Astana Economic Forum 2019 & Eurasianism

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Astana Economic Forum (AEF)is regarded as one of the most influential international platforms for discussing the recovery and development of the global economy and financial system. This year the XII Astana Economic Forum held on 16 and 17 May. More than 3,000 domestic and international economists, political leaders and civil society representatives attended the event. Approximately half the participants were foreign delegates from more than 100 countries.

Delegates from 74 countries of the world took part in the AEF-2019. Their number was about 5,600 people, as well as 460 speakers. In addition, 381 journalists from 30 countries of the world arrived to highlight this event. The forum was held at 6 locations in parallel – Congress Center, Hilton, AIFC, Astana Hub, St. Regis Astana, Rixos President Astana.The forum addressed changes in global economies, the social sector, digital technologies, multiple industries and the unfolding Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Chinese are the most historically minded of people. President Xi Jinping launched his “New Silk Road” initiative in 2013; no one should have been surprised by the historical reference. Eurasia is an idea whose time, it is said, has come around again. The Russian concept of Eurasianism started as a philosophical and political movement at the beginning of the XX century developed by Russian intellectuals who emigrated after the Communist revolution in 1917. Kazakhstan introduced and developed his own vision, policies, perceptions and values of Eurasianism which he has been propagating and practicing on a continuous and consistent basis. Kazakhstan has maintained low business risk, sustained healthy diplomatic relations with the United States, and recognizes the importance of investing in human capital.

The future of trade in Asia could depend heavily on what becomes of China’s expansive One Belt, One Road initiative, which calls for massive investment in and development of trade routes in the region. Strategically located between East and West, Kazakhstan was historically interlinked with major communication routes and paths of trade that are known today as the ancient Silk Road.Kazakhstan is a textbook example of how a multi-ethnic nationthe ninth largest country in the world can live in peace and stability as well as secure a major standing on the international arena, thanks to its balanced and multi-vector foreign policy.

For Kazakhstan, Eurasia is a unique region where all ethnic, cultural and religious groups live and co-exist peacefully through centuries of mutual trust, belief and understanding.Kazakhstan is central Asia’s most prosperous state. Kazakhstan’s policy of Eurasianism is not simply an abstract concept but it is reflected and very much alive and visible in all aspects of social, economic and political life. Another important aspect of Kazakhstan’s Eurasian foreign policy is its emphasis on trade and economic relations with emerging market economies in Asia and Asia-Pacific regions, including the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). For Kazakhstan, interactions with both East and West in political, economic, social and cultural spheres are crucial and important for peace, stability, security and prosperity in the Eurasian zone. The Eurasian policy of Kazakhstan has another dimension; its relations with the Muslim countries which are important in order to strengthen its relations with the Arab and other Muslim countries.

Astana Economic forum is a platform to exhibit many economic opportunities. Kazakhstan did put this vision precisely at the center of its Sustainable Development Strategy. The “Nurly Zhol” Plan, approved in April 2015, set the main goal of achieving the economic integration of the disparate regions of this immensely large country through a modern transport network, linking effectively with neighbouring countries in East-West and North- South directions. From results obtained so far, Kazakhstan is well underway to fully honor its pledge to turn the envisioned transcontinental transport link into a buoying competitive trade and transit route between East Asia and Europe. Kazakhstan authorities had meanwhile also the task to bring infrastructure up to international standards, guaranteeing efficient linkages with the BRI Eurasian corridor partners and ensuring smooth transit and trade flows.

Indeed, thanks to the construction of the Belt and Road, from an inland country Kazakhstan has turned into an important transport hub at the heart the Eurasian continent connecting Europe with the Asia-Pacific region. The significant economic reforms undertaken by Kazakhstan have gained international recognition. Kazakhstan set the standards of OECD as benchmarks for its reforms and joined the OECD Investment Committee in 2017. World Bank Doing Business Report 2019 has put Kazakhstan at the 28th position (ahead of some major EU countries) up from rank 41 in 2015, with similar positive trend noted on World Logistics Indices. EBRD Transition Report 2018 in its PPP Laws Assessment has placed Kazakhstan among the countries highly compliant on account of their sophisticated legal frameworks, transparent procurement practices, easy access to justice (including arbitration), and the fact that a range of security instruments are available, all of which facilitate financing.
The achievements accomplished by Kazakhstan to upgrade its national transport network and the connections made to its neighbourhood is also a game changer for the whole region , as the new proximity to markets opens bright new opportunities for exports, diversification of economic activities and employment. Khorgos dry port at the Chinese border is for container cargo only four days away from all China major cities and ten days from European Union principal capitals and industrial centers. However, Kazakhstan’s difficult decade that began in 2009 with the abrupt fall of oil prices may well be coming to an end: the government budget projects 4-percent growth in 2018, even with a base oil price of US$55 per barrel. Reducing Kazakhstan’s financial dependence on oil is a particularly slow process.
The country is still reliant on its oil and gas sector but this reliance has somewhat fallen in recent years. In GDP composition, the share occupied by the energy and mining sector has fallen from its peak of 19.5 percent in 2010 to 13.3 percent in 2017. Growing connectivity across the Eurasian continent may present new opportunities for Kazakhstan. As a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, a key partner in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and a “good neighbor” in a vast region that encompasses India, Iran, Pakistan, and the Middle East, Kazakhstan has been emphasizing large-scale infrastructural development for the past three years.Infrastructure has been taking off.

Nearly 3,000 kilometers (1,865 miles) of road have been laid for Kazakhstan’s section of the International Corridor “Western Europe-Western China” highway. More than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) of new railways have been constructed, including the railway corridor “Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran,” which connects the countries of Central Asia with the Persian Gulf and the Bandar-Abbas port in southern Iran. The land port “Khorgos—Eastern Gate” is being actively developed on the border with China, the port of Aktau on the Caspian Sea has been modernized and expanded, and a new port has been established at Kuryk, further to the south.

All in all, the length of roads in public use increased by over 7,000 km (4,350 miles) between 2003 and 2016. The country has been attempting to play the role of the regional hub since its independence and has always considered itself an actor critical to regional stability. Astana economic forum thus hopes that its ongoing efforts to implement structural reforms will not go unnoticed.Along with the Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy, the goal of joining the OECD, and five key institutional reforms, the authorities seek to bring about long-term cultural, institutional, and social transformations.

About Amna Malik 40 Articles
Author is the President, Center of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR) and Editor-in-Chief of ‘Mélange int’l Magazine’ and ‘ The Asian Telegraph’.