Madam Speaker, Senators, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is a pleasure and an honour to have this opportunity to speak to you today about the work of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Kazakhstan - and how we are helping your country fulfil its destiny.
A nation’s senate gathers together its most eminent, experienced, influential and wisest public figures.
Madam Speaker exemplifies all those qualities and I am grateful to her for inviting me to address you.
I will be doing much more in this speech than merely reviewing what we have done together in the past.
As the EBRD starts work on its new five-year country strategy for Kazakhstan, I want to look ahead and offer a glimpse of what more we can achieve in the years to come.
I believe most strongly that Kazakhstan is moving at speed to fulfil its historic destiny as a shining example of peace, prosperity and progress at the very heart of Eurasia.
And that the EBRD will continue to travel at your side and help you pursue that goal.
- The progress so far
On my travels through the EBRD regions, I often hold up Kazakhstan as a model of what a country can achieve when the right conditions prevail.
Most of you will remember how the new Kazakhstan was born. I certainly do.
The collapse of the Soviet Union did not mark the most auspicious of circumstances for that birth.
But the country has made immense progress since independence.
I see that with my own eyes every time I visit.
This achievement is due in no small part to the vision of First President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
His remarkable statesmanship and determination have ensured that Kazakhstan’s statehood and sovereignty are stronger than ever.
President Tokayev deserves credit for carrying on with that same strategic direction.
Indeed, in a rapidly changing world and in a region where powerful nations often compete for influence, Kazakhstan stands for the values of peace and good-neighbourliness.
And, more, it has the potential to inspire other countries as they seek to build market economies which are sustainable, work in the interests of all and are open to the rest of the world.
Kazakhstan is blessed with abundant sources of renewable energy and is rich in other natural resources as well.
Crucially, it also benefits from good reserves of human capital. I applaud the efforts that Kazakhstan has been making to ensure that its human capital remains competitive and am certain that it will continue to do so.
It is recording impressive economic growth and possesses a stable monetary framework and foreign currency regime.
No wonder then that Kazakhstan’s international standing and authority are growing, year in, year out.
Its active and principled foreign policy, as well as its economic success, ensure that the world views Kazakhstan as an important partner in efforts to foster peace and international development.
Here I need only cite this country’s role in hosting talks between parties in the Syrian conflict and supporting Afghanistan's search for a lasting end to conflict.
At the same time, EBRD management are very grateful for Kazakhstan’s early backing for the expansion of our activity beyond our existing regions and into Sub-Saharan Africa.
To me this speaks of genuine global leadership and vision.
Of course, the EBRD remains as committed as ever to the regions where it has been working for decades.
Of these, Central Asia is most certainly one that fills me with excitement.
I believe that, as a region, Central Asia’s time has come.
Kazakhstan, with its immense territory, talented, diverse, growing population and natural resources, is an engine driving Central Asia’s development.
It is an ever more important part of the ‘new silk road’, which is transforming the region into a hub for trade and investment.
Just as it has always been a force promoting closer and better links between the countries of Central Asia themselves.
And here I would add a few words about the Astana International Finance Centre, an initiative of First President Nazarbayev’s and one I have followed with particular interest.
The AIFC is another powerful symbol of Kazakhstan’s ambition to spread and share prosperity across the region as a whole.
- Institutions and good governance
Ladies and Gentlemen, there is a particular significance in the fact that I am delivering this speech here in your parliament.
Strong institutions such as this one are the best guarantee of a bright future for your country and its ability to fulfil its destiny.
An influential parliament is vital to making President Tokayev’s concept of the “listening state” a reality.
I have a very high regard for the role you play in connecting citizens and government, in holding officials to account and in drafting the laws that guide reforms.
Policy reform is an EBRD speciality and we look forward to working with you further on legislation that can make your economy work better for all.
In the EBRD’s most recent annual Transition Report we identified “better governance” as the key to economic and social development.
Kazakhstan has made great strides here, reaching 25th place in last year’s World Bank Ease of Doing Business global rankings.
There has also been progress in the battle against corruption.
I was very encouraged to see that President Tokayev has committed his administration to intensifying that fight.
The EBRD has been promoting the private sector at the heart of its mission.
This is because we believe that the private sector is best placed to generate sustainable, inclusive growth for the economy as a whole.
Good governance is vital if the private sector is to thrive.
And good governance, defined more broadly, affects much more than the economy alone.
We see how Kazakhstan is undergoing a remarkable transition in national leadership.
In the view of this observer, Kazakhstan is passing this test with flying colours.
This is thanks to the qualities of your leaders, their evident mutual trust and their dedication to Kazakhstan and its people.
But it is also a sign of Kazakh society’s maturity and of its citizens’ appreciation of the importance of their own role in shaping their country’s future.
I have already referred to the growing role of parliament in Kazakhstan’s public life.
But the same goes for political parties, civil society and the media, which also reflect citizens’ aspirations to contribute to their country’s development.
All this bodes well for the future of Kazakhstan as an open, progressive and prosperous country.
- The economy
Better governance, better institutions, an increasing openness, and more civic freedoms are all part of the journey to Kazakhstan achieving its destiny. But the economy also needs to play its part.
Kazakhstan’s economy has experienced tremendous growth in recent years.
But there is much more to do to meet Kazakhs’ justifiable expectations of a better life for themselves and their children.
I know that the Kazakh Government appreciates this and is determined to deliver higher standards of living.
Growth has certainly brought opportunities for education, employment, to travel and exchange ideas.
Excellent social provision is also vital to a nation’s welfare and I am delighted that the Kazakh Government is making priorities of affordable housing and top-quality healthcare.
A good starting point. Now Kazakhstan faces a dual challenge to maintain economic momentum.
It needs to diversify the economy away from over-reliance on oil, gas and mining.
And it has to make sure that the fruits of economic growth are spread more evenly across its regions, men and women, young and old, and the many ethnic and religious groups, which enrich its national life.
- The EBRD and Kazakhstan – the story so far
And tackling these economic challenges is where the EBRD comes in.
The EBRD has a wealth of expertise in delivering such goals, expertise which we are very keen to share.
Indeed, I am hugely proud of everything the EBRD has done to help Kazakhstan in the almost three decades it has been a member of our Bank.
And here, once again, I must pay tribute to First President Nazarbayev.
His strong support for the partnership between Kazakhstan and the EBRD has, I believe, brought very real benefits to the Kazakh people.
It has been a privilege to get to know him over my eight years as EBRD President.
Our commitment to Kazakhstan is particularly strong.
For example, we have over 50 offices in our 38 countries of operations altogether. Such an impressive presence on the ground – and not just in capital cities - is what sets us apart from other multilateral development banks.
But the single country where we have the most offices of all, seven in fact, is Kazakhstan.
Our total investment in Kazakhstan now stands at US$ 9.3 billion.
Last year’s volume was sharply up on 2018, hitting US$ 761 million.
Outside the oil and gas sector, we are Kazakhstan’s largest foreign investor, something that is unlikely to change any time soon. EBRD is in the vanguard of actors helping to diversify the economy.
Our Enhanced Partnership Framework Agreement with Kazakhstan has also proved a real game changer, spurring even greater volumes of business, with even more impact.
The range of what we do here is already very broad.
Only last month we signed the Big Almaty Ring Road PPP, also known as BAKAD.
This is a milestone for Kazakhstan and for Central Asia as a whole.
It is the region’s first proper PPP and, not surprisingly, the project finance world has been following its progress very closely.
We expect it to open the doors to increased private sector participation in infrastructure financing both in Kazakhstan and beyond.
It will also benefit the people of Almaty and the country as a whole in terms of improved environment, as well as bringing many economic benefits to the people on the ground.
Contrast that PPP signing with another with the Prime Minister, from December, of a Memorandum of Understanding on our role in helping develop the Kazakh healthcare sector.
Here I should commend Prime Minister Mamin and his government for all their support for our work here.
And that includes expertise in meeting another, related challenge, that of climate change and the shift to the green economy.
This is another area in which Kazakhstan is showing global leadership.
I am very impressed by the way it has moved so quickly to ratify and start implementing the Paris Agreement.
We are already working very hard to help you do so.
For example, in 2018, I signed the Kazakhstan Renewables Framework, worth US$ 300 million, to support your development of renewable energy.
The Bank has fully invested these funds and at the end of last year I signed the US$ 345 million extension of the Framework.
Just last year, the EBRD pledged close to US$ 100 million for financing of construction of a 100 MW solar power plant in the Zhambyl region, a new 10 MW solar plant in the Zhanakorgan District and a new 50MW solar power plant in Chulakkurgan, all located in south Kazakhstan.
This set an inspiring example both to the region and to many other of our countries.
See what I mean about the broad range of what we already do!
Combing investment and policy advice, EBRD has been part of the inclusive transformation story for this country.
Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises as well as women entrepreneurs across regions of Kazakhstan benefited from lending facilities provided by the EBRD via local banks such as Forte Bank, Bank CenterCredit and KMF.
In 2019 alone, we provided US$ 115 million in local currency to be on-lent to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. They also received advice on how to enhance their operations, a hands-on engagement of the EBRD.
Many of these enterprises are led by female entrepreneurs, supported by EBRD’s Women in Business Programme.
And, since 2016, EBRD has facilitated dialogue between the private sector and the Government of Kazakhstan to reduce the number of jobs that women are barred from performing under the present labour code.
Originally, these Soviet-era laws were meant to protect women from having to perform hazardous tasks.
Today, these laws prevent women from accessing hundreds of professions, including stable, well-remunerated ones, for example in the mining and energy sectors.
By raising awareness of the issue of gender inequality and engaging with policymakers like you, EBRD has helped Kazakhstan to remove gender restrictions in 75 occupations such as concrete worker or boilermaker.
And we continue to work with the Government to drop the gender restrictions on the remaining 212 jobs over the coming years too.
- The EBRD and Kazakhstan – the story to come
And there is much more that EBRD can contribute to Kazakhstan’s success story in the years ahead, all of it closely aligned with the country’s stated priorities for the future.
Connectivity and integration: realising the potential inherent in its location at the heart of Eurasia through private sector investment in hard and soft infrastructure, in particular via more PPPs.
Developing regions and municipalities: enhancing the quality of regional and municipal services, thereby boosting the well-being of the whole population.
Pollution and health of the people – gasification and coal to gas switch might be integral parts of the solution giving people access to cleaner energy and convenience at home.
That will require more investment, once again from the private sector, in municipal energy, public transport, wastewater, sanitation and health.
Green growth and improved energy efficiency: while progress has been made on this front, the energy intensity of Kazakhstan’s GDP has to be further reduced.
There is ample room to increase energy efficiency, protect the environment and improve competitiveness in all of the economy’s major sectors: transport, manufacturing, cities, energy and agriculture.
Competitiveness through capital markets, FDI and innovation: the EBRD can foster sustainable and balanced economic growth through developing markets, private sector participation and privatisation in general, and by encouraging innovation and a more creative business environment. In the renewables, the Bank has supported investors from such countries as Germany, the UK, China, France etc.
Inclusion via capacity building and education: developing human capital across the board, and especially the active participation of youth and women in the labour market, is crucial for securing high productivity, diversifying the economy and reaching Kazakhstan’s goal of being among the 30 most developed countries by 2050.
This is an ambitious agenda for the partnership between EBRD and Kazakhstan.
But 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.
That is, I think, an area in which the EBRD excels as well.
If you haven’t met him already, I would urge any of you keen to find out more about EBRD’s operations here and what more we can do together to meet my colleague, our very energetic Head of Kazakhstan, Agris Preimanis.
Together with our Managing Director for Central Asia, André Küüsvek, also based in Kazakhstan, Agris and his EBRD team on the ground are at your service.
Ladies and gentlemen, my time as President of the EBRD is drawing to a close.
I am, however, sure that my successor will continue to work closely with you to build on our achievements so far and enrich our partnership in the years ahead.
I believe most strongly that Kazakhstan has a great future.
In the year you celebrate the 175th anniversary of the birth of your great poet and patriot, Abai, you can be very proud of the way your ancestors’ dreams are now coming true.
It has been my privilege, as EBRD President, to witness history being made in a country I have come to respect - and love.
Before I step down, I hope I will make one more visit to this great country before I step down as EBRD President.
And I have every intention of cheering Kazakhstan on, after I leave EBRD this summer, following its progress and staying in touch with my many friends here.
And the EBRD will, I know, continue to support your country as it fulfils its historic destiny in the decades to come.
Thank you very much.