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Astana Calling

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Republic of Kazakhstan

Central Communications Service for the President of Kazakhstan


Presidents of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan Open New Railway Line Direct railway link now running between Central Asian neighbors

Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Visits Spain and Portugal Trade, tourism and EXPO-2017 on the agenda

Government Discusses Problems with Housing Construction Affordable housing plan falling short in 2013

News from the Government in Brief

Space Crew Returns to Kazakhstan Latest space station mission begins and ends in Kazakhstan

Also in the News

Things to Watch

President Nazarbayev and President Berdymukhamedov symbolically tighten the final nuts and bolts on the new line linking Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan

Presidents of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan Open New Railway Line A major step forward in transport communications in Central Asia was made on May 11, when President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan and President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov of Turkmenistan symbolically tightened the final nuts and bolts on the railway line linking the two countries. When the whole line is completed between Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran it will have a huge impact on the economy of the region. Initially, the new line will be used for transporting cargo between the two states, as well as for loads transiting the region. In time, passenger trains will also run on the line. This will save a great deal of time, as well as opening up a transit corridor to the Persian Gulf, which has huge potential for improving trade in the Central Asian region. It has taken six years to get to the present stage. In 2007, the Presidents of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran signed the document which gave the go-ahead to the project, and construction of the line began in 2009. When completed, the line will go from Uzen in Kazakhstan, through Bereket in Turkmenistan and on to Gorgan in Iran. But in time the plan is to link this line with a much wider network, opening up the markets of Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe. And, as President Nazarbayev pointed out, this is an idea which has become even more relevant now than it was when the first plans were drawn up.


“The center of gravity of world trade, just like production already has, is shifting to Asia, which increases the importance of having access to Asian markets. What is more, the economies of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have shown a steady growth in recent years. But neither Kazakhstan nor Turkmenistan have direct access to the sea. So the industrial potential which we have built up has meant that we have had to look for new markets,� the President said. President Nazarbayev went on to say that even the section of the line which has now been opened has already created new opportunities for businesses in Kazakhstan, which should stimulate trade and economic growth.


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The Presidents review the new railway line and trains

As the line grows, these opportunities will expand. He expressed the hope that Iran would soon finish work on the part of the line on its territory, so that the railway to the Gulf would be open. Not only will this be good for industry in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, but it will also boost the countries’ positions as transit states, with the economic benefits and new work in the logistics sphere which this will bring. For his part, President Berdymukhamedov stressed the potential for the new line to open the way to new markets in the Caucasus, the Black Sea region and as far as Northern Europe. He also spoke enthusiastically about the potential opportunities to the east. The section of the railway which has been opened in Kazakhstan runs for 146km from Uzen to Bolashak on the border with Turkmenistan. The project has cost KZT 65 billion, of which Kazakhstan has borne 80% of the cost. So far 800 new jobs have been created as a result of the new line.

“This new line is the shortest route for moving cargo, including transit cargoes, and in the future it will also be a passenger link. Nowadays, time is crucial. So being able to cut transport times for freight brings with it serious competitive advantages.” President Nazarbayev


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President of Portugal, Aníbal Cavaco Silva, receives Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov in Lisbon this week

Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Visits Spain and Portugal Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov visited Spain and Portugal this week, where he was received by King Juan Carlos of Spain and the President of Portugal, Aníbal Cavaco Silva. Trade and investment were high on the Foreign Minister’s agenda, as well as tourism and cooperation on EXPO-2017 in Astana. Mr Idrissov flew to Spain on Sunday, May 12, and began a full program of meetings on Monday morning in the Spanish parliament, the Cortes Generales, where he held talks with the speaker of each house, the Congress and the Senate. From there he went on to the Zarzuela Palace for a meeting with King Juan Carlos. At this meeting, Mr Idrissov told the King that Kazakhstan is keen to learn from Spain’s experience of developing infrastructure and communications. The Foreign Minister also passed on an invitation from President Nazarbayev for King Juan Carlos to visit Kazakhstan. The King said that he would be delighted to accept at a future date, adding that he sees Kazakhstan as the leading state in Central Asia, and that he hoped that Kazakhstan would assist Spain in developing its relations with other countries in the region. The main purpose of the Foreign Minister’s visit was to discuss ways in which Kazakhstan and Spain can improve still further their trade relationship, and also to encourage technology and more investment from Spain into Kazakhstan’s economy. Large Spanish companies, such as “Talgo”, a manufacturer of high-speed passenger trains, and “Airbus Military”, which builds transport aircraft, are already working in Kazakhstan. In 2011, trade between Kazakhstan and Spain reached USD 1.25 billion, a 26% increase on the previous year. Mr Idrissov held talks with leading Spanish business companies, organized by the Kazakhstan-Spain Business Council. During Mr Idrissov’s talks with the Leader of the Senate, Pio Garcia Escudero, the Spanish politician said that Spain was keen to assist Kazakhstan with the organization of EXPO-2017 in Astana. Spain has twice hosted EXPO in recent years, in Seville in 1992 and Zaragoza in 2008. Such cooperation, Mr Garcia Escudero said, could be a great chance for the two countries to strengthen their relationship. Kazakhstan already sees Spain as an important partner in Europe. In 2009 Spain became the second European country with which Kazakhstan signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement. On the afternoon of May 14, Mr Idrissov flew on to the Portuguese capital, Lisbon. As well as boosting the trade relationship with the countries of the Iberian Peninsula, the Foreign Minister was keen to discuss the development of Kazakhstan’s tourism industry with his hosts. In Lisbon, he went straight from the airport to two of the city’s principal tourist attractions, the Naval Museum and the Castle of Saint George. On the next two days there were further visits connected with tourism, as well as the opening of the Kazakhstan-Portugal business seminar. Before returning to Astana, Mr Idrissov also held a meeting with the President of Portugal, Aníbal Cavaco Silva.

“Spain is one of Kazakhstan’s key partners in Europe. Relations between our two countries are developing in an atmosphere of full understanding and trust. Our positions are close on important issues of international politics.” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan


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Government Discusses Problems with Housing Construction Figures released at this week’s government meeting on the socio-economic development of Kazakhstan in the period 2013-2017 show a shortfall in planned construction of affordable housing for the first four months of the year. Some regions have failed to spend any of the money allocated to their budgets. Deputy Minister for Regional Development, Serik Nokin

Under the terms of the Program, “Affordable Housing-2020”, which was put forward by President Nazarbayev and passed by the government in 2012, in 2013 alone 6.6m sq.m. of new housing should be made available in Kazakhstan. But with one third of the year already gone, most regions are below – some well below – what they should have produced. It fell to the Deputy Minister for Regional Development, Serik Nokin, to explain to the government the reasons for the shortfall. The figures, displayed on slides for the ministers to read, were not encouraging. In 11 regions, KZT 2.3 billion was budgeted to be spent on affordable housing in the first four months of 2013; only KZT 1.5 billion has been taken up. For those waiting in the queue for housing, KZT 17.5 billion has been allocated this year for the construction of new properties. Of this, KZT 3.5 billion was allocated to be spent in the first third of the year. Only KZT 2.9 billion has been taken up. The worst regions are Aktyubinsk, which has spent only 22% of its allotted budget; while the Regions of Atyrau, Mangistau and South Kazakhstan, have failed to spend any money at all on such new housing. A further KZT 10 billion was put in the budget for 2013 to build new housing which can be rented by young families. Here, the overall figure is closer to the budgeted amount, with a 95% take-up: KZT 2.5 billion from an allocated KZT 2.7 billion for the first four months of the year. Even so, South Kazakhstan again showed up poorly, taking up only 11% of its budget for such housing. Mr Nokin went on to say that there was still time for this plan to be fulfilled, as most of the construction was planned for the third and fourth quarters of the year. If the affordable housing plan remains behind its budgeted target as the year progresses, this will have a knock-on effect in another important area. The President has called for a 10% drop in energy consumption each year to 2015, meaning in industry as well as housing. The new housing will be more energy-efficient. But it will be impossible to meet this target unless sufficient new housing is built. As the Prime Minister, Serik Akhmetov, warned, “Energy-saving is a task for the whole country, and must be implemented in every area of the economy and in every area of life.” And Mr Akhmetov had another warning for regional leaders, especially in those regions which have performed so poorly up until now. The government will carry out a further check in two months’ time to see how each region is performing. The message to those areas not providing housing is clear: the money has been made available – use it or lose it.

“Money which has not been taken up will be reallocated to those regions which have already spent wisely. Let the local leaders then answer to their people why it is that no affordable housing is available. All of the mechanisms have been worked out, and the money allocated.” Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov


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The crew of Expedition 35 in traditional Kazakh dress at Karagandy International Airport

Space Crew Returns to Kazakhstan Kazakhstan featured in news bulletins around the world this week, as Expedition 35 to the International Space Station (ISS) came to a safe conclusion on May 14, when the three-man crew touched down in Kazakhstan. The crew – Commander Chris Hadfield from Canada, and Flight Engineers Tom Marshburn from the United States and Roman Romanenko from Russia – had started their voyage from Kazakhstan 146 days previously, in December, when they had taken off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Although in many ways the Expedition was routine, with the men on board carrying out a number of scientific experiments, the public’s attention was captured by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who sent over 1,500 photographs of Earth on his Twitter feed, and attracted hundreds of thousands of followers. He also recorded the first music video in space, singing a version of the David Bowie song, “Space Oddity” on the day before he returned. The crew which departed the ISS this week left behind three members of Expedition 36, who had taken off from Baikonur in March this year. They will be joined by a further three crew members who will depart from the launch site in Kazakhstan later this month.

Flight Engineer Marshburn speaks with family after landing in Kazakhstan

The success of the missions to the ISS is testament to the crucial role being played in spaceflight by the Baikonur Cosmodrome and the Kazakhstan Space Agency, KazCosmos. Baikonur has been in operation since the start of the Soviet Union’s space program in the 1950’s. More than half of all the space launches which have been carried out have taken place from Baikonur. As the US has scaled back its space program in recent years, Baikonur has taken on even greater significance and is now an excellent example of truly international cooperation.

KazCosmos has already launched two satellites into space, KazSat-1 and KazSat-2, which were built with international assistance. KazSat-3 is currently under construction. And only last week it was announced that Kazakhstan is planning to launch a medium spatial resolution satellite in December 2013, which will be a joint Kazakhstan-UK-France project.

“Safely home – back on Earth, happy readapting to the heavy pull of gravity. Wonderful to smell and feel Spring.” Commander Chris Hadfield


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News from the Government in Brief Kazakhstan’s G-Global Platform Has Over 2.5m Users More than 2.5m people in 160 countries are now using the online information platform, G-Global, the Co-Chairman of the Association of Eurasian Science Clubs, Serik Nugerbekov, announced this week. The platform is carrying over 70 serious discussion papers which are at the heart of recommendations to the G20; and an online forum has been in operation from April 19 to May 19 to discuss the Anti-Crisis Conference and drafts of recommendations for the G-20. G-Global was set up in Kazakhstan on December 15 2011 at the initiative of President Nazarbayev to mark the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence. It has rapidly grown in significance and membership, especially for members of the G20, which is a discussion forum of the world’s 20 most developed economies.

Kazakhstan’s GDP Set to Maintain 6% Growth in 2013 Minister of Economy and Budget Planning Yerbolat Dossayev said at this week’s regular meeting of the government that Kazakhstan’s GDP should grow by 6% this year, as previously forecast. Overall GDP is predicted to be slightly lower than forecast, at KZT 34 trillion 291 billion, down by KZT 2.3 trillion. But according to figures from the Ministry of Economy and Budget Planning, the trade surplus is expected to increase by almost USD 9 billion. Exports are expected to rise by USD 3.7 billion, while imports are forecast to fall by just over USD 5 billion.

Minister of Economy and Budget Planning Yerbolat Dossayev

Mr Dossayev went on to say that inflation is expected to remain as forecast, at between 6-8% for the year. And for the price of oil, the Ministry is continuing to work on an assumption of USD 100 per barrel. The Minister insisted that this figure was not simply an optimistic view. The price of oil, he added, does not have a direct influence on government finances.

Energy-Saving Program to Be Put to Government by August Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov, has instructed the Ministry for Industry and New Technologies to present to the government by August 1 Kazakhstan’s energy-saving program, “Energy-Saving-2020”. This means having all aspects of the plan, including financing, ready by then. President Nazarbayev has called for an annual 10% reduction in energy use by 2015, in both industry and domestic use. The Prime Minister stressed that it is vital for both national and regional government to meet this target. Certain regional leaders were criticized by the Prime Minister for their poor performance in building new affordable and energy-efficient housing (see main story.) But Mr Akhmetov said, too, that the question of energy efficiency also requires explanation to the people. “We need to explain to the population the necessity and the advantages of careful use of energy. The Ministry of Culture together with the Education Ministry must improve their teaching on energy-saving,” the Prime Minister explained.


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Statistics Agency Issues Q1 Figures on GDP, Wages and Unemployment According to the Head of the Statistics Agency of Kazakhstan, Alikhan Smailov, the country’s GDP in the first quarter of 2013 was KZT 6,600 billion, an increase of 4.6% on the same period in 2012. Mr Smailov noted, too, that just over 40% of the current GDP is from production, while services now make up the majority of GDP, at 52%. Industrial production in the first quarter, nevertheless, increased by nearly 2% compared to the first quarter of 2012. Agricultural GDP in the first quarter was slightly up, by just over 1%, on the 2012 figure. Real wages in Kazakhstan in April 2013 had increased by almost 1.5% on April 2012; while the average monthly wage stood at KZT 105,290, a 7.9% increase on the average wage a year earlier. Disposable income is estimated as having risen by 10.6%, reaching KZT 55,264. In the same period, unemployment remained stable, at 5.3% of the economically active population.

Plan for Development of Science to be put before Government in June The Committee for the Development of Science within the Ministry of Education and Science is currently working on a program for the further development of science in Kazakhstan, the Deputy Chairman of the Committee, Yerbol Suleymenov, announced this week. The program has three stages: firstly, the preparation of qualified scientists; secondly, the development of the necessary infrastructure to improve scientific activity; and thirdly, the financing of this activity. According to Mr Suleymenov, Kazakhstan currently has 325 scientific organizations, where some 20,000 specialists work. But, he said, the country must do more to fund science. At present, funding of science accounts for just 0.2% of GDP, whereas international experience shows that for the proper development of science it is essential to spend at least 1.7% of GDP. Mr Suleymenov went on to say, though, that overall spending on science has increased in recent years. In 2010-2011 around KZT 20 billion was spent on science, whereas in 2012 this more than doubled to KZT 50 billion.


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Also in The News… • Minister of Finance Bolat Zhamishev led the delegation from Kazakhstan to the annual meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which this year took place in Istanbul. It was the 22nd such meeting. An agreement was signed between the government of Kazakhstan and the EBRD on cooperation and the further work of the EBRD in Kazakhstan. ( • The permanent representatives to the United Nations of Kazakhstan and the Commonwealth of Dominica signed a protocol at the end of April for the first time establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. Representatives from Dominica will attend this month’s Astana Economic Forum and the International Anti-Crisis Conference. ( • An online conference took place in Astana on May 15 on the G-Global platform. The event was connected to the International Anti-Crisis Conference which is taking place in Astana May 22-24, organized at the initiative of President Nazarbayev. The results of the Conference will be sent to the United Nations. ( • The number of Kazakh people living in Kazakhstan has passed the 11 million mark. On January 1 2013 there were 11,001,739 ethnic Kazakhs living in Kazakhstan. Taking into account births, deaths and migration, the Statistics Agency of Kazakhstan has pinpointed December 28 2012 as the day that the 11 millionth Kazakh citizen was born. ( • The XIII Conference for young medical students from the CIS was held this week in Almaty, under the title, “Modern Problems of Theoretical and Clinical Medicine”. The conference has become a tradition, which was first started 17 years ago. ( • On May 18 the Almaty Bridge Construction Factory marks its 50th anniversary. The Mayor of Almaty, Akhmetzhan Yesimov, will take part in a ceremony, at which the leading workers will receive rewards. ( • The past week saw the first international festival of classical music and young pianists’ piano competition in the capital of Kazakhstan, “Astana Piano Passion”. The organizers received 130 applications, from which 30 contestants were chosen, ten in each of three age groups. The artistic director of the project is the soloist of the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, the pianist Denis Matsuev. (


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• Coaches from Barcelona Football Club are going to spend two weeks in Astana at the beginning of July giving free coaching sessions to children from the capital’s sports’ schools, aged between nine and eleven. The coaching sessions have been organized by “Sporting Technologies of Kazakhstan”, with the assistance of the Nazarbayev Center and the Agency for Sport and Physical Training. ( • For the first time, the host nation, Kazakhstan, has emerged triumphant from the annual President’s Cup international football tournament for youth teams. At the end of the five-day tournament, in which eight countries participated, the young Kazakhstan team defeated Iran 1-0. In the match for third and fourth place, Lithuania beat Azerbaijan 2-1. ( • Master of Sport Nurzhan Korpetayev took the bronze medal in the International Table Tennis Tournament for the Disabled in Jordan, in both the individual event and the doubles event. In the doubles he was partnered by Talgat Yerekeyev. It is the first time that a sportsman from Kazakhstan has performed so well in a disabled sports event. ( • The Kazakhstani boxer, Kanat Islam, has won his 13th professional fight, in the Dominican Republic. He knocked out his opponent, local fighter, Jose Antonio Rodrigues, in the first round. (

Things to Watch • The Sixth Astana Economic Forum takes place next week (May 22-24) under the title, “Ensuring Balanced Economic Growth within the G-Global Format”. The International Anti-Crisis Conference will take place at the same time. The events are being organized with the support of the United Nations. CCS official spokesperson Altay Abibullayev explained during his weekly briefing on May 13 that the basis of the Forum is a new format of dialogue, the G-Global. This is aimed at uniting efforts to build a just and secure world order. The main result of this year’s Forum will be an open letter to members of the G20 with recommendations for revitalizing and developing the world economy.



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AstanaCalling #304  

A weekly online publication of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan

AstanaCalling #304  

A weekly online publication of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan