2018 was a significant year for Kazakhstan marked by a number of events of critical importance for the development of the country. The President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev addressed the people of Kazakhstan with two Messages: “New opportunities under the fourth industrial revolution” in January and “Growing welfare of Kazakh citizens: increase in income and quality of life” in October.
The first Address determines the steps to be made for the successful adaptation to the new global reality, emphasizing the importance of accelerated introduction of new technologies, innovation centers, sustainable energy, further development of the resource potential, and increasing the efficiency of transport and logistics infrastructure.
The second Address announces a large-scale program of socio-economic development, aimed at raising income of the population, protection of business, development of agricultural and industrial potential, ultimately resulting in the increase in quality of life.
Such an increase will be achieved through better quality and access to education, healthcare, housing, comfortable and safe life for the population. Education is emphasized as the key aspect for promotion of human capital, and the Address provides for future improvement of the quality of education, professional training and development. Care for the younger generations and their future has always been at the heart of the state policies, and the President proposed that 2019 be declared the Year of Youth.
Regarding economic measures, the Head of the State announced prolongation of the Business Road Map – 2020 Program until 2025, and a tax amnesty for SMEs starting from January 1, 2019. Furthermore, considerable additional funds will be allocated for support of the manufacturing industry and non-commodity export, as well as for affordable loans for priority projects. To implement big breakthrough projects, a direct investment fund in the non-commodity sector will be established that will function based on the principle of co-investing with foreign investors.
A major event for our country this year was the celebration of Astana’s 20th anniversary as the capital of Kazakhstan. A remarkable city with futuristic buildings, Astana has positioned itself as a center that hosted many important events this year such as the XII Astana Economic Forum, the VIth Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions and many others, promotes sustainable development, facilitates greater international trade, and is developing as a financial hub in Eurasia.
On July 6, 2018 the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) started operating which will turn the capital of Kazakhstan into an international business focal point. AIFC is positioned as a financial hub for the countries of Central Asia, the Caucasus, Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), Middle East, Western China and Mongolia. It provides a favorable environment for its participants and plays a major role in attracting financial resources.
Another major highlight was the launch on November 5 of the International IT and Start-up Hub in Astana. In line with the state program “Digital Kazakhstan”, the Hub is expected to provide accelerated project development and investment attraction possibilities, and in the long run, to contribute to introduction of digital technologies, expansion of infrastructure and creation of new opportunities for business. The Hub already has more than 130 projects, 1200 members and more than 40 investors.
2018 was important for Kazakhstan – Romania bilateral cooperation as we celebrated the 26th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Kazakhstan and Romania enjoy regular political dialogue, and friendship groups are active in the parliaments of both countries. There is also a close coordination of our efforts in the United Nations and other international fora. Moreover, Astana and Bucharest are willing to promote each other’s interests in their respective regions. Political consultations at the level of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs are held on an annual basis (6th round of consultations is expected to take place on December 17 in Bucharest). Kazakhstan pays special attention to the development of relations with Romania as its key partner in Eastern Europe and the Balkans with large political and economic potential.
The favorable background of the political dialogue between our countries has a positive impact on the bilateral economic cooperation. Kazakhstan and Romania have developed strong ties in the trade and economic dimension showcased by the growing commercial turnover. In the first 9 months of 2018 goods turnover between our countries amounted to USD 1.27 bln. (exports – 1,1 billion, imports – 160 million), which is 45% more than in the same period of 2017.
All necessary mechanisms for promotion of bilateral economic cooperation are in place. The Intergovernmental Kazakh-Romanian commission on trade-economic and scientific-technical cooperation holds annual meetings dedicated to analysis and coordination of efforts in these fields. The 14th meeting of the Commission as well as the Kazakh-Romanian business-forum took place in Astana on September 24-25 and showcased a significant interest of business circles for establishment of closer ties.
We pay special attention to enhancing relations between regions and the Chambers of Industry and Commerce of the two countries. Just this year, Cooperation agreements were signed between the Chambers of Industry and Commerce of the regions Atyrau and Prahova, and the cities Bucharest, Astana and Almaty.
There is a significant potential for development of partnership in the transport and logistics sphere as part of long-range transport routes Western China – Western Europe, Black Sea – Caucasus – Caspian Sea and the New Silk Road.
Gradually, citizens of Kazakhstan and Romania discover new horizons which contributes to the promotion of cooperation in the sphere of tourism. Hosting of Astana EXPO-2017 sparked a growth of interest of Romanian tourists for Kazakhstan. We hope that this positive trend will persist and more tourists from Romania will discover Kazakhstan, the Land of the Great Steppe.
Kazakh-Romanian cultural cooperation remains robust supported by the presence of a sizeable Romanian diaspora in Kazakhstan (more than 22 thousand ethnic Romanians). The diaspora is a real bridge that serves the enhancement of cultural and economic cooperation between our countries.
Next year will be special for Romania as the country will assume presidency of the Council of the European Union at the time when significant events with far-reaching consequences are about to take place. I am confident that Romanian presidency will contribute to successful, collective and constructive solution of all challenges as well as promote cooperation between the European Union and Central Asia as we approach the adoption of the renewed EU Strategy towards the Central Asian region.
As Romania finishes preparations for its presidency in the Council of the European Union, Kazakhstan’s membership in the UN Security Council draws to its close. It gives me great satisfaction to state that our country successfully achieved all its objectives, including its chairmanship of three sanctions committees related to the fight against terrorism and the January presidency of the UNSC centered around strengthening preventive diplomacy and confidence-building.
December is a special month for our countries as Romania celebrates its National Day on December 1 while Kazakhstan’s Independence Day is celebrated on December 16. Availing myself of this opportunity, I would like to congratulate the readers on the 100th anniversary of the Great Union Day, wish them prosperity and well-being. I am confident that friendly and mutually beneficial relations between Kazakhstan and Romania will continue to grow strong in the coming years.