country.

As the head of the capital Asset Issekeshev stated, in the long term Astana will become a global city and, seeing transformations both in Kazakhstan itself as a whole, and changes in the capital, in particular, you begin to believe these ambitious plans. For example, the Kazakh authorities take Singapore and Dubai. Astana has already been able to return all the funds invested in its construction - more than 2 trillion tenge, which is more than $6 billion. Now it becomes clear why Astana is called the locomotive of the development of the Kazakh economy. With the advent of the new capital, the construction sector of the economy, processing, was pulled up, which later, in accordance with the domino principle, pulled the development of the others. Astana is still being built. At the same time, the authorities are trying to maximally unload the budget from expensive projects, attracting investors.

The figures published on the official website of the Kazakh government show. The country attracted about $300 billion in direct investment in the past 26 years of independence. This was more than 70 percent of the total inflow to the countries of Central Asia. The largest investors were China, the Netherlands, the US, Switzerland, France, Great Britain, Russia, Italy, Japan, Belgium and Canada. And about $20 billion of investment went to Astana. It should be noted that attracting investors to the country is a task of a national scale.

Having built Astana, Nazarbayev demonstrated the capabilities of his country, the ambitiousness of tasks and, most importantly, the ability to solve these tasks quickly and correctly. And the point here is not even in economic indicators, which, of course, are important and the figures prove the consistency of the ideas of the country's leadership, but also the message that Kazakhstan sends to the world. Astana is the capital of world importance. It has global challenges: holding the international Expo, international economic summits, it is only worth looking at the pool of speakers who have been coming to Astana for a year now.

The capital of Kazakhstan last year was also a platform for peacekeeping talks on Syria, while it should be noted that this was not the initiative of the Kazakh authorities. Astana as a meeting place and important negotiations arranged all the participants of the Syrian process. And this is not just an indicator of the status of the Kazakh city, but more importantly of trusting the leader of the country.

It's no secret that many things in modern politics depend also on the concrete personality of the contracting parties. Nazarbayev earned the image of a wise leader. In many cases, Nazarbayev's authority has become a decisive factor.

The plans of the administration of the country and its capital make Astana the capital of an international financial center. After the Expo, this is another global task, which is almost complete. A few days ago in Astana, it was announced that the financial center Astana had registered 13 companies, 20 have applied, up to the end of the year, in the plans of the IFC, 100 companies will be involved in the work.

China actively participatds in the creation of the Astana International Exchange (AIX) on the basis of the International Financial Center Astana (IFAC). The Shanghai Stock Exchange became a strategic partner and shareholder of AIX with 25 percent share. The representation of the State Development Bank of China has already been registered with IFC along with other international companies.

"We successfully held EXPO-2017 last year, where Chinese companies took an active part, for which we are grateful to them.The international financial center Astana will now begin operating on the site of these facilities, its legal status is fixed by the constitutional law, and the working language is English, English law and independent arbitration are applied, IFC members are granted tax privileges for 50 years, simplified currency, visa, legal regimes, this is the only center of the region whose work is based on English law," said President of Nazarbayev on in Beijing on June 8, 2018 at a meeting with Chinese businessmen.

The author is an observer on Central Asia affairs based in Beijing.


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