Palace of Independence, Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan
32nd Plenary Session of the Foreign Investors' Council
Mr President, Prime Minister, Ministers, fellow Foreign Investors Council members, ladies and gentlemen,
It is, as ever, an enormous pleasure to be here in Kazakhstan and to be speaking at the Foreign Investors’ Council.
But my visit this year is rather different from previous trips.
Kazakhstan has a new President and our Council has a new Chairman.
Our session today is devoted to the topic of ‘human capital’.
Allow me to begin by saying a few words about the human capital this country has benefitted from in the shape of its First President – and my friend – Nursultan Nazarbayev.
I want to pay tribute to his leadership, leadership which has played a decisive role in Kazakhstan’s transformation from ex-Soviet republic to successful, modern and prosperous state.
I also want to congratulate him – and his colleagues – on ensuring a smooth transition to the next generation of leaders.
And express our warm support for the new President and his vision of the country’s future.
I met President Tokayev for the first time earlier today. We had an engaging discussion about the strategic direction of Kazakhstan and the role EBRD can play.
I very much look forward to working closely with the new President and continuing – indeed enhancing - our cooperation with a country that is one of the EBRD’s biggest success stories.
I would also like to thank Prime Minister Mamin for everything he has done to further strengthen the relationship between Kazakhstan and the EBRD.
The EBRD has been here right from the birth of the modern Kazakh state, from before the creation of the Foreign Investors' Council even!
The total of our investments here stands well over US$ 9 billion, including almost US$ 450 million this year to date.
We measure our impact by the quality of our investments rather than their quantity alone. And here too our record has been outstanding.
We are a long-time supporter and enabler of Kazakhstan’s shift towards a low carbon and climate resilient economy, for example.
This year alone we and our partners have signed three renewable energy projects, all of them financing solar plants. They bring our total investment in renewables here to US$ 375 million.
Other highlights from this year so far include major road projects, funding the physical infrastructure Kazakhstan needs to better connect its regions and the country as a whole with the rest of Central Asia and the global economy.
But, ladies and gentlemen, as we contemplate Kazakhstan’s bright future within that global economy, we need to think in terms other than the abstract.
Economies are made up of people, their ideas, their labour and productive potential, and their consumer power and choices too.
Kazakhstan’s economy has greatly benefited from a growing workforce and a shift from low-skilled to medium- and high-skilled occupations.
Its experience has been markedly different from that of more advanced economies and other emerging markets where local labour forces have been shrinking.
One of the strengths of the Kazakh model of development has been its readiness to look far ahead and prepare for the challenges of the decades to come.
Such farsightedness is now required to plan for the future of its human capital as well.
That future may look rather different from the recent past. The Kazakh economy may suffer a reduction in medium-skilled occupations and an aging of its labour force.
So the challenge the country and its human capital will be facing will be threefold:
- to reduce inequalities of opportunity, especially those experienced by Kazakh women;
- to help workers retain and upgrade their skills as their careers last much longer than was previously the case;
- and to provide green infrastructure for the urban centres which will be driving productivity growth - and will themselves be expanding at great speed.
I know a start has already been made on all three fronts, some of it with the active participation of my EBRD colleagues.
For example, our input recently helped reduce the list of jobs Kazakh women are not allowed to have by a quarter.
The list, in my view, Mr President, is still too long though!
The EBRD has world class expertise of dealing with all three of these challenges and an unrivalled record of cooperating with the private sector to promote sustainable and inclusive development in the interests of all.
We look forward to continuing that work with Kazakhstan and its foreign investors in the future.
Thank you very much.